The co-owner of an East Village tattoo parlor is making his mark in another art form: cinema


Many people picked up new skills during the pandemic lockdown – chess, knitting, collage, whatever was on hand to pass the time at home. Maxx Starr, co-owner of the East Village Fun City tattoo parlor, taught himself how to make movies.

“I had a schedule,” he explained. “I would spend the day reading how to make movies, then in the early evening I would watch how-to videos on YouTube. And at night, I watched movies.

“I ordered books on film history and screenwriting,” he says. “The Big Goodbye” (about the movie “Chinatown”) and Roger Corman’s “How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime” are two pieces of his research that led Starr to spend eight months writing a 21 page script. .

“I watched a lot of Truffauts and detective films like ‘Heat’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’,” Starr notes. “I had put so much time and effort into it that I had to try to make a movie.”

The result of his crash course in filmmaking is a 24-minute caper that is an “often absurd look at life, love and crime in the city” (according to the press release) titled “The Crusaders” and will be shown premiering at the Village East theater on April 7.

The pensive Maxx Starr, on Instagram at @maxxstarrPhoto by Bob Krasner
Maxx Starr, tattoo artist, painter, business owner, screenwriter, directorPhoto by Bob Krasner

It’s probably been some time – perhaps since the ’80s – since a filmmaker living in the East Village shot a movie entirely in the neighborhood with a cast drawn from the streets of downtown. After enlisting Brendan Brulon to produce the company, Starr filled the small cast with names like Peter Greene (“Pulp Fiction”, “The Mask”), Sophia Lamar (a club veteran) and newcomers Frederick Rusak and Tessa Gourin – the latter two being on Starr’s mind when he wrote the screenplay.

“It was weird – I had no acting experience when Maxx brought it to me,” admits Rusak. “I was a fashion design student at FIT and now I design furniture. But I didn’t even think about it, I just said yes.

Gourin, a methodical actor, had taken a two-year hiatus and “did what everyone was doing – a lot of nothing!” when Starr approached her about the role he had written with her in mind.

“It’s very unique – very Maxx,” she muses. “He’s a black man for our time. Doing it reminded me why I love acting.

Greene, the more experienced actor, knew Starr through a friend and was intrigued by the script. Starr mentions that when Greene took the role, the actor proclaimed that “it’s either going to be really good or terrible.”

Starr, a painter and tattoo artist, left the actual inking of the shop – when they were able to reopen – to his partner Big Steve and their six staff as he focused on his new career. While Fun City, New York’s oldest tattoo shop, has seen its fair share of bold names — Miley Cyrus, Action Bronson, Evan Rachel Wood and Cedric the Entertainer, for example — the joint itself didn’t rate. a close-up in the film.

“We shot at the international bar, NuBlu Classic, local apartments and streets, but the boutique just didn’t fit,” Starr admits.

Frederick Rusak, furniture designer/actor. He’s on Instagram @frederickrasukPhoto by Bob Krasner
Tessa Gourin will see the film for the first time at the premiere. Look for her on Instagram at @tessadotgourinPhoto by Bob Krasner

Filming itself was uneventful, completing in just seven days. But it didn’t start as well as Starr would have liked.

“I was hoping for movie magic,” he says, but the first thing he had to do was fire the cinematographer who didn’t quite live up to the director’s vision. Nonetheless, with Hunter Zimny ​​playing this role and producer Brulon on top of the planning and logistics, the project spent a little less than you might expect.

Brulon, who has known Starr since they were teenage hardcore punk fans in Richmond, Va., admits it turned out pretty well. Much of the filming was done at night and other than occasionally having to beg a construction worker to stop his jackhammer, there was no problem to speak of.

“I had a feeling Brendan would be perfect for the job, and I was right,” Starr says.

As for the outcome, Starr feels he accomplished what he set out to do.

“I’ve watched a lot of detective films that are serious through and through,” he thinks. “But my point of view is that there are fun times in everyone’s day. I try to mix light times – some lightness into dark times.

“I am convinced that I have done something right,” he concludes. “But I know I can do better next time.”

Tickets for the next free screening are sold out, but you can join the waitlist at

Further screenings will be announced on Instagram @thecrusadersnyc.


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