Set amid the legendary ‘80s Lower East Side art scene, a forgotten artist with dreams of glory is “restored” in the evocative documentary, Make Me Famous. The film will have its World Theatrical Premiere here in Toronto screening at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, from January 20 to February 1, 2023.

Although he shared the hand-to-mouth existence of fellow artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz,  in life Edward Brezinski was better known for his antics than his art, which is only just recently being discovered. His reputation was such that, when Brezinski died, his obituary dwelled on an incident where he poisoned himself, eating part of an expensive installation called Bag of Donuts that he deemed pretentious.

Make Me Famous, by director Brian Vincent and producer Heather Spore, is a documentary that uses the life of an almost-legend – sneered at by some contemporaries, admired by others – as a springboard for a period in New York’s cultural history when “starving artists” reset the creative bar. Reflecting the New Wave and Punk mentality that was playing out in music at the time, artists created a community in studios in the city’s then-derelict Lower East Side. With little more than a DIY creative urge and practically no cash, the likes of Julian Schnabel would come home from his restaurant job with broken plates and put them together as a “canvas” for paintings.

Brezinski’s home base, the Magic Gallery, was a decrepit apartment on Third Avenue, across from a men’s shelter. Fellow aspiring artists and gallerists created the beginnings of a “scene” that made some rich and famous, and left others behind.

Through interviews, and hundreds of never seen before images and videos, Make Me Famous examines some of these intangibles through the recollections of some of NYC’s Downtown scene’s most colourful figures. The question remains, as business entered the picture, were “antics” good marketing Actor/monologist Eric Bogosian recalls helping the late Robert Mapplethorpe assemble a sex-fueled gallery launch party, which was packed with revelers, none of whom bought even a single one of his works.

Along with his Neo-Expressionist artworks, the commercially unsuccessful Brezinski left behind a mystery as his legacy. After a time struggling in East Berlin, he ended up in France, where he apparently died in 2007 in Nice, authorities initially said. However, proof of his death was sketchy, so the filmmakers embarked on a journey, based on a rumour, that he may have faked his own death.

Make Me Famous follows Brezinski’s friends and fellow artists, Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger, to France to unearth the truth about what happened to Brezinski.

Richard Hambleton and other artists questioned why director Vincent would make a film about a relative unknown. “Famous people, to me, are talked about ad nauseam,” Vincent says. “On a personal level, I’m an actor, and I’ve been a struggling actor for 30 years. I can relate to these feelings of not being famous, and questioning whether I’m going to fail in my career. I wanted to answer the fundamental question, if I’m still struggling to the day that I die, did I inspire anyone? What will be left of what I did? Then more broadly, it’s interesting to look back and see what was overlooked in art history. Finally, it begins an investigation, which is the fun part. That’s the stuff I love to do.”

Filmmakers Brian Vincent and Heather Spore are also performers. Brian graduated from Juilliard and Heather was on Broadway in Wicked for 13 years.

Make Me Famous – Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, 506 Bloor St W, Toronto

Screening from January 20 to February 1, 2023. Tickets

Brian Vincent and Heather Spore will be in Toronto attending screenings Jan 25, 26, 27, 28, 29

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.