A rock-band member flashing his large, white behind to a hysterical audience; a young punk band making a melodic breakthrough in the midst of what can only be classified as screeching noise; or a jazz singer, inspired by the smoky air and moonlight, blaring her soulful voice towards the night sky on the outdoor stage: These are just some of the unexpected live moments you might catch on any given night at the legendary Churchill’s Pub. These are the kinds of moments that make you reach for your phone and record in hopes of capturing their awesome, fleeting essence to share with friends later on social media.
Anyone who has ever gone to Churchill’s Pub has a unique story to tell about such special moments, most likely along with some amateur cell-phone footage. With seven days a week of live music spanning various genres and entertainment ranging from burlesque to poetry open mic, no two days at the two-stage pub are ever the same. And, Churchill’s Pub, also known as the CBGB of the South, boasts over 35 years of such fun in an unbridled, raw, and creative environment, where musicians and artists express themselves without pretense, intimately, to an open audience that has suspended their better judgment for an inebriated moment in time. This is definitely a place that needs to be documented, and there are as many stories to tell, as there are faces in the audience at a show.
Two long time patrons of the pub, director Franco Parente and producer Angel Eva Markoulis are planning to do just that through the documentary, Little Haiti Rock City. The doc will tell some of the stories behind this legendary venue where they grew up, had the time of their lives, and simply, like many others, felt at home away from home.
I asked Franco and Eva about the importance of making the documentary at this moment in time when the recently sold pub is at a crossroads between the old and the new…
Why is this a good time to make this film?
F: It’s important to capture this story now because it’s happening now. This is the end of the Dave Daniel’s era and if we sit on it, people and things start to disappear and we miss out on them.
A: With the sale of the bar, it was imperative we begin shooting right away and not miss this opportunity. It was just the nature of this story that it needed to be done now. If we had waited, we would have lost valuable footage and moments that we captured the last couple of months. Plus people move on, stories get forgotten, photos get lost; we had to jump on it.
How did you get involved in the project?
F: I’ve been going there for years off and on and have always wanted to tell this story. When I describe Churchill’s to people, they don’t get it until they see it for themselves and then they always get it right away.
A: I came to help out on the first day of shooting and was excited by the story I saw Franco wanted to tell. We connected pretty much right away in terms of our passion and commitment to the film; there wasn’t any doubt when Franco asked me to produce it with him that I was on board.
What do you hope to capture in the documentary?
F: We hope to capture the nearly 35 year history of Miami through the eyes of the little pub that could. That, coupled with a soundtrack and characters that only Churchill’s can supply. Most other venues have come and gone or changed their ways to survive, but not Churchill’s. It’s stayed consistent throughout the most defining years of our city and yet has been able to maintain a personality all its own.
A: Like Franco said, the long running history of Churchill’s, which has survived in the most unlikely neighborhood despite all odds, with a tumultuous Miami history, changing demographic, riots, etc. It has stood and thrived for over three decades. As well, the soul of the place and what it has stood for. In a city not known for venues like this, it has been a steadfast haven for freedom of music and expression. A hidden gem where so many different kinds of people all feel at home and the musicians, artists and regulars feel it’s just as much theirs as it is Dave Daniels’ – and the way he ran it really allowed for that to happen and create this incredible community.
Where and when will you be filming?
F: We have roughly fifty percent of the movie shot already. Locations vary from subject to subject. Some of the key interviews remaining will be along the East Coast up to New York and out in Los Angeles, but most of the filming will take place inside and around Churchill’s.
Where do you see the movie going? When will it be coming out? Where will it be playing? How will it be distributed?
F: We want to take this story to the world. We intend on premiering and touring film festivals beginning this winter, followed by self- distribution to box office and television outlets worldwide before unleashing it on the web. We do however intend on having some surprises pop up during the whole process that will help keep audiences and supporters engaged and entertained along the way.
A: Definitely plan on touring the film festival circuit, hopefully beginning in January. Though I don’t doubt that this will happen, whether it will be at this coming year’s festivals really hinges on whether we can get fully funded, and therefore continue to dedicate ourselves to this film full-time.
Why should people contribute to the making of the film?
F: If everybody reading this donates, the cost of a night out at the movies, they can actually help make a movie that preserves a special story in the history of music culture no matter where they are from. For the locals, it’s about preserving South Florida history many people are unaware of like my friend Chad Tingle recently did with his film DEEP CITY: The Birth of the Miami Sound. Then they can all just sit back and get a copy of it in the mail to enjoy and feel proud they were a part of making it happen.
A: This is not only a piece of local Miami, and South Florida history, but an important piece of American music history. Out of this stage, hidden here in Little Haiti, have come acts that have gone on to worldwide acclaim, and on the very same stage generations of performers have found a space where they had complete and total freedom to develop their music and their art. It’s a rare place when it comes to music venues, and one we can be proud of and this story is one that really needs to be documented and preserved forever. Everyone who backs us on this is part of making this film a reality.