Andrea Marini’s “Art of the Prank” Pays Tribute to Artist and Media Hoaxster Joey Skaggs

The "Art of the Prank," about multimedia artist and ultimate media prankster Joey Skaggs, is slated to open the 2016 Lower East Side Film Festival on Thursday, June 9.

The “Art of the Prank,” about multimedia artist and ultimate media prankster Joey Skaggs, is slated to open the 2016 Lower East Side Film Festival on Thursday, June 9.

The Lower East Side Film Festival is kicking off their 2016 lineup Thursday night with Art of the Prank, an excellent documentary about the multimedia satirist Joey Skaggs.  Skaggs, a former downtown NY artist who studied, and later taught, at SVA, is considered by many to be the godfather of the media hoax. His live antics are witty theatrical events that spring out of social activism and wry commentary, often involving a large team of co-conspirators that stay “in character” for months at a time.

Skaggs has pulled off a multitude of public pranks over the last few decades, such as the “Celebrity Sperm Bank,” the “Cathouse for Dogs” (a fake whorehouse for dogs), the “Fat Squad” (a team of people that block you from your refrigerator) and “Portofess” (a mobile confessional booth at political conventions) — all reported as fact by prestigious journalists, numerous publications and TV news shows.

The film won a special jury mention at the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival and has screened in festivals internationally since then, but this is its New York premiere. Both Skaggs and the director, Andrea Marini will be in attendance on Thursday evening.

Skaggs was introduced to Marini while giving a talk in Rome and says he appreciated the young Italian director’s enthusiasm. “He seemed very dedicated and I wanted to give him a chance. I try to give young people a chance because no one gave me a chance when I was a young person,” he said.

Skaggs handed over hundreds of hours of archival footage, press clippings and photos he had saved throughout his career. “So he knew I trusted him, but I didn’t make it easy for him,” he said.  “[With that much material to sort through] you could have done a hundred different films, he couldn’t possibly have used everything.”

The tightly woven film combines archival footage with interviews of friends and admirers (including the comedy collective Improv Everywhere’s founder Charlie Todd and the Lower East Side’s very own Reverend Jen Miller) along with an inside look at Skaggs’ most recent hoax. To the filmmakers’ credit, the story keeps the audience in suspense and is highly entertaining throughout.

After devoting almost four years to the project, Marini said he’s relieved and delighted to see Art of the Prank screening at so many festivals and on the brink of a distribution deal. “I had no idea where it would go, I always believed in it, but at some point you are so close to the project, you just don’t know…” he said.

Asked if he’s worried that his cover will finally be blown by this film, Skaggs laughs. “I’ve been asked that for 50 years — I’ve been on the same news shows multiple times for different hoaxes (and has used his own name) and they’ve never made the connection,” he said.  “I’ve seen over and over that the story is more important than the name or the person [or the facts] for these guys.”

The important thing to note about this film, however is that it is a ‘real’ documentary.  “Just to do a hoax here would be a cheap shot,” says Skaggs, “the fact that [this is] all real is the powerful thing.”

And a fitting tribute as well.

The Lower East Side Film Festival opens Thursday, June 9th at the Sunshine Cinema and runs eight nights straight, through Thursday, June 16. Visit the website here for more details and the full schedule. TLD is the proud local media sponsor of the 2016 Lower East Side Film Festival.

It’s Here! Lower East Side Film Fest 2016

Photo: Siouxside - Korben Dallas, courtesy LESFF.

Photo: Siouxside – Korben Dallas, courtesy LESFF.

The always fun and fabulous Lower East Side Film Fest is gearing up for their 6th annual festival, which kicks off this Thursday with the opening night feature, Art of the Prank. After the film, they’ll host the biggest party of the festival, with live music by Shareef Keyes and the Groove, special guest performers, appearances by friends and filmmakers, and an open beer & wine bar all night long at Drom.

This year’s lineup offers screenings at the Sunshine Cinema (including a special 25th anniversary midnight screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, The Secret of the Ooze), the beloved “Gay Night Pool Pary and Dive-In Movie” at  Sixty LES, and a Horror & Suspense Screenwriters Panel at the newly opened Ludlow House. Not to mention their unusually great lineup of themed short films.

Co-founders Roxy Hunt and Tony Castle tell us this year’s theme is “Lowkey Highbrow,” because, “We’re not gonna kid ourselves, we’re not Tribeca (film festival), but we still support really great independent filmmakers, (and take a huge amount of time and effort to curate a great lineup) but we don’t do elaborate ‘V.I.P.’ events,” Hunt said.

And, they promise “no Virtual Reality” at their festival this year. “That’s fine for a tech conference,” Castle said, “but film festivals are about people coming together to watch a movie in a theater, and we supply the drinks to make it even more fun.”

Highlights for the two of them include their opening night film, Art of the Prank, which is about the original hoax artist Joey Skaggs, who will be in attendance. “It was one of those films where, when we were watching it, we thought, ‘this is amazing, it’s so fun and so captivating,’ and we knew people would love it,” said Castle. And the duo is very excited about the midnight “retrospective” screening of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.  Director Michael Pressman will be in attendance and pizza, wine and beer will be provided.

“I think our features are always really strong,” added Castle, “but this year we have a lot of really good films that define the kind of spirit we always try to capture.  True independent films that deserve to be seen and probably will get distribution if everyone fights hard enough.”

Closing out the festival is the world premier of The Babymooners, which features New York actors from the PIT (People’s Improv Theater), about a couple who are having a baby. The film was written and directed by Shaina Feinberg and Chris Manley, who are a real life couple and were having a baby at the time.  “It’s very personal, very funny and sweet – it’s not a documentary, it’s a narrative film, but they used what was going on in their life (including Feinberg’s real life parents) to tell their story,” said Castle.

The Lower East Side Film Festival opens Thursday, June 9th at the Sunshine Cinema and runs eight nights straight, through Thursday, June 16. Visit the website here for more details and the full schedule. TLD is the proud local media sponsor of the 2016 Lower East Side Film Festival.