King of Herrings

King of Herrings - Digital video release review by Monte Yazzie

1. Ditch & Gat walk(moody)King of Herrings Dir: Eddie Jemison and Sean Richardson

Starring: Eddie Jemison, Joe Chrest, Laura Lamson, Andrea Frankle, David Jenson, Wayne Pére, John Mese, and Carl Palmer


“King of Herrings” starts in a bar with a group of friends who have known each other for too long. The typical banter and storytelling of these round table revelries ensues, escalating in emotion and culminating in a shouting match that introduces the beginning of the end for the ever-so-thin bonds holding a long friendship together. The situation sounds like the beginning verse of the blues song, the music that identifies the New Orleans streets this ragtag group of men traverse. Written and directed by Eddie Jemison and Sean Richardson, “King of Herrings” is darkly humorous and at times a richly poignant portrayal of friendship and masculinity.


Ditch (Eddie Jemison) is a one of those friends everyone knows; he is loud, egotistical, and brash, that friend that rubs everyone the wrong way. Though Ditch has found his merry men, a group of guys that seem to accept him and all his faults, his attitude has finally exhausted his friends. During a night of poker dissension is created within the group, leading to a split of allegiances between Ditch and The Professor (Joe Chrest), a seemingly self-given moniker by another friend in the group. The situation intensifies with more words cutting deeper rifts into the disagreement leading to destructive threats and unforgivable revenge ploys.


Character plays an integral and important aspect in this film and from the opening moments, the film builds an 3. Professor & Leon (cards)(master)interesting quality of identifiable people. The leader with a Napoleon complex, the supportive to a fault friend, the peacemaker who keeps everyone calm, the friend who is waiting to take over, the lonely woman on the verge of self-discovery; these characters are all well rendered here. It’s a compliment to the narrative structure, which moves somewhat aimlessly, that these difficult characters remain believable amidst all the underhandedness that transpires. Though it’s easier to accomplish this when you have such a talented cast. Eddie Jemison is in the spotlight and accomplishes the task of becoming a loathsome character in the first few minutes of screen time. This continues throughout as Ditch vehemently muses on aspects of love, sex, marriage, and friendship. It’s comic yet wholly serious, a thin line that displays Jemison’s skill. Joe Chrest does a great job as The Professor, moving from an insufferable smart aleck, to a revenge-seeking degenerate, to a confused suitor; you never know what aspect of the character is genuine if any at all. The best character in the mix comes along unexpectedly in the form of Laura Lamson who plays Ditch’s wife Mary. Her character is mistreated and degraded by Ditch throughout, relinquished to an almost captive state as a lonely woman desperate for escape and the self-esteem to stand up to her husband. Lamson starts off subdued but slowly emerges as the strongest character amidst a group of men whose misguided masculinity in a way becomes their vulnerable limitation.


While the film may linger in spots, taking too much time reiterating a theme already told, it’s never boring, but in fact remains consistently stimulating. The characters are well executed and the black and white aesthetic works charmingly within the New Orleans streets. Whether about the trappings and misunderstandings found in masculinity, the emergence of feminine strength, or the complexities of relationship in different ways, “King of Herrings” explores challenging subject matter and difficult characters with a keen eye and a healthy dose of dark comedy.


Montes Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

An interview with Eddie Jemison by Michael Clawson

1. Ditch & Gat walk(moody)Eddie Jemison discusses King of Herrings


by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume


To C-word or not to C-word. When given the choice, Eddie Jemison C-words.


Which is why he spent some time shrugging his shoulders at little old ladies at festival screenings of King of Herrings, a film he wrote, co-directed and starred in that follows four on-again/off-again buddies who are not shy about dropping the taboo word that many American audiences still cringe at.


“The Sex Pistols called each other c**ts. That was just their way. It was their scene and their language,” Jemison says of the word. “But a lot of people are turned off by it. Old ladies, as it turns out, don’t like it. I don’t blame them. I just apologize. On the other side, though, people hear the word and laugh; they aren’t grossed out.”


Jemison admits the word is tempered not by his four male stars, but by the film’s female lead played by the lovely 14. Maryactress Laura Lamson, the actor-director’s real-life wife. Lamson plays Mary, much-better half to Jemison’s Ditch, the wildly offensive leader to his circle of misfits and miscreants. When Ditch pushes his caustic sense of humor a little too far within the group, The Professor (played by Joe Chrest) plans a retaliatory strike by befriending Mary, Ditch’s lonely seamstress wife.


“Whenever people start thinking the movie goes too far, it really centers all back around on Mary. It’s her movie,” Jemison says of King of Herrings, which played at last year’s Phoenix Film Festival and is available digitally Tuesday.


Jemison, as the pig-headed misanthrope, plays against type; he is widely remembered as a dweebish character actor, frequently playing mild-mannered men in technical positions usually involving numbers or computer code. He’s had small parts in Waitress, HBO’s Hung and Bruce Almighty, but he’s most recognizable in fellow Louisiana State University alum Steven Soderbergh’s films, including as sweaty computer expert Livingston Dell in the Ocean’s 11 movies.


“Of course, I’m usually typecast. I’ve always hated that, but what can you do? For this, though, I cast everyone against type. Me more obviously, but also Joe Chrest, who’s easily the most assertive of all of us,” he says. “It was a blast being a big jerk with a Napoleon complex.”


The film came to be during an acting workshop in which Jemison was asked to write a script. “I had this scene I wanted to write where a guy says ‘c**t’ a lot,” he says, adding that the class got involved and the film blossomed in front of him. “Everyone wanted to know the end of the story, so I knew I had something there that was working.”


The film works not only because of its delicate sleight of hand with the star of the film -- as Jemison says it, the film may play like a boys club but it’s really about Mary -- but also because its characters chew the screen. They live in a world that must smell like old cigarettes and cheap beer. Cracked vinyl seats, flickering fluorescent lighting, bowling alleys, dog tracks, laundromats. The world is lived in and worn, and the four characters are in no big rush to leave it. The film was shot in color, but given a high-contrast black-and-white treatment in post-production, a look that solidifies the film’s forgotten time and place. It looks very indie and cheap, but in this case that works quite splendidly.


3. Professor & Leon (cards)(master)This is Jemison’s directorial debut, which he shares with co-director Sean Richardson. Much of the cast, and some of the crew, go way back to their LSU days, back to around the time Soderbergh was filming sex, lies, and videotape, and casting many of King of Herrings’ actors in his early movies. Jemison hopes Herrings is enough of a success that he can take the LSU crew down to New Orleans and film a new project “with the exact same actors, like repertory cinema.”


One actor who was easy to work with was Lamson, his wife in and out of the movie. “She’s so good in this movie. I would tell her stuff, but she would really just take over. And as I would be busy directing, she would direct me. She would remind me to give more and to not hold back,” he says, repeating again that Lamson’s Mary calms Herrings’ more sinister verses. “She provides the balance the film needs. When we were showing this movie early on, it was getting really dark responses. But the more people who saw it, the more who started seeing through the film’s more menacing tone. They were finding this sad character in it, and she was cutting through all the rawness.”


“It’s a weird, hard movie,” he admits. “But we’re very proud of it.”


King of Herrings is available on VOD Tuesday.

King of Herrings releases on DVD and VOD by Eric Forthun

2. Ditch & Gat tableWinner of the Breakthrough Filmmakers Award at the 2014 Phoenix Film Festival, King of Herrings releases this Tuesday, January 20th on DVD and VOD platforms.
Starring Eddie Jemison, David Jensen, Joe Chrest, John Mese, and Andrea Frankle
Directed by Eddie Jemison, Sean Richardson
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 82 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Releases January 20th on VOD/DVD platforms, including iTunes
By Eric Forthun of Cinematic Shadows

King of Herrings characterizes an offbeat friendship with cold compassion and biting retorts. Eddie Jemison's comedy is one that, like the classical structure, falls into tragic elements in its conclusion that underly the nature of these people and their manipulative, backstabbing ways. They're all antiheroes in a world that doesn't craft particularly heartfelt or inherently connectable characters, yet they remain compelling on screen due to the strong performances from the ensemble and the zippy, spontaneous nature of the script. Jemison's work has been described as a mixture of Woody Allen and Tom Waits, which feels fitting considering the former's emphasis on character-driven narrative with the latter's offbeat sensibilities. In using those two artists as his main point of reference, the film feels like a twisted homage to the two with a touch of his own creation, even using black-and-white cinematography to explore the black-and-white arguments that haunt these characters. The film's humor is vulgar, a characteristic I enjoyed, but it'll be off-putting to some, yet the foundation of the film thrives when it relies on the connection to the mostly unlikable, potentially earnest men at the center.

The film focuses on Ditch (Eddie Jemison) and company, including the Professor (Joe Chrest), Gat (David Jensen), 6. Augieand Augie (John Mese). They're a ragtag group of friends that always seem to fight over trivial matters in New Orleans. The catalyst for the story involves a debt of nine dollars that's completely asinine in the grand scheme of things, but to these men means everything. It's a semblance of respect and honor that they cannot seem to fulfill that haunts their decisions and leads to increasingly disrespectful actions: adultery, threatening, violence, and anything else that could possibly destroy friendships. The characters aren't relatable in their actions but in their emotions; I cared for the characters when I could see compassion shining through their tomfoolery. Characters need heart and Jemison's film allows them that, even if there are slight bouts of misogyny that pervade the men's decision-making. King of Herrings meanders in the middle as the characters' actions begin to feel a bit strained, but the conclusion is worthwhile and a reminder that comedies must have notes of tragedy or else, well, what are we laughing at?