18 and 1/2 years ago L.M. Kit Carson‘s Direction Man, a five-minute short starring the immortal “Larry Williams,” played at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. I saw it at the Egyptian toward the end of the festival, and came to the immediate conclusion that it was one of the funniest found-footage shorts ever shot, made or shown. Ignore the poor video quality — the material and personality are what count. All I know is that there’s very little likelihood of anyone running into a Larry Williams today with smartphone GPS and whatnot. In my mind Williams is a legend, a kind of genius, a jazzman. And nobody knows where he is today, or so I’ve been told.
It took forever to get hold of a VHS copy of Direction Man, but I succeeded in doing that today with the assistance of Chance Browne, the renowned cartoonist and musician who lives in Wilton, Connecticut, and particularly his wife Debbie. I gave Chance a copy sometime in late ’95 but then lost track of my own — thank God he held onto his.
I first asked Carson for help in locating a copy four or five weeks ago, but he told me he’d lost track of his VHS versions. (Temporarily, at least.) I also asked for help from producer John Pierson, who showed Direction Man on Split Screen, his IFC Bravo series that ran from ’97 to ’01, and also several times at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse from ’05 to ’07. (Sundance link: http://history.sundance.org/films/81/ direction_ man) But he said he couldn’t help until later this month.
Here’s what Pierson told me: “I don’t have a copy in any digital format that matches the so-called Sundance short version (i.e., that length with credits added). Of course I do have digital BetaSP of Episode 3 of Split Screen (w/ Kevin Smith at the Quick Stop) where Bob the mailman delivers Direction Man, we show most but not all of the first 4 minutes with an interruption where Kevin & I talk in the middle.
“Here’s what I think I know. Deeper in Austin storage I probably have a VHS copy of the Sundance version. And still deeper in storage I might still have a digital format copy of the uncut 8-minute ‘Big Dick Man’ version, obviously without any credits, although I feel like I gave that back to Kit.
“As far as I’m concerned, anyone & everyone’s version of Direction Man is created equal. For me it’s the Split Screen iteration that I care about and will always keep. And speaking of that and the idea of sharing it with the world, I don’t think anyone has done more sharing than me since the show was aired 18 times between IFC and Bravo (we were on both for the first two years) from 1997-2000. The premiere broadcast alone was seen by 100,000 viewers. So that was the ’90s and then all those Alamo audiences circa 2005-07.”