Filmmaking | Interviews | Massachusetts

Interview with Filmmaker Scott Calonico about ‘The Silly Bastard by the Bed’

19 Sep , 2014  

Written by NewEnglandFilm.com | Posted by:

Most documentarians making films about John F. Kennedy in 1963 choose the assassination as their subject. But not filmmaker Scott Calonico. Instead, his unusual and amusing documentary The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed (which you can watch as part of the 2014 Online New England Film Festival) delves into JFK's remarks about a photograph published in the Washington Post featuring a 'silly bastard' posing next to the proposed hospital bed for his wife's upcoming childbirth.

Most documentarians making films about John F. Kennedy in 1963 choose the assassination as their subject. But not filmmaker Scott Calonico. Instead, his unusual and amusing documentary The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed (which you can watch as part of the 2014 Online New England Film Festival) delves into JFK’s remarks about a photograph published in the Washington Post featuring a ‘silly bastard’ posing next to the proposed hospital bed for his wife’s upcoming childbirth. Over 50 years later, you can finally learn who that ‘silly bastard’ was and what he thought…

Here, Calonico discusses with NewEnglandFilm.com the inspiration for his film, his current projects, and advice for filmmakers.

When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker? And how did you learn — did you just start doing it, did you go to film school?

I began making Super8mm films in high school, then switched to videos. I attended film school at the University of Texas at Austin, but didn’t touch a camera until my senior year. I made a few films in school, but didn’t enjoy the process. A few years later, the digital filmmaking explosion happened and I got sucked back into it. I began by shooting on Super8mm and cutting digitally, then segued into making documentary shorts. One of my first documentary shorts, The King and Dick wound up making it into Sundance 2003 and that really encouraged me.

What inspired you to make your film?

I’d made a found footage feature length doc that was very experimental. In between the segments of the movie, I placed these presidential phone calls I’d found that I thought were interesting. I didn’t want to lose the calls, so I cut them out of the movie and threw them on YouTube, not even thinking about it. One day, some web site linked to the JFK phone call and I got over 100K hits on the video in a day. It’s not PewDiePie or ComedySportsGamer numbers, but for a presidential phone call, not too bad. So I figured people might be interested in the story and that’s when I began my research.

What kind of crew did you work with for this film?

Uhhhh…well, it’s all me. I didn’t bring any crew with me to interview Ernie, the ‘Silly Bastard’, because I wasn’t sure I had the right person. I found Ernie by looking up the article that JFK was bitching about in the Washington Post microfilm. Ernie’s name was in the caption. I googled him and found out he was still alive. Then, believe it or not, contacted him on LinkedIn.

How has the audience reception been?

Our first screening at Full Frame was incredible. The audience went nuts. I’m really grateful to Full Frame because they had the faith in me and my films to believe in the subject. I’d nearly given up on the film after a couple of rejections from high profile festivals.

What film(s) are you working on now?

I recently completed another documentary short along the same lines. I tracked down the student protester who took the only pictures of Nixon when he made his early morning visit to protesters camped out at the Lincoln memorial. The Nixon library recently declassified some tape recorded memos that Nixon made after his visit. The film intercuts between the story of the student protester and Nixon telling their versions of the encounter.

I’m also a producer and animator on No No: A Dockumentary, directed by my friend and producer Jeff Radice, which is being released in the Fall.

Any advice on making films you want to share – about fundraising, working with actors, distributing, sending to festivals, etc?

Just go out there and make the film. That’s pretty much it. Sending to festivals is another thing. You’ve really got to know your audience. SXSW, for example, is geared toward young hipster films. That’s their thing, which is cool. Sundance is actually one of the most open festivals towards unusual subjects.


For more information visit http://www.scottcalonico.com/the-silly-bastard/ and http://newenglandfilm.com/festival/2014/thesillybastard.