Fancast’s Movie of the Week is Impaler, and if you’ve ever gotten tired of the same boring stuffed suits spewing out inane rhetoric and jockeying for money every election cycle, you’ll want to check this one out. Jonothon “The Impaler” Sharkey calls himself a “Satanic Dark Priest,” a “Hecate Witch” and “Sanguaryan Vampyre.” He might be one of those guys you steer clear of if you saw him in the supermarket, but in Minnesota in 2006, he became unavoidable when he announced his campaign to run for governor. He had a comprehensive 13-point platform touting increased veteran’s benefits, fixing public education, helping local farmers and impaling criminals on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion, which got him more media attention than any unknown third-party candidate had ever received. As the campaign wore on, the question became whether or not this was an elaborate joke or the real deal, and it all took a toll on his personal life with his wife Julie and her son Christopher.
Q&A WITH IMPALER DIRECTOR TRAY WHITE
Q. What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this film for the first time, knowing nothing about it?
Tray White: Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey announced his plans to become Governor of Minnesota in 2006. Jonathon is a Hecate Witch, Satanic Dark Priest and Sanguinary Vampire who ran on a platform that included impaling criminals. What followed was a media circus and when that ended things became interesting.
Q. What inspired you to get involved with Jonathon Sharkey and make this film? How did you discover him?
Tray White: Well I first heard about The Impaler during a quick news segment the same day he announced his candidacy. I had a good laugh then went about my business. Later that night I came across a link to his campaign website. The site was confusing, strange, hilarious, and a touch horrifying. So I did what any 28 year old Texan would do, I decided to prank call him. Without going into detail, the call was beyond bizarre, I knew then that I might have a story. I blurted out, “I going make a documentary on you. I’ll get a ticket tomorrow.” That’s what I did.
Q. How did the project come together? Was it difficult to get this film off the ground and into production? What were the major challenges?
Tray White: All things considered, the first part of production was pretty simple and stress free. I chose to film in a raw, minimal style, improving the overall camera quality in direct sync with story progression. I just thought that would represent the most honest presentation of Jonathon. The money saving aspect was simply a happy side effect. We see a guy named Paul Hale with “producer” next to his name during a few scenes in New York. He’s actually this bulldog lawyer in Brooklyn that’s like a brother to me, so I didn’t have to worry about all the legal work. Picking up Brian Dickson was another lucky score for the production as well as my sanity.
Things became difficult right before and during the distribution phase. No point going into details, I’ll simply say that Matt Resovich (member of The Album Leaf and The Blackheart Procession) is responsible for saving the day by creating a soundtrack under a heavy deadline that, if missed, had the potential to sink the distribution deal.
Q. How did he respond to being followed around by cameras?
Tray White: Actually, he was pretty professional.
Q. Are there any particular scenes you like the best, or that you think audiences should really take note of?
Tray White: I did my best to pack in as many layers as possible. The beginning scenes are raw and sometimes slow paced, but every single scene, no matter how mundane it may seem eventually becomes relevant. As far as my favorite scene, that’s a good question, I’ve never really thought about that… I guess I’d have to say, the very last scene. For a few brief moments the veneer begins to crack, exposing a broken man, full of sadness, lonely, and terribly ashamed. Then his defenses take over leaving us with the last honest picture of a man before he is consumed by madness.
Q. How about any scenes that were particularly challenging to shoot?
Tray White: I had one interview during the first week of filming with Julie’s teenage son that bothered me so much I simply turned the camera off and just talked to him as a person instead of a subject. It wasn’t professional but I would do it again.
Q. Have you kept in contact with Sharkey? If so, have there been any new developments since you finished the film in his life or that of the other people in the film?
Tray White: The last time I spoke with Julie she had moved on and her children were doing great. As for Sharkey, we were quite friendly until a buddy pointed out my position on Sharkey’s esteemed impaling list. I became friends with a guy named Richard Mullenax, who was able to pull off one very long and very funny prank that became the documentary known as “Impaled: Painfully Blunt!” We showed it at one festival where it won the Grand Jury Award then we sat on it because Sharkey kept getting into thrown in jail. Right now Jonathon is currently out of jail and plans to run for Federal Office in Florida.
Q. What would you say is the overall message you¹d like people to take away from the film?
Tray White: That’s always a tough question, because I hope it’s a different experience for everyone. The wise Matt Resovich pointed out layers that I didn’t even realize were there, and, he took the overall theme in a place that I didn’t know existed, making me look all types of foolish. For some people it is simply an absurd comedy with a few sad parts, for others it’s a statement on media and the empty life of fame, and the list goes on.