Writer, director, and producer, Frank is the author of Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies and In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers. Additionally, Frank recently made his directorial debut for the Pixies' music video "Greens and Blues," released March 4. Frank's latest publication, The Good Inn, is a book and screenplay adaptation written in collaboration with Pixies' founder and frontman, Black Francis.
The book is a mixture of a to-be-completed movie soundtrack, storyboard drawings from Steven Appleby, illustrator for the Pixies' album Trompe Le Monde, and lyrics by Francis. The book tells the story of the only survivor of a French battleship explosion who later finds shelter at The Good Inn. He soon begins an affair with the innkeeper's daughter and falls into a surreal world where art and war co-exist. The soldier awakens to find he is the lead in La Bonne Auberge (The Good Night), the world's first pornographic film. Frank and his collaborators hunted for original stories behind the making of early pornographic film, resulting in the book's blend of real-life events and fiction.
Fans can get a taste of the work firsthand at a special event Friday, May 2, at Turn-Based Press at the Downtown ArtHouse, where Frank will read from the novel, sign copies, and present a gallery show of prints created from Appleby's illustrations, published by Turn-Based. We chatted with Frank about writing, movies, and what's coming up for his mini urban drive-in.
Cultist: Describe a bit of how your books come together. What do you enjoy most about the process?
Josh Frank: I got to spend time with one of my greatest musical heroes, telling a story that fascinated him and creating something original with him. That was just incredible. We became friends over the years, but we hadn't worked together on something. That was huge. Also, I'm obsessed with lost history, finding stories that haven't been told; that sort of dig deeper into our pop culture history into the layers that don't get revealed. That's actually what started my book writing. People who talked about the band The Pixies, I realized that this band I grew up listening to, there's a lot of stories about them, but they're all pretty much rehashed. I started trying to find the deeper story.
The second book about Peter Ivers, it's sort of the same thing. The story of rock television and punk music and Hollywood in the '70s and '80s had been told, but through this guy Peter Ivers, I found a deeper history, and I got to tell that one. So, when Charles (Thompson, AKA Black Francis) came to me about the first narrative pornographic film, it was a similar thing. There's not a lot about the under layers of it, so when I started looking, I was even more excited by how it hard it was to find really anything about it. It was a real mystery. Most of the people involved had been dead for 50 or 60 years.
Why early pornographic film as a backdrop? How has that influenced modern film work?
Well, it's funny, someone the other day mentioned this new movie by Lars von Trier, Nymphomanic. I hadn't really put the two together, but it's actually quite a good example of an auteur taking erotic ideas and sex, what would normally be considered quite pornographic imagery, and putting it into a story. This doesn't happen a lot. I think, in a way, it's kind of shunned. The more sex there is in a movie, just because it's there, if you're not careful, it might be considered pornographic. Where does that come from? Does that come from our own problem? Is that our own social issue? Because sex is like eating, it's like sleeping. It's a part of our regular life, but when we tell creative stories about it, it borders on pornography. That wasn't something I was really thinking about when we started [the book], but as it was being written, and I discovered some of the lost anti-heroes of the genre from the early 1900s who were exploring it, these guys were struggling to bring sexuality to cinema. They were running up against these problems for the first time.
What are the plans for the screenplay and film? Will you write and direct?
I'm writing it. Charles is very interested in directing it, and I think he'd do a great job. He loves movies, and he has such a specific idea of what this is as a movie. The whole point of doing this book was sort of raising this flag that Black Francis is a musician, but he's first and foremost an artist and has a lot of ideas. This idea is one that he's very passionate about. He's really at the helm of the end result of this project, which is the movie. My job is to continue writing.
You wrote and directed The Pixies' "Greens and Blues" video, set in Wynwood and North Miami Beach. What was filming like?
It was awesome. Part of the reason I wanted to do it is because I've always wanted to shoot my own really low budget indie feature, because I know I had it in me to do that. I've done everything else I ever thought I could do; from producing plays, to opening a movie theater, to writing books. The one thing that has always been sort of the big white whale for me has been shooting a movie on my own. I kind of thought if I could shoot a really well-made music video that looks good, that looks like a music video, maybe that will give me the confidence to explore making my independent movie.
Old friends came together, me and a couple actor friends of mine. We just did it gonzo style, with the simplest equipment possible, just completely DIY, and it was the most fun I'd had in a long time. It was very liberating to shoot something that hundreds of thousands of people ended up seeing without having to go through any hoops. It was an inspiring experience.
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What's coming up for your local mini urban drive-in, Blue Starlite?
We're reopening for a summer session in May at Wynwood. If all goes well, I might have an announcement in the next couple weeks about a possible new location. I can't really announce yet ,but it would be a little more south. I'm excited about it and hoping it works out. That would open sometime this summer. Really cool neighborhood, very different vibe than the Wynwood and beach ones.
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