Documentary MAKE ME FAMOUS is coming soon to Hot DocsTed Rogers Cinema in Toronto for a run between January 20 – February 1, 2023.
Set amid the legendary ‘80s Lower East Side art scene, a forgotten artist with dreams of glory is “restored” in the evocative documentary Make Me Famous.
He shared the hand-to-mouth existence of fellow artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz. But in life, Edward Brezinski was better known for his antics than his art, which is only just now being discovered.
His reputation was such that, when Brezinski died, his obituary dwelled on an incident where he poisoned himself, eating part of an expensive installation called Bag of Donuts that he deemed pretentious.
Make Me Famous, by director Brian Vincent and producer Heather Spore, is a documentary that uses the life of an almost-legend – sneered at by some contemporaries, admired by others – as a springboard for a period in New York’s cultural history when “starving artists” reset the creative bar.
Reflecting the New Wave mentality then playing out in music, they created a community in studios in the city’s then-derelict Lower East Side. With little more than a DIY creative urge and practically no cash, the likes of Julian Schnabel would come home from his restaurant job with broken plates and put them together as a “canvas” for paintings.
Brezinski’s home base, the Magic Gallery, was a decrepit apartment on Third Avenue, across from a men’s shelter. Fellow aspiring artists and gallerists created the beginnings of a “scene” that made some rich and famous, and left others behind.
Through interviews, and hundreds of images – much never before seen, including videos – Make Me Famous examines some of these intangibles through the recollections of some of NYC’s Downtown scene’s most colourful figures. As business entered the picture, were “antics” good marketing?
Actor/monologist Eric Bogosian recalls helping the late Robert Mapplethorpe assemble a sex-fueled gallery launch party, which was packed with revelers, none of whom bought even a single one of his works.
Along with his Neo-Expressionist artworks, the commercially unsuccessful Brezinski left behind a mystery as his legacy. After a time struggling in East Berlin, he ended up in France, where he apparently died in 2007 (in Nice, the authorities initially said). But proof of his death was sketchy, so the filmmakers embark on a journey, based on a rumour, that he may have faked his own death.
Make Me Famous follows Brezinski’s friends and fellow artists, Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger, to France to unearth the truth about what happened to Brezinski.
Richard Hambleton and other artists questioned why director Vincent would make a film about a relative unknown. “Famous people, to me, are talked about ad nauseam,” Vincent says. “Whereas this story is guaranteed to be the only documentary made about it so far.”
“On a personal level, I’m an actor, and I’ve been a struggling actor for 30 years. And so, I can relate to these feelings of not being famous, and questioning whether I’m going to fail in my career.
“I wanted to answer the fundamental question, if I’m still struggling to the day that I die, did I inspire anyone? What will be left of what I did? And then more broadly, it’s interesting to look back and see what was overlooked in art history.
And then it begins an investigation, which is the fun part. That’s the stuff I love to do.”
Filmmakers Brian Vincent and Heather Spore are also performers. Brian graduated from Juilliard and Heather was on Broadway in Wicked for 13 years.