American Films

“TCN – THE COMMERCIAL NETWORK” A Review by Novelist Joey Goebel

Novelist Joey Goebel reviews Collapse Theater/American Films piece, “TCN – The Commercial Network”

After having watched the short film “The Commercial Network,” I find it difficult to watch TV commercials in the same way.  Ads that once seemed silly–or inane at worst–have now taken on a creepy, even sinister air.  Leave it to Idaho filmmaker/playwright/satirist Kelly Broich to take something as commonplace as a TV ad and expose it as one more symptom of the festering soul of our runaway capitalism.

The premise is simple:  Three dumb American men decide to waste the evening away in front of the TV watching something called “The Commercial Network,” which is exactly what it sounds like.  Interestingly, the commercials are real ones we are all too familiar with:  the Kia gerbils, Alec Baldwin credit cards, Carl Jr.’s, etc.  But with Broich adding a sense of foreboding that grows with each passing commercial, once innocent ads now seem sleazy and absurd.  The three viewers are perversely affected by the commercials, and with this dark new context, it hit me like a Louisville Slugger to the forehead:  Yes, that Carl Jr (aka Hardee’s in the east) commercial where the Greek gods and goddesses are worshipping a cheeseburger IS fucked up.  (I must add that Carl Jr.’s/Hardee’s have been running the worst commercials in the history of the medium, presumably due to their target demographics, which is apparently dickheads of the male variety.)

“The Commercial Network” is an experimental film in the best possible way, and its twisted humor—a hallmark of any Broich/American Films production—is what keeps it from veering anywhere near pretentious territory.  It is a bizarre indictment of commerce at its trashiest, and in a hilarious way, it exposes idiotic commercials as for what they might potentially be:  thirty second spots of evil.

Joey Goebel is the author of the satirical novels, The Anomalies, Torture the Artist and Commonwealth.

Goebel books on Amazon:

“TCN – The Commercial Network” – a short film by Collapse Theater

AVA’s own American Films have taken their act to the stage in the form of theater, operating under the moniker “COLLAPSE THEATER”. Imagine their short films in stage play form, but much more tightly written and with a slew of additional actors, many seemingly itching to dive into the Absurdist material that Amercian Films have been experimenting with for over a decade through film.

But the films haven’t stopped. Recently they had a 2 week run for their play OUTSIDE. And premiering at the last few shows was the new short film “TCN – THE COMMERCIAL NETWORK”, featuring familiar faces from classic Amercian Films pieces.


Commercial making and commercial watching have grown to unreal levels. Some commercials now resemble that of short films with budgets in the millions. Others hawk unbelievable products in fast cut music video style. From Corporations to snake oil salesmen, everyone’s in on the game. And people are watching. The Superbowl nowadays is watched by millions of new viewers, but not for the actual Superbowl. For the premiere of all the new commercials in between.

It only makes sense then that the latest trend would be to eliminate the programming altogether, and instead just create a network devoted entirely to commercials. While cable producers, network execs and the like are slow to jump on this, Collapse Theater is ahead of the pack with the introduction of “TCN”, The Commercial Network.

The short begins with mind numbing 80’s nostalgia viewing by a trio of couch potato TV addicts. Yet quickly things devolve into a smorgasbord of commercials brought to you by TCN, at the insistence of the younger and dumber couch potato who seeks a stronger numbing fix of something more frantic; something that will really fuck him up. TCN delivers.

Eventually the viewers dissolve into commercials themselves; reciting one line jingles, made up commercial catch phrases. The viewer and commercial eventually become one as they allow themselves to be consumed by the visual and audio propaganda assault.

The modern Little Red Riding Hood, reared on singing commercials, has no objection to being eaten by the wolf. – Marshall Mcluhan

If smokers could have instant downloadable easy access to x-rays of their lungs, they could see all the gunk buildup and may re-think their nicotine intake, while taking steps to detox.

Similarly if commercial TV watchers could see an x-ray of their subconscious they would be presented with a similar image of nasty gunk buildup in the brain. And likely they would reach for the bottle of bleach to pour in through the ears hoping it will reach the brain and disinfect the media mildew, unclog the mind altering buildup.

Basically, the short film “The Commercial Network”, is that x-ray.

The film shows the real effects of what commercials do to the brain. How all the highlights create that buildup of gunk. After watching “TCN” you instantly feel infected. Nothing gets neatly processed inside our heads when we subject ourselves to a barrage of visual adverts, all designed to forcefully tell us how inadequate we are, how we are lacking, how convenience should be king, and how popping a pill will make it all better.

As with smoking – we know it’s not good, it’s easy to fall into, the bad effects invisible – commercials are the same but easier to inhale and the effects don’t get a surgeon general warning.

As TCN reveals, the commercials are a drug, which eventually need to be countered by another drug in order to cope and feel better.  And if you don’t leave the room or medicate yourself to a far off island, today’s quick cut frantic back to back commercials of corporate snuff, pill popping propaganda and padded butt panties, will easily leave you suffering from similar effects to that of a horrible acid trip.

See what you are really ingesting. Watch the The Commercial Network.

AMERICAN FILMS : Market Penetrations from the Obscure Absurdists

I first came across American Films around 5 years ago.  Their films were some of the best shot, best visually looking works online;  not to mention some of the most absurdist character pieces out there.  Their early characters ranged from avant garde versions of the Trailer Park Boys to religious fanatical freaks to hopeless fruitcakes and fuck-ups; plus weirdos, wingnuts and  washed up cocaine nose candied 80’s icons.

Somehow I missed these guys on the usual underground screening and festival circuit of the time.  Or so I thought.  When I emailed them years ago, asking where their work was showing, and had showed (festivals, screenings, etc.) the response to me was a shocker.   Essentially nowhere.   Online was their main home.

This was one of the first major signs that I realized how asleep at the wheel film and video programmers had become.  Every experimental/underground/counter-current/alternative film and video curator should have been emailing these guys, requesting work to screen.

Instead, as their work continued to amass, it continued going virtually unnoticed in all the traditional alt. screening outlets.  Yet blowing away all the content that all the traditional alt. screening outlets were showing.

Eventually screenings did pop up, but it wasn’t the curators responsible for them.  It took other artists to point out  American Films  and actually show the work themselves.  I tracked down a screening in Hollywood around 2006 put on by stage performer/actress and Mel Brooks favorite Ann Randolph who showcased an American Films piece called “Peggy” at one of her events.  A few other screenings and small festivals followed, but in the rosters of the usual spots where odd/avant/experimental film and video was normally shown, work from the AF troupe was noticeably absent.

Meanwhile AF continued to pump out more and more work; the productions bigger with what looked like upgraded sets, along with characters more developed and of course, pieces even more absurd.  There was even rumor of a feature film that had been shot and possibly completed, but nothing has surfaced as of yet.

In any event, some major penetrations have been fornicated forth by American Films thus far in 2010.   Some very good actors seem to have joined the group and possibly some added talent behind the camera and in the editing room.  The group has been participating in live shows and screenings, and online their work continues to grow.

Their latest focus  revolves around the advertising/marketing racket.  And it’s starting to gain traction.  A sort of underground minor viral send around seems to be occurring with their latest piece, ridiculously titled “Get Ready to Shift the Paradigm on Your Corporate Branding and Marketing”.

Shot in infomercial style, the piece satirically nails the heavy loaded bullshit dished out by the marketing guru firms, but goes well beyond your typical mock up hit job.  An unexpected character break down occurs near the end, and we are granted the coveted answer to the most common question of all time regarding these real life marketing machines, “do they really believe their own bullshit?”

Hopefully American Films will stick with the absurdism of the corporate marketing machine theme for a while,  giving us more pieces nailing the catastrophe and collapse of American culture aided by the polluted marketing mindset of how to turn human beings into branded brainwashed useless consumers.


AMERICAN FILMS new online YT account with their latest films can be found here:

Older works –

And the latest masterpiece:

“Get Ready to Shift the Paradigm on Your Corporate Branding and Marketing”

“TRIGGERS” – Selected Triggers from Various AV Artists

It's Time

“Triggers” a term possibly first coined by Eric Fournier to describe some of his short spasmatic Shaye Saint John pieces, can also be extended to describe other Absurd Video Artists who have been employing this style for years.

Neither “short film” nor “sketch piece”, these triggers tend to exist somewhere between “test clip” and “stand alone visual art”.

To the archaic alternative and even experimental film purveyor, Trigger pieces have been discounted and swept aside as their lack of label have confused and agitated the alter-establishment (of course showing 20 seconds of mundane 16mm leader film is acceptable in the usual avant garde circles and considered part of a risk taking experimental film.  “Ooooh, he showed leader!”  Pathetic, par usual).

But Triggers can also be seen as “releases”.  Similar to a gun enthusiast feeling the heavy urge to pull a trigger and unload a few rounds, the video artist similarly experiences the necessity to unload using whatever creative arsenals on hand.

Triggers are performed without the restraint of the usual mundane burdens of visual coherency, plots, titles, credits etc.  They’re meant to trigger off some creative energy for creativity’s  sake;  the necessary high that a quick heroin street fix brings to the junkie, the video creator locks, loads,  and spews forth a premature ejaculation through the visual medium.

Here are  some random triggers from American Films, Heck Boyd, and Shaye Saint John.