We were filming a party scene for A Wormtown Gimmick, a 13 minute film short about being young, bored and sniffing glue.
It didn’t take long before the night had turned into an actual party. The director of A Wormtown Gimmick, Erik Nasinnyk, tried to get the lead actor and writer of the short, Andrew O’Connor, to focus. It was getting dangerously close to sunrise and O’Connor was losing his creative juices. And he was drunk.
Fast forward a few weeks later and the same kids are waiting for the sunrise again. This time they were sitting in a field dressed in mop top wigs and matching - well, almost matching - suits. It was all for a scene dedicated to the Fab Four. Nasinnyk had decided that he wanted to shoot the scene at dawn. So, there they were.
The final results of the two scenes, like the rest of the short, are fun, funny and a little wild. In fact, the party scene had to be cut.
Besides the high-energy hijinx, another main ingredient in the stew was rock ‘n’ roll. The Wormtown soundtrack contains the psychedelic music of Bobb Trimble – Thurston Moore (Ow! My foot. Name drop.) said the Trimble “had to be heard to be explained. It doesn't come much 'realer' than this.”
Trimble’s from Worcester, Mass., which is the location of the movie. Worcester is also known as Wormtown.
What’s Wormtown? Long story short: Punk Rock 1978, a young excited community slowly came together in central Mass. and rallied around punk (bands, attitude, etc). A radio DJ, Lenny Saarinen, joked that “Wormtown” would be a fitting name for Worcester in 1978 because of the lack of a scene.
Saarinen, who later took on the moniker of LB Worm and the Mayor of Wormtown, was suggesting a dead town connotation with his term. It was also a kind of word play on the Boston/Beantown thing. Saarinen narrates part of the movie.
Back to the subject of tunes on the soundtrack, there’s an amazing song from the gentlemen out of Knoxville, Tennessee, Superdrag. One of ours and indie rock stalwarts Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard’s favorite bands. Coincidentally, Brooklyn’s The Library Is On Fire, also featured on the soundtrack, and Guided By Voices both work in the studio with the great wizard behind the curtain Todd Tobias.
Not really that interesting of a connection? Fair enough.
The genesis of the film really harkens back to screenwriter O’Connor’s teenage years. He was just another kid with long hair and an electric guitar to play some Nirvana songs on. He even fronted a little band. In his mind, he was on his way to becoming a star. And a complete dork.
The only problem was he couldn’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow. He was painfully tone deaf. So, after giving up on being a musician, O’Connor took the next logical step and started his own ’zine. (Not 100% sure that people still say ‘zine anymore.)
But he remembered seeing those magazines in the ’80s. They had this classic pre-Photoshop, Xeroxed, scissors and Elmer’s glue-type aesthetic. They were also totally DIY (no budget) and dedicated to the bands that the creators loved (a lot like the film.) The most famous ‘zine was “Sniffin’ Glue.” Named after a Ramones song, it referred to the desire to make something - anything - happen.
In 2000, the first issue of PopRockS was published. Michael O’Bryant, who plays Mick in the movie, was the co-editor of the ‘zine. Being the savvy publishers that they were, O’Connor and O’Bryant decided to put issue #4 on the cover to add a little more credibility to the ‘zine. Damn the archivists!
PopRockS was distributed all over Worcester. The event is recreated in the final scene of A Wormtown Gimmick.
When it was time to start the next issue, O’Connor lost interest. The whole creative experience wasn’t as exciting or fulfilling as he had anticipated. “Well, what else can I do?” O’Connor thought to himself, “I know. I’ll make a movie and base the story very loosely around my putting out the ‘zine. Cause how hard can it be to make a movie?”
A Wormtown Gimmick had started out with a 90-page screenplay back in 2002. Because they didn’t have an ounce of funding, when O’Connor wrote the script, he weaved it around characters that he knew certain friends could play and specific local settings – the local café, art museum, bar. All the equipment we used was on loan from the WCCA TV13 Cable access station located in downtown Worcester.
Six years later, the 90 page script was eventually chopped down to a teensy 13 minutes. Tears and a little screaming were involved in the cutting.
The three main characters, played by O’Connor, O’Bryant, and Justin Houle, were roommates at the time and are like brothers. There were a lot of laughs during the shooting, but the most guffaws and chuckles were had during the scenes shot with the local bands. For example, The Numbskulls, punk rock hometown heroes and the best band in town, make a cameo and also provide a song for the soundtrack.
Now that all the background has been finally covered, a plot synopsis can be fully understood: Partly to try and make something - anything - happen and partly just because he’s bored, Max Skerrett (Andrew O’Connor) starts a band, gets a tattoo and plans to steal Orson, a giant inflatable polar bear and a landmark in Worcester. Instead, after hearing radio DJ LB Worm talk about the scene back in 70s, Max gets inspired and decides to create some DIY old school magic of his own.