A Fringe Documentary?

I spoke with my cousin Bryce Wagoner last week about an idea we have been kicking around for a couple years now: A documentary on the creation of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Bryce is a good guy to have on-board: His documentary just received funding and it’s starting production with Oxymoron Entertainment and the producers of Entourage, Punked, American Psycho, and the Emmy Nominated The Flight that Fought Back.

The idea for a documentary first emerged as we started production on our last endeavor: The Hatchery Festival . Theatre/Arts festivals are such bizarre creatures and attract such a freakish array of characters, how could it not translate to film? Note that I use the term “freakish” with all love, respect, and self identification.

Bryce and I (along with Dave McKeever, the Producing Director for the Fringe) are just now beginning to bounce around some serious ideas that, so far, sound pretty entertaining.

The production of the Fringe itself would be the major through line…along the way, we may:

  • Adventure through the history of past Fringes and why they matter
  • Field trip to Scotland, Minneapolis, and/or Tortonto to see Fringe in action
  • Interview various theatrical luminaries in the land of Fringe
  • Follow artists as they create, develop, and produce their Fringe projects
  • ..and of, course, lots of footage of Fringe week and all the madness therein

Of course, we would set the Hollywood community on center stage; presenting the modern Hollywood as a fascinating and unique place complimenting its role as the spiritual capital of the entertainment world.
As my cousin says, the best thing about shooting a documentary are the unknown gems you film…the wild characters that stand out. I imagine we will be pretty open to new experiences (that’s the story of this Festival thus far).

In a few paragraphs, that’s the general idea. Looking forward to making some real progress on this particular project…very excited to see where it goes.


The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Today is the last day of Scotland’s biggest show: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

This is the Fringe that started them all… Back in 1947, eight rebel theatre companies gathered along the fringes of the establishment arts festival (The Edinburgh International Festival) and set up shop. Over 60 years later, and the “Fringe” has eclipsed the establishment. Not bad for a bunch of scrappy artists.

There is a great article in the Economist magazine on the Fringe this year. Of course our friends at the Economist are crusty, capitalist bastards…so the commentary is quite amusing. My favorite excerpt:

UNLIKE every other theatre festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe completely takes over its host city. In an age when theatre has been pushed to the periphery of the culture, it’s jarring to see actors rehearsing Brecht in line for morning coffee, flocks of school-age drama students singing Stephen Sondheim in a back alley and most strikingly, marketing departments—usually comprised of actors in the shows being marketed—absolutely everywhere.


Now that’s exactly what we are talking about with Hollywood Fringe. Taking the ordinary and sticking it on its head. Our goal is to turn Hollywood into an unprecedented artistic freak show. Not just to interrupt the blandness of ordinary life, but to excite, offend, and inspire those on the periphery of the art world to join its core.


There is some interesting commentary in there on the question of a “juried” festival … one that we have been wrestling with. How to put up a festival that allows for some form of artistic integrity check without betraying the spirit of fringe. We, of course, are moving in a third direction: Rather than allowing a small group of high-minded critics to choose the festival’s content, we at Hollywood Fringe leave that decision to the community itself.


What’s exciting about Fringe is the wonderful discoveries that emerge from it. And not just the artists are being discovered! If history is any judge, Fringe audience members are easily converted to theatre-going patrons who continue to spend their cash on shows after the festival has closed its doors.


Discovering new artists, discovering new audience. That’s what fringe is about…filling-in the artistic cracks that the mainstream leaves behind.


Here’s the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website.


Jon Cohn & The Mutineer Theatre Company

We just held a meeting with Jon Cohn, Artistic Director of The Mutineer Theatre Company. Jon is one of the fine individuals in the world of LA theatre partnering with us to produce Southern California’s first Fringe Festival.

The folks at Mutineer have some very interesting ideas, and I would suggest checking out their website.

For those of you free this coming Monday evening, they have a staged reading right here in Hollywood. He tells me tickets are going very fast, so if you are indeed interested, contact them today. Here’s the info:


We (Mutineer Theatre Company) invite you to a FREE Staged Reading of an original play by Keith Bridges on Monday, August 18th at 8pm. This is the first full installment of the script commissioned by MTC and is the product of a collaborative process between Keith and the MTC company.

  • WHAT: Staged Reading with a post-read discussion moderated by James Utt.
  • WHEN: Monday, August 18th at 8pm
  • WHERE: Dorie Theatre at the Complex located at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038 (4 blocks west of Vine/6 blocks east of Highland) Street parking and $5 valet. Once you enter the lobby the theatre is on the left.
  • WHO: Jon Cohn, Jennifer Douglas-Craig, Amy Farrington, Luke Goldstein, Marty Lodge, and Amy Schloerb

As part of our mission to create and develop original material, your participation in this collaborative process is hugely beneficial.

Due to limited seating, PLEASE RSVP WITH ME IF YOU PLAN TO ATTEND and if you will bringing a guest.


Calling all Production Companies

Greetings, all. I hope everyone in our great arts community is having a wonderful Summer. Everyone works so hard (for so little money) throughout the year, I hope you are all taking a break and soaking up some sun.

I want to touch base to let everyone know that plans for our Fringe Festival are rolling right along and we are all hard at work on this project.

It’s great news to hear that my home town’s Fringe is having a banner year. I am always excited when I see an arts company succeed. Renews my faith that the dedication of the few towards a greater culture and lifestyle is worth the blood, sweat, and tears. My love of Fringe Festivals (really, my love of all arts festivals) is that all the experimental artists out there get a chance to show their work to a ready audience.

We are at a juncture in Hollywood Fringeland where we’d like to start meeting face to face with all you producers, directors, and artists who think a Fringe Festival in Los Angeles is a good idea. We got ideas, we don’t have all the ideas. Got ideas? Well, go on and drop me a line at benhill (at) hollywoodfringe.org.

Also wanted to point you all to blog post by Need Theater’s Matt Wells…an interested round up of theatre related blogs. His company has a noble mission indeed: Expanding the role of theater in society.


A Festival of Festivals

A few issues we have been discussing at Fringe HQ have been scalability, focus, and diversity.

A wise person might point out that these three qualities rarely co-exist. Indeed, tis true…we have a working plan to make this work.

Our fringe festival in Hollywood won’t be one individual festival, it will be a “Festival of Festivals”™. The details have yet to be worked out, here is a glimmer into our minds (queue thoughtful background music)…

We will divide the festival into individual components: A new play festival, a comedy festival, a music festival, a 10-minute play festival. Then we add a catch-all festival…call it the “Fringe Experience” festival…that would collect all the interesting acts and projects that make fringes so much fun (Commedia, Burlesque, Mime, Performance Art, Figure Skating Rabbits). Each would operate under the banner of the Hollywood Fringe, each would operate under a different set of governing rules.

For example: The new play festival may allow for performances up to 90 minutes long. The Fringe Experience festival might cap out at 30 minutes.

We are all such great lovers of art, we would put all of these in the same pot on year one. As we are also sane, rational business folk, we are also concerned with biting off more than we can chew in our first year (perish the thought). As such, we will be introducing new festivals as time and success stalk us.

Thus the Fringe will be:

Diverse: Each festival would highlight a unique form of art

Scalable: We can add new festivals as the Fringe expands

Focussed: Each festival will focus like a laser on its own idiom

…a golden star to me for using the word idiom in a sentence.

Some thoughts to chew on, obviously we have yet to make our big announcement on the festivals to be included in Summer 2010. That must wait for another post.


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