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Last 35mm Film at Thalian

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The Penguin Night at the Movies
Scrapple & The Earth Will Swallow You March 14th, 7 p.m.
Thalian Hall • 310 Chestnut St.
Tickets: $10,

ON THE SET: Brothers Christopher Hanson (left) and Geoffrey Hanson on the set of their 1998 film ‘Scrapple.’ Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Hanson

ON THE SET: Brothers Christopher Hanson (left) and Geoffrey Hanson on the set of their 1998 film ‘Scrapple.’ Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Hanson

Any time the New York Times dubs a film as “’Babe’ on acid,” it makes me think it’s worth looking into. “Scrapple” is that film.

A nostalgic homage to the 1970s stoner-comedy genre, the film premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 1998 and has since gone on to achieve a loyal fan base and cult following.  “Scrapple” follows a summer in the life of ski bums in the fictional town of Ajax, Colorado, in the late 1970s. Alongside a pig named Scrapple, Geoffrey Hanson, the movie’s co-producer and one of its writers, stars as Al Dean, a bumbling, low-level pot dealer, looking forward to a shipment of Nepalese Temple Balls (wads of hashish chewed by monks in the Himalayas).

Hanson, a Wilmington local and former Penguin DJ, will be screening “Scrapple” at Thalian Hall on March 14th as the last 35mm film to ever play the historic theater, which is undergoing renovations to go all-digital by early spring. On the same night, Hanson will screen “The Earth Will Swallow You,” a documentary on Widespread Panic’s summer 2000 tour, which he also produced. The first 50 attendees will receive a free “Scrapple” DVD and Widespread Panic T-shirt. encore spoke with Hanson about the “Scrapple” legacy, documenting Widespread Panic and the power of the soundtrack.

encore (e): How does it feel  to have “Scrapple” be the last 35mm film screened at Thalian Hall?
Geoffrey Hanson (GH): As a film buff, it’s really cool to have “Scrapple” be the last 35mm film to play at Thalian Hall and be an obscure footnote in the history of the theater.

e: What are your thoughts on the digital takeover in relation to the ways movies are filmed and projected?
GF: The best analogy I can make is that 35mm versus digital is like vinyl versus CDs: Vinyl just sounds better. It has more texture and depth. The same holds true with 35mm film. It just looks better. And “Scrapple” is really great on 35mm film. It’s a beautiful film to watch, and I like to turn the volume up as the music is groovy.

e: “Scrapple” has certainly aged well. Did you ever expect to be having screenings for the film over a decade after its release, with such a large cult following?
GH: “Scrapple” is as relevant in 2013 as it was in 1998 when it came out. It’s a movie that takes place in 1978. I actually got an e-mail from someone fairly recently who told me that it reminded them of Wrightsville Beach back in the day. It’s really a nostalgia piece about any small town—whether surfing or skiing—that has been overrun by wealthier folks and changed the dynamic, pricing out the old-school locals along the way. As the years pass, the nostalgia only grows more profound.

It is a real cult film in ski towns. There’s a group in Ketchum Idaho that has a “Scrapple Fest” every year where they dressup in ‘70s clothes, watch the movie and have a big party. It’s in its ninth year. We’re happy that people still enjoy it.

e: What was its inspiration?
GH: It’s based on a short story by a writer named Sean McNamara. It was about a bunch of guys living in a ski town raising a pig for the summer. The movie is very different from the short story. The interesting thing about the screenplay is that it originally had no drugs in it at all. But as we examined where the drama was in the ‘70s in ski towns, it revolved around the drug trade, of which the ski towns were an integral part. So we focused the plot around a ski bum gets caught up into a major drug deal.

e: Musician Keller Williams recorded a song called “Nepalese Temple Balls” based on a scene from the movie. How did that come about?
GH: I met Keller Williams when I was the afternoon DJ at The Penguin [98.3 FM]. I gave him a copy of “Scrapple,” and two days later he called me telling me how much he enjoyed the movie and that he wanted to feature the music on his syndicated show, “Keller’s Cellar.” About a year later, I got a call from his manager with an MP3 of the song “Temple Balls,” asking me for permission to use the lines from the movie in the song. I about fell out of my chair when I heard it. He literally transcribed the lines from the movie and sang them. I got the writing credit for the song which was pretty cool. I’m still waiting on my royalty check.

e: People often don’t mention “Scrapple” without also mentioning its soundtrack, which features greats like Taj Mahal. How did you end up getting Taj to score the film?
GH: We’ve heard from lots of folks over the years that “Scrapple” is their favorite soundtrack ever. I can tell you this: The Penguin plays more music by “Scrapple” soundtrack artists than any radio station in the country. If you like The Penguin, you’ll love the soundtrack.

Working with Taj Mahal on the score was one of the best experiences of my life. I met Taj at Telluride in the early ‘90s and got to know him by promoting a few of his shows. I told him that what I really wanted to do was write a screenplay and make a movie; and if I did [I asked if] he would consider doing the music. When I finished the screenplay, I brought it to him and he agreed instantly on a handshake deal.

e: The second film you produced, “The Earth Will Swallow You”, is a documentary on Widespread Panic. What led you to follow-up “Scrapple” with this project?
GH: We used a Panic song in the movie, and “Scrapple” became popular amongst Widespread Panic fans. We love the band, so we approached them about making a documentary and that’s how it all happened. We were able to capture the band with their original lineup. Michael Houser died in 2002 so it remains the definitive document about the original band.

e: What are some of the biggest differences between filming a feature over a documentary?
GH: They’re totally different. Documentary filmmaking is very spur-of-the-moment, and trying to be a fly on the wall. Shooting a feature is very calculated and requires a much bigger crew. If I could make features for the rest of my life, I would. They are just a lot harder to get made than documentaries. But I’m excited to showcase my work at Thalian Hall; it’s a beautiful theater.

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