Nightlife at a ‘dive’

Film based on bartender’s experiences

(Published August 11, 2003)

By PETER STOLZ

Staff Writer

The independent film "Dive" will have its D.C. premiere at Visions Cinema at 1927 Florida Ave. NW at 7 p.m. Aug. 12.

D.C. film director Patrick Burritt recently completed the film, which explores nightlife at a "dive bar" in the District. The film was written by Burritt and local bartender/actor Veen Viscal, who stars in the film. The film was shot at the "Kingpin" bar at 917 U St. NW, which is co-owned by Viscal.

Burritt joked that he wasn’t really interested in making a movie about a bar but that he was forced by his co-writer to take on the project.

"I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter," recalled Burritt. "I didn’t even know the guy (Viscal), but somehow he found out I was a filmmaker and came to my house crazed about making a film based on his experiences as a bartender. The next night we got started writing," Burritt said.

"Dive" is about a night in the life of "Ace," a bartender (played by Viscal) who is forced to serve an array of crazy customers while trying to salvage his shaky relationship with girlfriend "Kerry" (played by Juliana Jones) over the phone. Among his misadventures, Ace must remove a heroin addict from the bathroom while having a dirty needle thrown at him like a dart. He must also deal with unruly customers, including pugnacious lesbians and a thrifty punk rock wannabe who pays for his beer in pennies.

After completing the script, Viscal brought cameraman/producer Eric Helton on board. Helton suggested to Burritt that the film be shot on digital video instead of film.

"Digital video is, of course, cheaper than film and it’s a lot easier to work with in terms of viewing dailies and editing," Helton said.

When the script was finished, the filmmakers held tryouts for the various roles and ended up casting many of their friends. Burritt said that one of the hardest things about making the film was working with what he called a "zero budget."

"We wanted a professional project but didn’t have the money for one, so we had to go through a lot of back doors," Burritt said.

Going through those back doors meant getting the cast and crew to work for free, including professional video editor and friend Joshua Davis.

"He’d come home from a long day of work staring at a computer screen, eat dinner for 10 minutes and work for another eight hours straight," said Helton, who worked closely with Davis in post-production.

Zoey Mitchell, a neighbor of Burritt’s, had a minor acting role in "Dive" and is handling publicity for the film. Mitchell believes that the key to promoting the film lies in reaching the audience of young professionals who drink in bars – much like the characters in the film. This is why after the premiere of the film at Visions Cinema (where alcohol will be served), the film will be screened at Signal 66, a bar located at 926 N St. NW, on Aug. 13,14 and 15.

"The film is about drinking and having fun so we think that people should be drinking and having fun while watching it," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the filmmakers plan to take the film on a tour of bars and clubs along the East Coast, with musical accompaniment by bands and disc jockeys whose music is featured in the film. "Dive" is approximately 40 minutes long and DVDs will be for sale soon on the film’s official Web site http://dive.negativespace.org.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator