Local Filmmaker Gets Weird
By Andi Rusk
Anthony Marchitiello is a weird guy. He is also hard to nail down, because he is so busy. When he agreed to meet me on Telegraph Avenue on a bright Tuesday morning, I was both surprised and pleased for the opportunity to talk with him. He was willing to chat my ear off for a couple hours about growing up in the East Bay and how he came to be a filmmaker. We walked, talked, drank coffee and eventually ate some burritos while he told me about how he fell in with the East Bay punk scene, became friends with Green Day, and accidentally got a Master’s in film at the San Francisco Academy of Art.
Marchitiello grew up in San Pablo, California and was raised on movies. He loved them all, regardless of genre. After testing out of high school early, he stumbled upon a group of guys while working at a local Round Table Pizza who said they had recorded a punk record. They also had written some scripts and wanted to make movies. Marchitiello was blown away, “I didn’t know that regular people could make movies,” he told me. He promptly moved into their house, even though he claims they didn’t like him that much. Marchitiello describes this group of friends not as “punks,” but as “suburbanite dorks who listened to Weird Al.”
One of those dorks was Corbett Redford, who would continue to be Marchitiello’s close friend and artistic collaborator for two decades. Through Redford and the house they shared, Marchitiello eventually went on to meet the members of Green Day. Although he didn’t get closely involved with the band until the recent past, they were in the peripheral of his social and artistic circle for many years.
Marchitiello has been a film student, a director, a teacher, and also a rapper. Those with a deep knowledge of the early 2000’s Bay Area independent-hip hop scene may recall a rapper named Finky Binks. On the album “Taking Back My Samich,” you can find poetic song titles such as “Afghanistan’s My Homie,” and “Oh Fuck, It’s Raining.” I personally prefer the 2002 high-concept album “Charlie Bucket: Cosmonaut,” where Binks imagines what happened to Charlie after he left the Chocolate Factory in the glass elevator and took off into space. While Finky Binks has been largely laid to rest, Marchitiello told me that on occasion he will run into fans while traipsing around Berkeley and Oakland. “There was so little work put into my rap career, but I still walk around and people are like ‘Aren’t you Finky Binks?'”
As ridiculous as he claims his rap career was, it is what landed him at the San Francisco Academy of Art. One night he performed at a rap show at the Maritime Hall, “I was wearing a priest outfit and I couldn’t remember my lyrics. All my words were in a Bible and I did it like a sermon,” Marchitiello explained. In a strange turn of events, he ran into a some fans who had attended the show. They would end up helping to get him into college. “Weird convergence of fate,” is how he described falling into art school, getting a scholarship and eventually obtaining an MFA in film.
While at film school, Marchitiello managed to make an award-winning short film called “Ikea Indian.” It’s a 16mm film he developed in coffee and urine. It clocks in at about two and half minutes long. It was named Best Experimental Film at the SF Academy of Art in 2005 and was an official selection at a number of film festivals in 2006. Winning the award at the SF Academy of Art ended up being somewhat ironic. Marchitiello explained to me, not long after the film won the award, the Academy began to use it as a marketing tool for the film department. Concurrently, Marchitiello was told he that his scholarship was being rescinded, claiming he should never have been given one in the first place. “They were like ‘you gotta pay up, or you gotta go’,” he told me. He said he was infuriated and that as he was raising hell about it, “Ikea Indian” was being displayed on television screens that lined the halls of the Admissions offices. Eventually he sorted out the money and the credits he needed. He finished his thesis and received his Master’s. He laughed about not having ever seen the actual document, saying “I know I had to pay money for it. I think my mom did. I think she has it, maybe.”
After finishing school, Marchitiello followed an odd and random path of jobs. He worked on a show for the Discovery Channel called “San Quentin Film School” that was released in 2009. “It changed my entire life because I was in a prison for four months.” He said he walked away from that experience with a new perspective and an ability to teach. As a result of the experience he was offered other teaching jobs at various public and private schools.
Marchitiello also spent a few years running a local TV station, where he was given carte blanche to create and produce TV shows as he pleased. He took it and ran, coming up with ideas like “Tiny Oprahs,” which he described as a show in which “two girls would come in, drink tall cans, and just talk.” The job ended when the city’s funding for the position ran out. Marchitiello used this as an opportunity to leave the city behind to make coffee and bake scones in his own small town café in Forestville, California.
Marchitiello has a lot of restless energy. You can feel it when you talk to him. It doesn’t come across as nervousness, but rather it gives one the sense that he is a mad genius. He is too smart, too bored with things, and too interested in what he can do next. Because he is clearly not a man who enjoys staying in one place for too long, he decided he needed to sell the café and move on to the next adventure. While he was looking for a buyer for the café, Marchitiello was approached by Redford about a potential big project, something to do with Green Day.
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong wanted to make a documentary about the East Bay punk scene from the ’70s to the present. Armstrong enlisted Redford to direct it and when Redford realized he may need help with directing a film of this magnitude, he turned to Marchitiello. They started the project in 2014 and the movie was released in spring 2017. “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk” has been well received. Several years of shooting interviews and scanning decades of footage paid off. In addition to being a co-writer and supporting director of the film, Marchitiello was asked to come along as an official photographer for Rancid, who were joining Green Day on an international tour that commenced after the release of the film.
Marchitiello spoke very highly of Green Day, his experience with making the film, and being part of the tour. He described a moment, behind the curtain while Rancid was playing, when Armstrong came up to him to express his gratitude. “Billie Joe’s like ‘I just want to tell you the movie is great, you guys killed it, be proud. You made a major motion picture.’ And I was so happy.” Marchitiello explains that this important moment happened minutes before jumping off a stage in order to take a photograph, which resulted in a broken foot. He gives the impression that the injury did not take anything away from the excitement and success of the tour.
When I asked Marchitiello what’s next on his plate now that the tour is over, he told me he formed a close friendship with Tim Armstrong, lead singer of Rancid and Operation Ivy, while on the tour. With Armstrong, Marchitiello has been splitting his time between the East Bay and Los Angeles to work on a TV show. “It’s a horror show set in the East Bay.” Marchitiello said he also has at least one personal project he would like to finish at some point in the future. The project that he would be most excited to complete, he told me, is a documentary about “the late, great East Bay punk rock god, Dory Tourette.” Marchitiello lit up when talking about this project, “I just love that dude…When we’re in a place where we can do work for just passion, it will happen then. But for right now I’m trying to keep the lights on.”
Marchitiello paints a picture of someone who has fallen into work and success by happenstance, but behind this persona is someone with passion for what he does. His love of film is real and palpable. We talked about Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock as two of his biggest influences. When he described being moved by their films, he spoke with an endearing sincerity. Marchitiello talked about having a mom who loved movies and how she “let us watch whatever we wanted at a young age.” It wasn’t long before he was making his friends watch Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” at sleepovers. Later, while in his first year of college, he describes having a somewhat religious experience while watching “The Shining” on LSD. The movie changed the way he thought about and watched films. Marchitiello recounted “All of sudden being overwhelmed with how beautiful and perfect of a movie it was. I remember at some point getting down on my knees and being like ‘Yes!'”
While discussing his love for movies, Marchitiello lamented the fact that in general, people care about film less and less as a medium. “The fact that I have a major motion picture playing in theaters at this moment and nothing is happening [in my career] as a result, is proof that film ain’t the shit that it used to be.” Marchitiello and I went on to discuss how television shows have been steadily surpassing film in cultural significance. Hence, his next project is in that realm of entertainment.
Anthony Marchitiello is a razor sharp and interesting fellow. Everyone should look forward to any future projects he is involved in. His delightful weirdo-vibes and passion for creating is evident when you talk to him or watch anything he has been a part of. Exploring both his work as a filmmaker and a rapper is highly recommended.
You can view Marchitiello’s award winning short film, and other videos he has made, at www.bigsteamy.com. “Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk” is still being screened locally. You can find more information at www.eastbaypunk.com. You can find Finky Binks albums by some easy Google searching. Enjoy the journey.
At the top – Photo: Anthony Marchitiello