Mayhem ensued when ten contributors to Spectre, a local zine dedicated to indie film, got together earlier this month to discuss the publication’s future. Gathered at Big Brother Video on Chicago Avenue, the crew of filmmakers, students, video-store owners and employees, postproduction editors, and agents simultaneously shouted ideas about font size, a crazy gun-prop supplier, knitting, advertising weasels, the next issue’s theme, and Rodney Dangerfield. And when they were asked to pose for a photo, they were too busy poking, kissing, laughing, eating, or piling on top of one another to hold still for the shot. Clearly no one was in the mood to rein in the wild activity, and that energy comes through in the zine.

The first issue, released in October, features a hilarious interview conducted in the shower with Heavy Metal Parking Lot director Jeff Krulick, in which serious questions regarding his work are interspersed with requests to “hand me the conditioner.” The rest of the magazine displays a similar combination of critical savvy and goofy humor designed to entertain everyone from film enthusiasts to those only mildly interested. In one spread, elusive surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky condemns the business side of moviemaking; in another, Roctober’s Jake Austen offers a funny, irreverent meditation on the tedious beauty of Andy Warhol’s Sleep.

Zines aren’t known for their organization, let alone their batteries of writers, but the second issue of Spectre–which came out last week–shows this one is shaping up to be a unique grid for fresh commentary. A slot for personal essays about first movie-masturbation experiences spotlights Who Framed Roger Rabbit in the premiere issue and Sizzle Beach, USA in the second. Another regular feature covers weird film-related things on the Web–like, a Christian site warning parents that Chicken Run contains instances of “inappropriate touch.” The only “column” belongs to agent/rabble-rouser-about-town Vince Kamin, who spouts non sequiturs in the form of film advice.

The rest of the issue is a rambunctious collection of features, technology tips, and off-the-cuff analysis. The shower interviewers follow up their first act by speaking to local documentarian Tom Palazzolo in a wigwam, where they make tea over a Bunsen burner and convince their subject to remove his fake front tooth. Readers are challenged to make a movie from a script calling for an electric wheelchair, a stunt double to set on fire, Tab soda cans, a man missing one finger, a life-size cutout of Elvira, and Mr. T cereal boxes. An exhaustive review of monkey movies endeavors to establish the cultural importance of MVP–Most Valuable Primate. That this hyperactive bunch managed to get all this into a zine of less than 40 pages is quite a feat.

The contributors’ goal is to reach as many people as possible, and these days that usually means the Internet. But the Spectre folks think the act of holding a publication–and reading the words on the page–gives its contents validity, and that the ubiquity of on-line zines is so overwhelming that individual efforts are underappreciated. So for now they’re sticking to print.

Though the contributors say Spectre is truly a group effort, they agree that Jason Mojica is the head honcho. “I’m the, uh, coordinator, I guess,” he says reluctantly. Mojica, the 26-year-old co-owner of Big Brother, hopes that Spectre’s collaborative spirit will eventually turn it into a nonprofit organization. “This zine is dedicated to doers,” he says. “I’d like to give local film people more support, more exposure, maybe even grants someday.”

This Friday, December 15, their film-community aid comes in the form of a party at 8 PM at Club Foot, 1824 W. Augusta. DJ Butterknife will spin; there’s no cover. Spectre can be found at restaurants, video stores, music shops, bars, and coffeehouses all over the city and immediate suburbs. Call 773-250-3240 for more.

–Liz Armstrong

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzy Poling.