An interview with ZIPPER’s Tim Schadt

Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting with Tim Schadt, the husband of ZIPPER director Amy Nicholson. He had enjoyed my post on the film, and was willing to entertain a few follow-up questions, having played a pivotal supporting role in the production process. (Amy was running around doing interviews, like this one for News 12 Brooklyn.)

Tim SchadtTim and I met for coffee in the West Village, where he and Amy live. He had just returned from a shave and a haircut at a local parlor. Along for the afternoon was Polly, Amy’s editor’s pug.

A professional trumpeter, Tim picks up substitute work here and there for Broadway musicals when he doesn’t have shows of his own; this past weekend, he was playing for Matilda. He says it’s good that he’s had time to handle the amount of press the film has attracted. “A month ago, I barely even knew what Twitter was,” he told me. Now he’s using social media like a madman: promoting the film, interacting with fans, working with the media, and addressing whatever else comes up.

I was interested in the genesis of the project, because it seemed unlikely that Joe Sitt and Dominic Recchia would offer commentary if they knew the film would lambaste them. “Originally, it was going to be a short film just about the Zipper,” Tim told me. Amy grew up Baltimore and spent her summers working in Ocean City, Maryland, which has a boardwalk and midway of its own. It is home to a Zipper, as it was when she was young. A Daily News article from October 2006 on the impending death of Coney Island’s Zipper put her “sentimental tribute” into motion.

But the homage grew from 16-millimeter nostalgia to a study on land use and a look at a scuffle between two billionaires. Tim thinks Amy’s success in landing Sitt owed to her naïveté. “She didn’t go in with an agenda,” he said. “The film came about because she asked, ‘Why did this happen?’” According to Tim, Sitt’s lawyers didn’t want him to sign a release, insisting on editing rights to the rough cut; Amy convinced the lawyers that Sitt’s appearance in the movie would be better for him than not doing so.

He was very pleased with my interpretation of the movie, and expressed frustration with those who didn’t “get it”. “We were excited to be written up by The Villager, our local paper, which did a lot of good work on Saint Vincent’s and the NYU 2031 expansion plans,” he told me. “But the guy they assigned to review focused on, ‘why didn’t you mention the gleaming state-of-the-art Luna Park, the recently-announced Thunderbolt roller coaster?’ instead of speaking to the real and obvious message of the film.”

(The reviewer mocks my favorite part of the film – where conflicting comments by Recchia and Sitt are stitched together – accusing Nicholson of “undermining their rational discussion with a sophomoric and downright rude irony more appropriate for a junior high school cafeteria.” Check out the film and see what you think.)

Does Amy have any plans to create a follow-up? “Maybe in ten years,” Tim said. “We’d love nothing better than to see a Coney Island where the actual community is alive and well and prospering, where there are 60 acres of real amusements and not a Build-A-Bear Workshop, a Bubba Gump’s, or a Williams-Sonoma in sight.”

ZIPPER: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride has been extended at the IFC Center through August 22, and opens at LA’s Laemmle Music Hall on August 30. You can also find it on iTunes.

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