| art feature
February 8, 2008
Sergio D. Acosta is a busy, busy man. Originally hailing from San Jose, CA, he has a quick and easy smile to go with his “bandito” ponytail hair and goatee, and seems relaxed whether in a suit and tie or a T-shirt and shorts. However, behind that sanguine attitude lies an impressive amount of creative work, all of it to the benefit of the Midwest, particularly Kansas City.
Created in the fall of 2007, Acosta’s Socialist Studios (www.socialiststudios.com) is a kind of clearinghouse for local talent, centering on film (Socialist Studios) and music (Socialist Sounds), with some fashion thrown in for good measure.
Having named himself “Presidente,” his group also includes Sergio’s long-time associates Jason A. Cross, co-founder of Recycled Rockstar, a local booking group, and music promoter and DJ Jose M. Benavides.
Sitting at a stool in a midtown bar on a dark and snowy night, Acosta waxes philosophically on his hopes for the group: “Our goal is to get all these diverse but talented people in touch with each other — there’s a lot of great, creative musicians and filmmakers spread from Lawrence to Kansas City to Columbia,” he says.
Showing off the site’s retro communist artwork, Acosta continues: “I see a need to help bring out that creativeness.” In a sense, he describes a multimedia company run more like a commune than a dictatorship. Acosta points out proudly that the bands keep ownership of their songs — SS (Socialist Studios) just helps promote them.
Acosta himself has some impressive ‘creds in the world of entertainment (including being named as a “Best of Kansas City 2006” persona by Kansas City Magazine), but he’s quite candid in admitting he started small:
“I was working as a production assistant on a ‘indie’ film shoot working for free, living in my car basically. The director, Burt Bambic, liked me, and eventually I worked my way up to Key P.A., sort of like the head of the production assistants.”
That film, Runaways, would go on to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival (A clip of a rather bewildered and amused Acosta being interview by Kosovo TV can be found on the Studio side of the website), and it received good reviews from the BBC while CBS Radio gave it four stars.
Telling a story of lost youth on the streets, Runaways starred Austin O’Brien as teenager Steve Moore and Jack Forcinito as his inspiring guidance counselor Tony Perez. The film also took top honors at both the Hollywood FirstGlance and The Indie Gathering Film Festivals.
Later Acosta received a full producer’s credit for Exploring Love (again with director Brett Bambic), which starred JeanPaul SanPedro as Sean Parker, a successful businessman unable to emotionally connect to the women in his life.
Acosta is currently promoting Wheeler’s War: Organized Crime in the River Quay, a documentary about — according to the SS website — “the romantic complexity of the Kansas City relationship to organized crime, Las Vegas and the violent war that ensued” during the tenure of then Mayor Charles Wheeler. Acosta helped write, produce and edit the film with local filmmaker Chad Arganbright. (There’s a clip of the intro on the website). Its world premiere release is Feb. 9 at the Embassy Bar with several of SS’s bands playing as well. A portion of the proceeds will go to local charities. Acosta is also working as a producer with Truth+Spirit Films on the upcoming feature film Beelzebub a co-production with the Academy nominated producers of City of God.
SS’s flagship band is Bent Left, a local punk band made up by Josh Nelson, Will and “Juff” — “That’s just what we call him,” Acosta says with a sly smile. Promoting their first self-titled album has already proven fruitful: “They’re going to tour Japan in April, and they’ve already been on four tours through the US.”
Also in the lineup is Fairbanks (www.myspace.com/fairbankskc), which released their new album at the Record Bar back in November. “They’re a great group with a big sound, a horn section and everything,” Acosta says. (Check out their cool video of their first single on their myspace page.)
Local R&B artist (and world-class hottie) Adriel released her new single “Take Control” back in December (www.myspace.com/worldofadriel) and will have a complete album available soon. Most all of the music will eventually be available at SS’s online store.
“I just want to be the person that comes to Kansas City and does it the right way. We don’t own the music, and we can be commercial, while still letting the artists be themselves.” says Acosta, while shrugging into his coat to brave another cold midwestern night.
Movies and music for the people, indeed.
Socialist Studios presents: Wheeler’s War: Organized Crime in the River Quay premiere, with live music by Fairbanks and Adriel, Feb 9 at the Embassy Bar, 3945 Main.
Brandon Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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