Documenting a ‘local hero’

Alumnus John Hutelmyer is working on a new documentary about musician Kenn Kweder.

The first time John Hutelmyer saw musician Kenn Kweder live, Kweder ran into the audience and stole Hutelmyer’s chair.

“He ran back on stage and yelled, ‘I don’t remember where I got this!’” Hutelmyer said.

Hutelmyer, a 2011 film and media arts alumnus, learned of Kweder’s music from his father, and began to follow the musician’s performances at the Draught Horse at 1431 Cecil B. Moore Ave.

“Me and my buddies went to see him every Thursday, and we really got to know him,” Hutelmyer said. “My senior year, I had a final documentary project, and I did it on him.”

The result was “Adventures of a Secret Kidd: The Mass Hallucination of Kenn Kweder.” The documentary acts as a biography of Kweder, chronicling his early music success to his current work.

Kweder, a 64-year-old punk musician, has created 12 albums in his music career—but would never consider retiring.

“It’s about being a working entertainer,” Hutelmyer said. “Just going out there and making people happy.”

Rob Nicolaides, who is in charge of camera, editing and graphic design for the film, wanted to “tell the story of someone who does what he loves no matter what,” he said.

It’s something that “everyone experiences,” because you either “do what you love, or sacrifice what you love in order to support yourself,” Nicolaides said.

“Doing art as a living is an incredible feat,” he added.

Kweder has been broke, and even homeless. But he was always focused on “offering something to the world,” he said.

The musician, who was only two credits short of a radio, TV and film degree from Temple in 1969, has been on board with the documentary since day one. He describes himself as a “huge Kenn Kweder fan.”

The first half of the title, “Adventures of a Secret Kidd,” is what Kweder would title his book if he were to ever write one. “Mass Hallucinations” is a topic Kweder brings up quite often, Hutelmyer said.

“Kenn’s fans and people in Philly experienced this mass hysteria,” Nicolaides said. “Everyone feels enthralled or taken in by Kenn’s music. People call it anarchy or insanity.”

Kweder didn’t want to control the film, and told Hutelmyer to “let the movie come to you.”

“I was scared to watch it at first,” Kweder said. “I drank an enormous amount of booze.”

Kweder said “seeing yourself on stage is a bit jarring” because “you’re always waiting for something to happen that you have no control over.”

“It’s almost creepy to watch yourself,” Kweder said. “It’s like I’m watching my clone or something.”

For Nicolaides, one of the most interesting parts of the movie is that everyone has different stories about Kweder.

“A lot of crazy, illegal, unethical and inadvisable things have happened surrounding Kenn’s life,” Nicolaides said. “It was interesting to hear different versions of every story.”

One thing the filmmakers tried to do was to “capture Kenn in his natural environment,” Nicolaides said.

“We tried to pick up the theme of how people identify with Kenn even though he’s not a national hit, he’s a local hero,” he added.

Hutelmyer said Temple was incredibly helpful with learning film techniques, particularly during his summer film internships in Los Angeles. Hutelmyer worked on a feature documentary for the band Thirty Seconds to Mars during his internship, and learned how to edit and shoot a documentary.

“I realized it was something I could do on my own,” Hutelmyer said. “It never would’ve happened to me if I wasn’t on that specific internship through Temple.”

He also credits his success to taking professor David Perry’s documentary class, where each week students had to prepare segments of their own documentaries.

“That’s where I first started doing a separate project on Kenn,” Hutelmyer said. “I took a lot away from that class and from him.”

The documentary has been very challenging for Hutelmyer and Nicolaides, as both filmmakers have full-time jobs.

“We would show up to shows, and have to go to work the next morning,” Nicolaides said.

The filmmakers also had to set up an Indiegogo in order to pay for the expensive film equipment, but there was never a financial incentive for Hutelmyer or Nicolaides. It was simply important to be able to tell the Kweder’s story.

“It’s really unique that we are trying to show a side of Kenn that people see, but tell a story that not everybody knows,” Nicolaides said.

Tsipora Hacker can be reached at

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