From THE DAILY CAMERA, Friday February 27th, 2015 by Mark Collins
Boulder used to devote more percentage of square footage to the sale of recorded music than any other town in America. That's what filmmaker Dan Schneidkraut says in his new documentary "Old Man."
Now only three record stores remain in our affluent college town. One belongs to Andy Schneidkraut, Dan's father.
Andy fulfilled a lifelong dream when he bought Albums on the Hill in 1987.
"Old Man," which will receive its local debut at the Boedecker Cinema in Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts on March 7, is a frank, loving and surprisingly personal homage to the man at the center of one of Boulder's cultural institutions — its largest remaining record store.
The film is also about Boulder, as seen through the critical eyes of someone who grew up here in the 1980s and 1990s, and about the often unspoken bond between a son and his father.
Part of the reason to turn his lens toward Andy was access, Dan said.
"Andy is an interesting subject, and half the battle when making a film is conquering obstacles," Dan said in a phone interview from Minneapolis, where he lives and writes and directs films. "If you have access to an interesting subject, you ought to take advantage of that.
"Other than that, I've always been kind of emotionally stunted when it came to my dad. When we get off the phone I always have trouble telling him I love him. I'm much better at making films. That comes easier to me. So I thought I could make a movie that could express that."
Among the most impactful moments in the 2-hour, 50-minute piece is a scene in which Andy sits in his Martin Acres home and talks frankly with Dan about Dan's fears of becoming a father himself.
Dan, 35, said the process of making "Old Man," which he began in 2013, helped ease those fears.
"Before I made this," he said, "(having children) was something that I never wanted to do because I was a screwed-up kid, and I wouldn't want to put a poor kid through all that — all my pathos or neurosis or whatever was going on when I was a kid."
Dan said his perspective has changed, however, in part from spending time during filming with a young neighbor girl whom Andy and his wife, Dan's mom Julie Schneidkraut, had baby-sat on a regular basis.
"Kids can be endlessly entertaining, and they can fill up your heart," he said.
"Old Man" chronicles some of Dan's time as a "screwed-up kid." The film's first 15 minutes takes shots at his hometown, pointing out how it doesn't measure up to some of its spoken ideals.
"There's a perception in Boulder that they value things that aren't part of the capitalistic model, but it's not true," Dan said. "There's a lot of rhetoric about that, but it's just pretty much like any other place. Things change, people want to make money. It's basically the same, there's just a lot more Caucasians and a lot more people with graduate degrees."
The film also recounts some of Dan's youthful misadventures. In one dryly humorous moment, Dan tells of the time he was arrested for breaking windows, only to end up serving the police officer who arrested him a while later at the local IHOP restaurant where Dan worked as a waiter.
"His dish got a little something extra from every member of the wait staff that night," Dan says in the film. "A few months after that I was named IHOP employee of the month."
The film also gives detailed background on Andy's childhood, his stint as a restaurateur in Estes Park, his passion for poetry and, of course, Album' on the Hill.
"You don't get a lot of information about music unless you spend time reading off-the-wall publications or going to record stores," said Oakland Childers, a longtime music critic and vinyl record collector, who lives in Louisville. "That's what record stores always did for me — I could go in to get the album I was looking for and I could get turned on to music that I might not have been turned on to.
"Andy, in particular, is good about that because he has such deep institutional knowledge about music. It never ceases to amaze me how much information he has."
The film reminds its audience of the dozen or so record stores that used to serve customers in past decades in Boulder — Trade a Tape, Wax Trax, Budget Tapes and Records, Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes and several more. And Dan Schneidkraut, who has been making films for nearly 20 years, laments the many spots in Boulder where cinemas used to be, too.
He said he understands things change and that commerce typically trumps culture in American cities. But something special is lost at the shuttering of old hangouts like record shops.
"It always kind of felt a little like a club," Childers said of Boulder's bygone record stores. "These were your people. They cared about music with the same depth that you did. And I still go see Andy all the time just to hear what he has to say."
How long Andy Schneidkraut can keep holding court at Albums on the Hill is unclear. Rental prices have increased in the 20-plus years Andy has owned Albums, and much of the music-buying public has turned to online downloads to get their tunes.
As Andy points out in the film, he is several months, maybe years, behind in rent on the store. He's not sure he could pay off the debt, even by selling the business.
"There's something Kafka-esque about what's going on there," Dan said. "This was his dream, and he still enjoys the day-to-day of what goes on there. But it's also his prison."
The dilemma wears on father and son alike.
"I wish I had money and could just swoop in and help him," Dan said. "But at least I can talk about what's going on (by making a film) and maybe it will resonate and some people will go in and buy some records from him."