Bob Ray brings images of Hell's Belle and Lady Hawk to the Bay Area.

Getting Down, Dirty with Bob Ray and Chad Holt

Sean Uyehara July 26, 2010

A person who doesn’t listen to the naysayers, who does what they want, when they want, how they want to do it: Admirable, right? Well, yeah, of course it depends on what kind of "what," "when," and "how" we are talking about. But. . . that’s not the point. Let’s look at Bob Ray for a second. He makes movies about the people he loves in Austin, Texas. People such as Guinea pig cultivators and roller derby girls. He makes animated shorts and music videos. He unearths whatever it is that's beneath the underneath in Texas, and says, “Look at this shit!” In short, he is a filmmaker. And, in order to continue doing what he loves to do, he has launched a tour—Bob Ray’s Down & Dirty Austin Film Tour. His new movie is Total Badass. It’s a documentary about Chad Holt, a man who needs an introduction. Bob Ray is coming to San Francisco. You can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him. But why would you want to?

SF360: What question do you want me to ask?

Bob Ray: Probably one for Chad. So I’ll just let him chime in. Chad. . . .

Chad Holt: I’d be happy to answer any specific questions there may be, but other than that, I’m just looking forward to seeing y’all out in San Francisco. Ah, fuck it... I’ll go ahead and answer each question you ask Bob as though you had asked me.

SF360: What is it about Austin?

Ray: The heat. The ring of conservative crazies that trap us in Austin. The oasis of creativity and freedom that Austin provides in the red state that is Texas. But we also get to claim all the cool cachet of Texas. And Austin is chock full of creative folk. It’s really an awesome place. I love to travel around, but it’s always good to get back to ATX.

Holt: I’m not knocking the rest of Texas at all, because I’m originally from the rest of Texas, but Austin does offer people who don’t fit in in normal society a place to live out their time on the planet. I couldn’t believe I was moving to Austin when I did back in 1991. I dreamed of someday becoming a part of what I at the time just imagined as this huge social uprising of art, music, film... All kinds of shit. Whatever meager strides I may have made in those departments, I owe it to all my friends in Austin who I’ve performed and created with over the years, but more so I think I owe it to the city as a whole, and the dream it’s inspired in me. I’ve literally been able to just live out a complete fantasy in that city and am only now starting to realize that there may be a reality.

SF360: The film tour is pretty robust. How did this all come together? Have you done anything like this before?

Ray: I kinda just decided to see if this would be a good way to get my films out there. There were a few major factors when I started this thing. One of which was to have an adventure. Another was that I was looking for a different way to expose my new film to audiences. Back in 2001, I toured around with my first feature, the narrative stoner-comedy, Rock Opera ( Unfortunately, the tour started on September 13, 2001. Two days after the attacks of September 11. So that was a bit rough. But by the time we got to San Francisco, the tour really picked up and was a lot of fun. Financially, I left Austin with $200 and returned with $.47. I tend not to measure things financially. We had a blast, got a load of great reviews and made a bunch of new friends. So, for me, it was a success. Also, Total Badass is full of crazy humor, and situations that are pretty out there. So I think doing things a bit different from the beaten path might suit the film well. And Hell on Wheels compliments Total Badass in the sense that these are both documentaries about the Austin counterculture scene.

SF360: What do your parents think about all this?

Ray: That’s a good question. I know they are proud of me. They always knew I was weird, so to have any level of acceptance and/or success is a nice bit of validation. They’ve always been supportive. And I know my mom gets a kick out of it when her friends stumble upon my IMDB or Wikipedia page. My mom lives in Oklahoma City, and when I screened in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, it was a point of pride for her.

Holt: My parents aren’t as thrilled about all of this as one might think. They’re supportive of me overall, but I don’t think they like my style and rightly so. They are great parents, and some of the things I do reflect badly on them. I’m extremely confident in myself, but my only big doubts have always been centered on whether my parents are proud of me and whether or not they should be.

SF360: What should someone expect when they come to the theater?

Ray: They should expect and will find: compelling, honest, funny, dramatic and entertaining movies. There will be laughs and there will be tension. There will be blood (a little, anyway). There will be rollergirls. In Total Badass, there will be: drugs, lots of crazy humor, brief graphic sex, Guinea pigs, crime, family drama, rap music, trash-can jumping and more humor.

Holt: Hell on Wheels, bitching. Lots and lots of bitching. I’ve always thought that movie would have been a lot better if all of the girls were naked in it. Total Badass, it’s quite simply the best movie ever made, and Holt deserves an Oscar for his lifelike performance.

Ray: Also, we’re gonna screen funny cartoons before the features. We’ll do a Q&A with the derby gals after Hell on Wheels and one with Chad after Total Badass. We’re like a traveling vaudeville show. So if you’re brave enough to stray from the Hollywood fare and wanna embrace a slice of Austin film love, then we’d love to see ya! And, We’ll be searching for a couch to crash on. . . . Um. . . .

SF360: Is roller derby real?

Ray: Roller Derby is as real as a heart attack! The modern incarnation of the game has never had pre-determined outcomes. The hits are hard and sometimes brutal. The skating is fast and action packed. And the competition is fierce. It’s a great all-American sport. And a hell of a lot of fun to watch!

SF360: How did you find Chad Holt?

Ray: I moved into an apartment on West Campus of the University of Texas back in the mid '90s and my next-door neighbor was Chad. We hit it off pretty quickly and got ourselves into all sorts of trouble with wild parties and bands and other creative endeavors. We’ve both been active in the Austin arts scene for a long time and have worked together on many occasions. And Chad played a weed dealer on house arrest in my first feature film, Rock Opera. He insisted on acting with real weed. No prop weed for Chad.

SF360: Let's just say that someone comes to the movie theater baked. Then what?

Ray: Well, hopefully they bring enough to share. That is the polite thing to do. But I think they’ll have a blast. Certainly, there is a stoner-factor to many of the cartoons and Total Badass. I’ve witnessed the film being enjoyed in all sorts of states of mind. And, odds are, Chad will be high.

SF360: I haven't seen the whole movie. But, in the trailer it looks as if Holt is pretty intent on continually breaking the law. Won't this documentary make everything more difficult for him?

Ray: I guess we’ll find out if there are legal repercussions from the doc. My filmmaker friend Kyle Henry suggested I burn all the original footage for fear that it would be subpoenaed. But Chad writes articles that basically confess his crimes to all, so I don't feel like it’s much riskier than how he already lives his life. Although, we are parading his crimes around on tour. . . . Hmmm. . . .

Holt: Well, first you have to understand that I’m completely detached from reality when it comes to crime, and therefore am not responsible or guilty for any of my actions because I have no concept of right or wrong. That being said, being a criminal is one thing but going through life hiding shit is another. I’m so fucked up, I actually think that being so open and honest about my crimes will someday completely change society and the way people think about crime and punishment. After that, I will arise as the leader of the world.

Bob Ray's Down & Dirty Austin Film Tour touches down in the Bay Area beginning Tuesday, August 3, at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito and continues Wednesday, August 4, and Thursday, August 5, at the Roxie, SF. More at