Though there are a handful of good documentaries that tell the story of disco and capture the genre's dancefloor exuberance, feature films looking back on its heyday often fall short – or at least miss the finer points. (54, the Ryan Phillippe-Salma Hayek flick about Studio 54, didn't even include its best-known song "I Will Survive.")
Jonathan Ullman, the director of 2011's Trouble in the Heights, is looking to change that with a new independent movie about the Paradise Garage, Studio 54's funkier, underground downtown cousin. "The Paradise Garage was more than a nightclub," Ullman tells Rolling Stone. "For 10 years it helped shape the musical landscape, providing the soundtrack to an era. It's a musical legacy that must be preserved for future generations to discover and cherish."
On most nights, the Garage's music came from Larry Levan, a daring perfectionist who passed away in 1992. (The club remained open from 1977 to 1987.) Two of Levan's former assistant DJs, David DePino and Joey Llanos, are supporting the film and appear in a video encouraging fans to contribute to the project's Kickstarter. Both play an annual Garage reunion, and last summer, they spun classic records at a block party outside the building's old address.
"I think the movie is important because there's a whole new generation interested in Larry and the Paradise Garage," says DePino. "Last year's block party drew over 22,000 people, and a good half of them were too young to have ever experienced the Garage. They didn't get to live it, but through this movie we can entertain and educate this new generation of fans about what the Garage really was and its impact on music, its history and how DJs today from all over the world are standing on the shoulders of Larry Levan."
Ullman and producer Jay Antonio Malla Maldonado are looking for $175,000 to fund the film, with the Kickstarter closing on June 3rd. Rewards include props, T-shirts and invitations to throwback dance parties. They write that the money will go to "legal work, music clearances, scheduling, budgeting, operational expenses and other pre-production costs, and most importantly to begin the casting process."
"The club Levan and owner Michael Brody created has become more than a just a former physical space; it has passed into legend," Ullman says. "It is a great honor and responsibility to tell this story that chronicles the rise and fall of the Garage, from its early struggles to its tragic demise, Larry's rise to prominence and the music he popularized, and the makeshift family that kept it all together."