CIMMfest Brings Supernatural Punk Rock Romantic Comedy To Chicago This Weekend

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 16, 2015 3:45PM

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Teenage Ghost Punk cast members Jack Cramer (Brian) and Grace Madigan (Amanda) pose on set/Photo courtesy of Mike Cramer

We've heard it all before: When date night rolls around and you're in search of a romantic comedy that combines punk rock and local Chicago ties, you just can't seem to find anything. The Chicago International Movies and Music Festival is finally solving your problem this weekend.

Teenage Ghost Punk makes its official Chicago debut this Friday night as part of CIMMfest, a mulit-venue festival aimed at highlighting the long-lived ties between music and film.

Local director Mike Cramer's second full-length feature follows the story of a high school-aged Amanda (played by Grace Madigan), moving with her single mom and brother from Michigan to a newfound home in Oak Park. The family quickly realizes that they aren't the only three souls occupying the house. When Amanda discovers that the spirit haunting their new home is that of a closely aged Brian, whose punk tunes never truly died, things take a unexpectedly nostalgic turn.

Before Chicago becomes privy to this independent, light hearted flick, we chatted with Cramer to get a few more details going into the screening:

CHICAGOIST: Well, I watched the movie last night and, to be honest, I knew I would love it just based on the title. Teenage Ghost Punk takes place in Oak Park but was it actually filmed around Chicago?

MIKE CRAMER: Oh yeah, definitely. We shot in Oak Park and around Chicago.

C: Before we get too far into it, let's backtrack a little. What's your film background? I know you directed TGP but did you also write the screenplay?

MIKE CRAMER: I did both, yeah. Teenage Ghost Punk is my second feature length movie. My first one was a few years ago. It was called Dear Mr. Fidrych. I don't know if you have any knowledge of Mark Fidrych but he was the 1976 American League Rookie of The Year. He was a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. He had a really cool story.

C: I'm interested to hear a description of the film in your words because I had a really hard time classifying it.

2015_04_tgp_poster.jpg MIKE CRAMER: I don't think it fits neatly into any one genre. That's why I jokingly called it a supernautral punk rock romantic comedy. Then you get to make a joke about how that's an overcrowded genre.

I think it's a lot of things. What has been interesting and gratifying has been seeing people of different ages and from different backgrounds enjoy the movie. Some people have brought kids as young as eight or nine [to screenings] and they love it. My mother and my in laws live in a old folks high rise and all their friends kept bugging them about when they could see the movie. So we did a Sunday night screening there and I thought, "This is not going to go well." They usually play movies from the 1950s through the 1970s. I told them before that nobody would be offended if they wanted to walk out and only one lady did! They even wanted to do a Q&A afterwards and told me how much they enjoyed it.

C: Wow. I don't know about 85 year olds, but one thing that appealed to me about Teenage Ghost Punk and that I thought would appeal to different generations was that you flipped the typical punk movie cliche. Usually it's the young, rebellious son or daughter that's portrayed as a "punk" in movies but in this one it's the mom who's really into that style of music.

MIKE CRAMER: I'm glad you enjoyed that!

C: Did you find Adria [Dawn, who plays the "mom" role of Carol in the film] and all of your other actors here in Chicago? I was surprised at how large the cast was.

MIKE CRAMER: It is a big cast but everyone is local. We really lucked out with Adria. We auditioned probably 20 women for that part. We held open call auditions downtown which we practically only did for that part. Adria came in and I thought, she's cool, she's funky but she's not right for this part. When she came in she was dressed pretty punk-y. I wanted somebody [in the role] that had clearly been in mom mode for many years. Finally I decided that she was the one.

C: What about the soundtrack for the film? The male lead Brian has several songs that he actually sings throughout and then there's some good background music as well. I'm assuming it was all original?

MIKE CRAMER: Well, that's actually my son [Jack Cramer] playing Brian. I wrote that part for him. I have a backlog of screenplay ideas and when I was deciding which one to write I thought, I really should write this ghost punk one while Jack's still in high school so he can play that role. He was in a couple bands in high school. One of them was a loud rock and roll band called Monkey Stealing Peach and another was kind of an alt-country band called Snake Oil Salesmen.

We used a number of the Snake Oil songs on the soundtrack but I had him get members of both of those bands together and record as The Raging Specters, which in the script is Brian's fictitious punk band. By the way, Jack can't sing but he can sing punk. He's a very good songwriter though and his bandmates are very talented. So they did the music but I wrote some of the lyrics that kind of fit into the plot. They also arranged a punk version of "Auld Lang Syne" that plays over the credits at the end, which I love.

C: O.K., so here's the biggest question that I had for you after watching the movie: Do you believe in ghosts?

MIKE CRAMER: I ... don't know. I've heard so many cool ghost stories from people that I know. Part of me wants to think, sure, there's ghosts. Why wouldn't there be? And yet I do find that when I watch those various ghost hunter shows, they just seem really full of BS.

Ghosts have been something that people of various cultures and faiths have thought about for thousands of years, right? There must be something to it but I won't pretend to know exactly what.

Teenage Ghost Punk screens during CIMMfest tomorrow night at the Logan Theatre. The screening begins at 9:15 p.m. Buy tickets for $12 here.