STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
The life of Philadelphia’s notorious rock icon Kenn Kweder – not Ken Kweeder, mind you – is the subject of the new documentary “Adventures of a Secret Kidd – The Mass Hallucination of Kenn Kweder.” The film will have its Philadelphia premiere at The International House’s Ibrahim Theater on March 25.
The documentary, which is the brainchild of former Temple University film student John Hutelmyer, chronicles the life and musical career of Kweder through old and new footage, interviews, and of course Kweder’s music. It even candidly touches on Kweder’s issues with substance abuse, subjects that other artists might not want publicized.
Hutelmyer’s introduction to the music of Kenn Kweder occurred during his junior year of high school.
“My dad and I share a lot of the same musical taste,” said Hutelmyer from his Feasterville home. “I was going through his CDs and I came across “Kwederology” (2002). And I remembered my dad telling me all his favorite stories about the guy, so I started listening to it and I really got into it.”
The following year Hutelmyer reached out to Kweder for permission to use one of his songs in a video, which started their personal connection. Hutelmyer finally met Kweder during his freshman year at Temple when Kweder played at The Draught Horse on Temple’s campus.
In 2011, Hutelmyer’s senior year at Temple, he did a short film about Kweder and that’s when he began thinking about doing a feature-length film.
“I realized that this might be my one opportunity to do something on a much bigger, grander scale,” he said.
Hutelmyer enlisted help from his friend and frequent collaborator Rob Nicolaides. Nicolaides initially had some reservations about the project but Hutelmyer’s enthusiasm and passion soon won him over.
“I was concerned early on because this is primarily John’s project,” said Nicolaides from his Pennington, NJ home. “I was worried that John would be overly sympathetic to Kenn and tell the story Kenn’s way instead of the way that perhaps it needed to be told. I was (also) worried that we would run into problems late in the game where there were certain things we could show or not show or we needed to show them in a certain light.”
Nicolaides also said it took a little time for him to appreciate Kweder’s music, much of which Nicolaides described as “outlandish.”
The concern about Kweder dictating the subject matter or self-editing was a non-issue.
“Kenn let us have creative control. We leaned on him and asked him for advice all the time but he really has let it be our project,” said Hutelmyer.
Nicolaides said he ended up liking Kweder and that it was “a breeze” to work with him.
“Kenn is the perfect amount of driven and eccentric and he’s definitely an entertaining character,” said Nicolaides. “But what I really like about him is he’s very intelligent and he’s a student of philosophy. Even if he’s totally out of his mind he usually says something insightful.”
It was a daunting task for Hutelmyer and Nicolaides to review all the material that Kweder had collected since his musical debut in the mid-1970s.
“He has a giant plastic tub at his place that has decades worth of pictures and tapes and CDs just sitting there and we had to go through all of it. There’s still a ton that we didn’t end up using,” said Hutelmyer.
“It definitely was challenging (to edit the film),” added Hutelmyer. “Editing is my favorite part of video production… (but) the hardest thing about (making) the movie is all the songs that I like of Kenn’s that we didn’t even include. There’s tons of stuff that you have to leave out.”
He added: “One thing that I took away from college is something might be your favorite part of the project… but if it doesn’t actually serve the purpose of the story… you have to let it go, even though it means a lot to you.”
Despite his initial concerns, Nicolaides said “I think it’s good that John was close to the project because in a lot of ways he and Kenn have a similar creative story. The difference is Kenn has several more decades under his belt than John. A lot of creative people I think can relate to the story.”
Hutelmyer and Nicolaides utilized the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise money to make the film. They raised nearly $25,000.
“Pretty much all the money we raised went towards equipment,” said Nicolaides. “It went towards insurance for that equipment. It’s going toward the perks for the backers. We’re not paying ourselves for having made it. And a lot of hours went into making this.”
The worldwide premiere of the film was actually not in Philadelphia but in Tampa, Fla, at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival last year. Hutelmyer and Nicolaides hope to find more opportunities for the film to be screened. However there is a greater priority – getting copies of the film to the nearly 300 people who donated money to have it made. Hutelmyer and Nicolaides are grateful to all the backers.
“We titled the film ‘Adventures of a Secret Kidd.’ What we ended up adding, which is something that I really wanted to add,” said Nicolaides, “is something that Kenn said in the documentary… ‘The Mass Hallucination of Kenn Kweder.’ And I think that subtitle will speak volumes to his true fans, and I think that’s where we’re really going to connect with our audience.”
IF YOU GO
What: Film screening of “Adventures of a Secret Kidd – The Mass Hallucination of Kenn Kweder”
When: 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 25 (evening screening is sold out)
Where: International House Philadelphia Ibrahim Theater, 3701 Chestnut St., Philadelphia
Ages: All Ages
Info.: Advance ticket purchase recommended. Tickets available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2496239
Artist’s website: www.kennkweder.com
Movie website: www.kwedermovie.com