Artist Profile: Stacey Case

About a month ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy Case. For those who don't know, Stacy is the man behind screen printing operation Merch Guy; musician in bands like Tijuana Bibles, and the Weirdies, and the proprietor of my favorite place in the city Trash Palace. I'm only getting this interview up now, because it was my first face to face interview, and I had an hour and a half of stuff to sift through... and I'm kinda lazy... so here it finally is! Part 1 of my interview with Stacy Case.

So Tell me about Trash Palace:

Trash Palace... well... the longer story is ABC books was at yonge and Welesely area. I was in there looking at books and magazines, and I found 5 little boxes with really colorful covers. I looked at them, they said 8mm films, I think there was "Blood on His Lips", "Beast with 5 Fingers", "Bride of Frankenstein" and two other ones, they were 8.95 each. I was like "What are these? wow it's a reel of film. Weird. Ever cool, what a neat thing". SO I bought those 5 and... It all starts with collecting. The Trash Palace is about collecting.

I've harboured dreams as a kid growing up on a farm on Niagara on the lake, to make monster movies and stuff. The way my life turned out, I never went to university, I went and lived my life instead. I started publishing a print zine in 92, before the era of blogs and Internet I was involved in independent publishing, I put on a convention called "Cut and Paste" I put it on in Toronto for 14 years. So that lead to writing, which lead to drawing comics which lead to realizing that short stories that I was writing were actually little film clips or something, so finding these reels of film when I was doing the fanzine and publishing, I had been doing this stuff to teach myself, screen printing came out of my fan zine, that's what I do during the day. But all this stuff I taught myself. At the time, when I started collecting my films, that was the first real signifier to me that, This is film. I can do this! Here it is, it's a reel of film. So I started researching and collecting more film in Toronto.

There used to be this antique market right beside the beer store on Tucumseth st. Now it's a furniture store, called the Urban Barn. The antique market was already a dorky collector spot. There was another place called Funarama, it was a vintage toy store. Because I already knew these places, I discovered that, I could collect film, I didn't even know it was something you could collect. So I started asking for more places where I could get film. Funarama had a couple, the antique market had a couple.

If I was going to watch these, I'd need a projector, so I started hitting pawn shops on Church st. This is 95', 96'. Through my circle of friends, I started putting out the word that I need a projector. My friend Steve Fantone, I found out that when he was a kid, he'd order films out of the back of famous monsters of film land, in 1974, he was 10 years older than me. He had a collection of films and he didn't have any money, so I started lending him money and he started giving me films. At some point I ended up getting all of his films, and he told me that Colin Geddies, who now hosts midnight madness for TIFF, had the rest of the films. So I called Colin and said "Steve owes me money, and he's been paying me in films, so give me all those films!". He didn't want to let them go, but I got them all.

So I'm watching all these films, and cool thing about them, is they are all 10 minute condensed versions of all these films, so it's all the good stuff, condensed into 10 minutes of...

Ten minutes of Bride of Frankenstein?

Yeah, they'd cut out all the extraneous stuff, and leave in the good stuff! So what a way to watch, like, Godzilla! It's a really fun way of watching a film. So that got me into shooting.
The current trash palace projector... I started teaching screen printing out in Markham, and the kids loved it and the librarian loved it. I always had ulterior motives, like I get to go to a library! I know they'll have an AV room, (this is 96) they're getting away from film, libraries are selling off their film stuff. Johnathon Culp, a programmer at Trash Palace, I met him through collecting, 10, 12 years ago. He was going to libraries, he went to the St. Catherine public library and he bought all these films for like a buck each. So I started scoping out libraries, and the current projector I got from the Markham public library when I was teaching my first course in 96. So it's all collecting. Once the bug bites you, you start looking for stuff.

I had a two track audio projector, and I could record narration on one track, and do audio on another track. I started going to ABC books and getting books on 8mm film making. 8mm, I couldn't do sound, but Super 8 I could. I looked into who was selling super 8 in Toronto, who develops it, and by putting the word out that I was looking for equipment, people started... like, this guy Terry he hooked my up with a super 8 camera, projector, a screen and splicer, for $110 bucks. This other girl, she was leaving for school, her parents had given her a super 8 camera, she just gave it to me. It was like brand new. and it recorded sound. The time came, I got studio space in 96, it was probably 1200 sq feet, I had a bowling ball, I was drunk on a gallon of red wine with my friend one night, and we were bowling up and down the concrete floor. We set up a pair of shoes, leaning them against each other, and we'd try to knock them down. I tried to stop the bowling ball with my hand at one point and ended up smashing my hand. I started washing it off, and I touched my nail and it lifted away, and I was like Ah Fuck. I put a bandage on, and sent everyone home. 3 days later, I finally took off the band aid and the nail wanted to come with it. But it hurt. So I thought, I'd just leave it and when it wants to come off it will....Than, I thought Wait a minute! I've got a super 8 camera a two track recording projector, I have sound film, and I'm good to go. I'm not going to wasted just taring off the nail... I'm going to shoot it! So I wrote a script called "Strike" and I recreated what happened; it's about two idiots, me and my friend Carlos, Cadillac Bill (he was my camera operator). It's two idiots, bowling and knocking over shoes in a studio space. I get my hand caught between the ball and the wall, and in the climax, I rip the nail off my finger. The soundtrack is an instructional bowling record. No music, just this guy talking. That's the soundtrack to this film. I literally dropped the needle to where I wanted it to go. and we made this fucking movie!

Because I'd made a couple of films, in the summer of 99' I got phone call from someone who was making a documentary, "hey, you ever use a VX 1000?" . I'm like, yeah. "You have a passport?". Yeah. "Do you want to go work on a documentary in France for 3 weeks?" I'm like, yeah. I bullshitted my way into this job for Microtainment. I showed them the "Parkdale Wrestler", one of my first films. I brought my projector and the reel of film in, and showed it on their wall. The two owners, Gary and Mark, looked at each other when it was done (It was only a 3 minute short) and said "well he can hold a camera". So I got to go to France for a month, and work on this documentary for A&E called "Peace, Love and Murder: the Search for Ira Einhorn", it won awards, it was really popular, was played a bunch of times.

Microtainment, was the first job I ever quit. Before that I was always fired, but I quit to go work in shooting Internet videos. That was about 18 months, than I got headhunted by Naked News.com to shoot them, so I shot the first 500 episodes of that, I was hired away from there, I was asked to direct my first feature film, which is "Enter... Zombie King", I shot that in 2002, released that in 2003, it won a couple awards, it still airs on television. In there I realized, while I was collecting super 8, Johnathan was collecting 16mm. I hadn't really started collecting 16, but in 1999, I got into something called Ebay. Back then collecting film was Awesome on Ebay, cause nobody every thought of using Ebay to collect film. Back then, everyone was buying just normal things. It wasn't quite part of pop culture. So I was getting things really cheap. I made a decision a long time ago that if I'm going to collect stuff, I'm not going to spend a lot of money on it.

Do you remember what the first one was?

I'd have to look at my collection. As soon as I looked at it, I'd remember what was first. Probably... might have been some chimp films. I wasn't really collecting 16 a lot, because I needed more distance for projecting. I didn't have anywhere to show 16. Slowly but surely I started finding affordable feature films on Ebay. When you're a collector, and you're traveling, say I'm in New York, I'll research places where I might be able to find films. It started with Ebay, than I started meeting other collectors, keeping an eye on other peoples pages, checking in once in a while. Because I'm a designer, working in screen printing, I started collecting other film ephemera, cause, I realized, it's not just film I like. I liked the advertising of film. When I look for books, I look for film books, obscure books, like "A Youth in Babylon" by David Freidman, whose an exploitation film guy, there are things I look for, and all of it fuels everything else, so collecting Mexican lobby cards, fuels the design work I do.

To make a long story shorter, last May, I was looking at my collection and I realized I had like 16 features. I had slowly but surely collected. I wrote them all down and I started playing with a schedule, and thought, if I did every other Friday for 24 weeks, I only have to show 12 films, so lets do 26 weeks. Every other Friday for 26 weeks, that's half a year. So I've got a movie theatre. I have enough space, everything is on wheels, I'll have to knock down this wall.... Oh that's what it was! 2007 spring was just beginning, I looked around the wall, and couldn't see the sun it just popped in my head, "tear down that wall". Louis was printing on the other side, "I said when that job is done, we're tearing down this wall. We're tearing down walls man, it's all love, we're opening this room up, I"m tired of this wall". So when the job was done, I got a sledge hammer, and we knocked down the wall my dad built. All of a sudden, "wow, look at all the sunlight in here! Why did I ever build that wall?" (I knew why I had, I thought I needed to separate the rooms, keep dust in one room, all the lint generated from T-shirts). Well, I used to show films sideways, in the back room, but It wasn't very big, now that I had this big long room (at the time, to me, it was pretty long). So I tore off a bunch of posters on the far room, set up a projector to see how big it was. "Fuck it's huge!" Then I sat down and looked at the film collection.

I thought of the name Trash Palace. It's not glorifying trash, cause, you've been to screenings of films that aren't trash. "Fool Killer" is not a trash film. The reason I liked the name Trash Palace, is because I collect other peoples trash. I collect cheap films that people didn't want, and I glorify them. I put them on a pedestal. So we're the trash palace.

Part 2 will be up tomorrow


Alexis Marsh said...

Fascinating. I'm still amazed we can even get tickets to this place. Thanks for the interview!

Shawn William Clarke said...

Check out part two! It gets better!