From Publishing to Producer: An Interview With Christian Detres

by | Apr 23, 2023 | FILM & TV, MAGAZINE, MAGAZINES & BOOKS, RICHMOND NEWS

I recently caught up with Christian Detres, part of the original crew of RVA Magazine and a good friend, who helped me understand what the magazine could be and how to get there. From his beginnings in publishing to his current role as a producer in the world of art films, Detres’s journey is a testament to the creative spirit that has always been at the heart of this magazine, and this was a fun interview to do. Enjoy.

Who are you? And what do you do?

Hi, my name is Christian Detres. I am a film producer. I think I am on the tenth of my nine lives; I have done a lot of things and they don’t have much to do with each other. But somehow there’s been a melange of ingredients of experience that have led me to a place where I feel like I’ve finally combined creativity and artistry with business acumen and production savvy. This has been over the last 25 years. Shit. I’m old. 

We’ve had a long professional relationship together and our first intersection was in publishing. You started working in DC– for who and doing what?

No, actually, I didn’t start in DC. I started here in Richmond, back in ‘97. No, goddamn, I’m older than that. It’s been 27 years, not 25. It was ‘95. I was very young; I was 20 years old. And I had just come back from North Carolina, where I had just moved out with my friend, Donovan Greer, who is also another local Richmond film dude now but in the contractor and set building scene.

Anyway, we had moved down to North Carolina, just being dumbasses. We went down to go surf and start a band. And we ended up meeting two girls in a band and we fell in love. He married one girl and I married the other– we were stupid young. But in the aftermath of that, I was trying to find a real job and ended up moving back to Richmond. I got a job through a temp agency that just asked me if I liked toys and action figures and things. And I was like, “Yeah, I’m a child.”

 So I started working for a collectibles magazine. I would probably say the first real professional success I had in my life was with that publication and it’s also what kind of led me towards meeting you, Tony, and being more involved in local media. It was just a publication revolving around Star Wars and Barbie. Like, how much is my Han Solo figure with a big head worth? What’s my springtime Barbie worth? But it was popular. It started out at about 18,000 copies a month. I was the circulation manager, and then the newsstand director. 

I’m proud to say I brought that magazine from 18,000 copies a month to 250,000 copies a month within the first two years of being there. That was a massive success. It really bolstered my confidence and made me feel like I wanted to pursue publishing more. But I left that magazine after about three and a half years, moved to Washington DC, and started working at the Washington Business Journal.

Photo by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost

Wait, tell the Beanie Babies story!

Oh, yeah, this is a good story. I’ll keep it brief though. Okay, so I’m at this collectibles magazine. And now, mind you, I’m literally 20-22 years old at the time. Everyone else at the company is in their mid-40s or above. And I’m the only person that has any patience for travelling all over the country to go to Comic-Cons and GalaxyCons. If there was one going on and they wanted to have a table representing the magazine there, I volunteered to be the guy to do it because, fuck, they gave me a plane ticket and a hotel. I’ll go anywhere. And it was fun. I love that shit. 

I went to this one in Centereach, New York– it’s on Long Island. It was a Barbie convention. There was good business, tons of people in and out of that place. At the very end of the Barbie convention, it’s Sunday afternoon, like 4 pm, and things are about to close down. Everyone’s just breaking their tables down. And there was a lady across the aisle from me that had a big hefty bag full of plush toys. And she dumped them all over her table and for the next hour, it was a feeding frenzy. Everyone that was still in the building, even the vendors, were rushing over to her table and buying all these things up. I didn’t know what the hell they were. 

So, I walked over there and I asked her, “What are these things?” She’s like, “Oh, they’re Beanie Babies.”  I asked her which one was the most popular and she gives me this bear, this tie-dye bear named Garcia. If you know anything about Beanie Babies, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, don’t worry– it’s a bear. 

I bought it from her for five bucks and brought it back to the publisher of the magazine. Ernie White was his name. He was responsible for Tuff Stuff Magazine, which was for anybody that collected baseball cards back in the day. Anyway, I put it on his desk, and I said that it needed to be on the cover of the next issue. And he looked at me like I had three heads– like, what the hell is that? And I was like, “That Barbie convention I was just at turned into a convention for this as soon as it popped up.” So he did his research and found out that they were being sold at Hallmark.

Hallmark was a company that I had just negotiated a circulation deal with. They had never carried magazines before– ever in their entire history of Hallmark. But then I had the idea of cataloging Hallmark ornaments in the magazines as collectibles, which people were already collecting. But there wasn’t a publication for them other than Hallmark’s own that they sold in their store. And it wasn’t even about pricing, it was just a way to see the collection so you could check off the ones you had and see which ones were missing. 

Around the time that they started carrying the magazine, they saw the edition we had with Beanie Babies on the cover. And they started selling Beanie Babies. And the funny thing is, that exact bear that I bought in Centereach was the bear that was on the cover of that magazine. And then that same bear also ended up on the cover of Time Magazine. I’ve made the joke 100,000 times over the last 20-some-odd years, like, “Oh, I’m somewhat responsible for Beanie Babies.” And this is coming from Mr. Skate Punk, or whoever it is I like to think I am, somewhat responsible for a plush toy craze.

That kind of built the growth of the magazine, though it was already on its ascendancy. Once it got to its critical mass– that’s really where I felt it was at 250,000 copies a month–I employed a new distribution strategy for a newsstand business, which nobody ever did. They usually had a newsstand agent that was one guy who took care of like 50 different magazines and placed them in a bunch of different grocery stores and Rite Aids and whatever. A normal magazine at that time had about a 23% sell-through. On the newsstand that I clipped/curated, we had a 74% sell-through rate, which was phenomenal. That got me a lot of attention, at least in the publishing world.

My whole life, I always wanted to work for The Village Voice. I loved Alt Weeklies. I always picked up Alt Weeklies, no matter what city I was in, I was picking them up everywhere. Punchline, which some of the older Richmond people would remember, I think is one of the best local newspapers this city has ever produced. It was hilarious. It was like The Onion but a little more serious and more locally topical. Shout out to Pete Humes on that one. But I left Punchline  to go work for the Washington Business Journal in DC. It was kind of like the big times. I put my big boy pants on; I was working in a business setting which was a little different from everything I had been doing before. 

And I feel like I kind of crushed that too. I was the marketplace consultant for the Washington Business Journal and I did well enough there that they let me start running seminars at the office about how small businesses can market themselves in local direct marketing areas. So here I am, 23-24 years old, and I’m kind of feeling myself.

They ended up giving me the Philadelphia region as well. I was handling DC and Philly, and then personal shit happened in my life. It was the breakdown of my first marriage, which was unfortunate, but whatever, my ex and I can high-five each other right now. We’re cool. Amidst all that personal drama, I moved back to Richmond. I had been talking to Lander Salzberg for a good year about putting out a book, basically, a Richmond punk retrospective book called All Of Our Songs Are Unity Songs – taken from the Inquisition lyric. 

And we were talking about this for a while and then it turns out that he knew Tony and Jonathan Martin, now of Go Fuck Yourself Magazine and John Yamashita from Sticky Rice, who had decided they wanted to do a magazine that was essentially a sex, drugs, and rock and roll mag, but locally. An arts and culture publication with a hard edge. And I definitely wanted to be a part of that. And that’s when I met you. 

the Christian Detres interview
Chew On This Crew: Justin Vaugh, Christian Detres, Ryan, Lander Salzberg & Jonathan Martin

I remember the first time we met. We can’t put this on record right? 

No, no. We can put this on record. The first time we met, it was at your birthday party. ed. note: It was actually a Halloween party. And I was puking on the stairs outside, not in the building, but outside. I was sitting down after I drank too much, as one does when you’re 25-26 years old. And we met and you’re like, “Who the fuck is this guy?”

And then we briefly worked together on Chew On This before you went off to do other things. This was the beginning of my little turbulent relationship with Richmond. It was interesting. I had come off a bunch of different successes and I felt like I was doing well in Richmond. But I was amongst a set of people that I worked with and arranged myself around, and we were cocky. We were arrogant, very loud, and consistently drunk. But at the same time, we did some really cool stuff. 

Like the Playboy 50th-anniversary party. They did 50 parties in 50 states. And they allowed me to run the Playboy party in Virginia. They literally came out of the blue and asked me. It was kind of funny because the marketing director’s brother happened to be on a plane with a copy of Chew On This magazine; I don’t remember where he got it from. But at this point, we were distributing in New York, LA, San Francisco, Austin, and Vegas. So I don’t know where he got it, but he got it. And he loved it and thought it was hilarious. He was like, oh, they’re in Richmond, Virginia, that’s where they’re trying to have that party. 

So he gave it to his sister, who was the marketing director, and she gave me a call. Then we ran this big party for Playboy; GWAR was there and a bunch of Playboy Playmates and everything. This is also a funny story, so I’ll digress for a second. They had 10 Playboy Playmates riding around the country on this big tour bus. That was kind of part of the whole excitement of it. When they pulled into every city, every state, they’d stop and do this party. So when I knew they were coming to town, I was like, “Well, I want to take all these ladies to lunch.”

I made a deal with Kevin LaCivita, back when he used to have Pomegranate restaurant downtown. I was bartending there at the time. And it turned out that of all the places they had stopped on their tour, nobody had offered them lunch or, you know, took care of them. It was just like, “Go to your hotel,” or whatever; nobody had actually put out a spread for them. They came and it was this fine dining, beautiful four-course meal with wine. And they were all showing up in their sweatpants and hair up in scrunchies and shit, they weren’t all glammed out or anything. But they were so appreciative and gave me big hugs, saying, “Oh we’ll see you at the party tonight!” It was really sweet. 

Later, my ex at that time and I were getting ready at her apartment, which was down in Shockoe Bottom somewhere. And GWAR came by her place to change into their GWAR costumes, and we all ended up walking up the street to this party, which had a line of like 600 people around the whole block. And here I am walking up the street with my ex-girlfriend, who was dressed to the nines, I’m in a suit, and we got all the members of GWAR behind us, just walking up Franklin Street. And we get there and everyone’s cheering and whooping and hollering and there’s several of the playmates that were actually GWAR fans, and they were all excited that GWAR was coming.

And that cuttlefish was coming.

Yeah, that’s what they were most excited about– a dirty foam dick. I know, I’m digressing too much. Anyway, it was a fun party. We had fun. It was a wonderful experience. But Chew On This kind of self-imploded. Lander Salzberg spent more of his time with Sticky Rice– he’s still the GM there.

Chew On This Magazine Issue 14 2004

Like a good rock band. It just chewed itself out. 

Yeah, chewed itself to death. Chew On This chewed on that.

Why did you even like publishing? What is it about publishing that you enjoy?

Coming into it, I always liked writing. I always wanted to be a writer. But when I came to Chew On This, I was the only person that had six or seven years of professional experience as an executive at several publishing companies. Coming in, it was what I wanted to do. All the magazines that I worked for before were places I ended up working; this is what I wanted to do. 

You wanted to build something from the ground up?

Yes, but also play in the arts and cultural space. Be opinion leaders, even if it was just a local market. Because then, a lot of times, these things ended up becoming national and global, which was interesting to watch and see. I don’t think that was my intention, but when it started happening, I certainly didn’t hate it, you know.

You’d also seen that change happen in other publications.

I knew that there was a place to go. I think that was probably what kept me interested in publishing. It wasn’t a job where I felt that I would go in and sit at a desk and do the same job for 10-15 years before maybe getting a promotion. We always had a violent sort of growth in everything that you or I or anyone else in that group of people were doing. It started as this tiny thing and then all of a sudden blew up. And it was exciting. Especially at that time, I think Richmond had a lot going on.

It was the Wild West; you could just make Richmond be whatever you wanted it to be. And it would respond. You could create some new event or trend or whatever the hell it was, by shining a flashlight on some really interesting nook or dark corner of Richmond. These are the things that Richmond defines itself by now. So that was extremely exciting. 

I mentioned Jonathan Martin, who’s now doing Go Fuck Yourself. You’ve got Justin Vaughn who’s the king of Richmond Magazine as far I understand. And then you, of course, with RVA Magazine. So when Chew On This fell apart, I kind of dithered about for a little bit, trying to find my footing and see where on earth I was going to go.

Christian Detres interview
Photos by David Kenedy 2008 @_anywhere_somewhere

At this point, it had been maybe three or four years since your divorce, and you kind of saw the top of the mountain in DC.

Well yeah, I had to go through a lot of personal growth to recalibrate my mindset of where I was. I was a husband and a dad, and I was very much comfortable and happy in that role. And when all of a sudden, that wasn’t available to me anymore, I had to reinvent where I was going with everything. I think that more than anything, is what liberated my path in front of me to really focus on what I wanted to do. I had always been into music and art, it was a very central component of my life. And then my biggest influences growing up were, like I said, The Village Voice and that style of publication. I subscribed to music magazines like Cream and Spin and to Rolling Stone. I was very much into music– into Heavy Metal Magazine. And then also animated art, movies, films like Alien and Star Wars– all this stuff that all of us grew up on.

And I wanted to be a part of an entity that expressed full-throatily a desire to create.. I didn’t really have to be on top, I didn’t care, I just wanted to be part of the mix. And so you hit me up in 2005, I think you were on the fourth issue of RVA Magazine. And I think you were struggling to find a way to monetize or at least keep the thing alive without shedding money all the time. You were charging money for the magazine at that point.

RVA Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 1 April 15th, 2005

Yeah, I was working sushi. The magazine was like my jailbreak. 

Where did you get the money to start it, like a car accident settlement or something?

No, my dad died. 

Oh shit. I didn’t realize it was that.

The mag has always been a personal mission since.

Yeah, there you go. Chew On This had been so sneering. If you look back on it, it’s so emo. 

But it was cool.

It was cool. It was very cool. I still love looking at old issues of it. I wrote some really ridiculous stuff and we went on ridiculous adventures, I drove cross country with a coffin on top of a car.

I kind of always admired and liked that about you. There are other people in this town that could write about a story in the third person, but you just are in the middle of your stories. Remember when you did the boxing story?

That’s how I started boxing. I used to do this column in Chew On This. I don’t know if it was called “Christian Does Something Stupid,” but that was essentially the theme of it. It was just me doing something dumb and writing about it because it’s funny. I got a Brazilian wax one issue. Then there was a boxing competition where I was interviewing the guy that promoted it, called the Rough and Rowdy Brawl. I think they still do it. I don’t know if they do it here though.

But I was interviewing this dude, it was like, the most boring interview in the world. It was so statistical. And just nothing anybody would want to read. I knew I didn’t want to write the damn thing up. So I just asked him, I was like, “It would be a lot funnier if you let me box in the thing.” He told me that I need a boxing license. I was like, “Well, how do I get one?” He said that I needed to be sponsored by someone who owned a gym. I was like, “Don’t you own a gym? Sponsor me.” He’s like, “Why? These people have been training, the people doing this are boxers.”

I told him that I didn’t mind getting punched in the face. It’s okay. Like, I’ll lose. But it’d be a much better article if I actually fought in the thing. But I ended up winning my first fight. And then the second fight, I swear it was like watching Popeye fight Bluto. They put me against this dude that was like 270 pounds and six foot five and he just overpowered me. I got TKO’d; he knocked me down three times. But it caused me to start entering other boxing events.

I’ve always liked that attitude. And I think the best collaborators are the ones that are not afraid to jump in.

I’m not fearless. I don’t think anybody’s fearless. I think it’s stupid to be fearless. Because you’ve got to know where the cliff’s edge is. But I’m always willing to take any chances; I’ve always considered the currency of life to be in the stories you get to tell. And I can literally sit here and tell you stories for 10 hours of different shit. 

But in the spirit of that, I never felt like I was at a loss or at a disadvantage to anyone else that I was competing with, within a certain framework, whether it be for a job, or making a movie, or a tv show, or a magazine, or just to accomplish a task. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t done it before. I was just gonna do it, we’re gonna make it happen. And if we make a mistake on the way, then we make a mistake, but we’ll fix it by the next issue. 

Christian Detres
Christian Detres, 2012

So essentially, this is why I say I feel like I’m on the tenth of my nine lives. Because I’ve seen things through their course of relevancy, and then immediately gone on to do something else. Or  I’m doing two to three things at the same time. For instance, when we first started doing things with RVA and you invited me to be in the mix, I started really looking at the scope of what you wanted to do with the publication and how you wanted RVA to exist. And it was different from Chew. Chew didn’t need to rely on anyone, it just wanted to be Chew On This. In fact, that’s the reason why it didn’t end up staying in Richmond publication because it was like, “Oh, it doesn’t have to be just about Richmond, we can do it about whatever the fuck we want.”

But RVA took stock of our immediacy and this vibrant culture that’s happening right here, right in front of us, that we’re plugged into in all these different ways. And we had a lens that had a lot more energy and enthusiasm. And we also had a crew of people, like all the people at Gallery5 that kind of started at the same time, and Parker, Ian, and Amanda and all these other people that were thinking outside of the box of Richmond. And I think this is really where RVA excels. 

To this day when you see any cop car, or some soccer mom rolling down the street with an RVA bumper sticker– that didn’t exist before RVA Magazine. People did not refer to it as that. Maybe somebody had an auto shop that was like “RVA Tires,” but it wasn’t a thing. I felt that was the first real successful branding experience that I’d been a part of. And I went up to the elbows in on it.

We were super broke.

We were so broke. We were constantly broke. But, we did good work, we put out some new unexpected stuff every month. And we got the job done even with horrifyingly bad disagreements in the office. There were shouting matches and people weren’t talking to each other, but we got it done every month. And it was a beautiful project that was coming together and was starting to actually matter and resonate with people in Richmond to the point where they would start referring to Richmond as “RVA”, which people do all the fucking time now. It’s kind of taken for granted, but at the time it was amazing. 

In doing so, we weren’t just putting out a magazine. We were sponsoring events, we were creating our own events and parties, and traditions. Like when we used to go out and do the boat parties, which were– God, how did nobody die?

They stopped doing them because of us. 

Yeah, sorry Richmond. That’s why you don’t have a really cool yacht to party on in the James River. Because we ruined it. 

I’m gonna do a 20-year book. So, we’re gonna have a long conversation about all that work. I wanted to set the table because you went from RVA to Vice, and then you went back to New York. And really, the last maybe seven, eight years have been event production. And you got into producing movies.

I think really what happened was, in 2008, I left after five years of being with RVA. I took advantage of an opportunity that had been kind of hanging over my head since 2003. Vice had been inviting me to come work for them for five years, and every six months or so, they would hit me up and say, “What are you doing?” Like, “What do you got going on?” And asking me if I wanted to come work for them but they kept on offering me almost low-level entry-level bullshit. 

And I was like, I’m not leaving a magazine that I have a little bit of ownership of, that I have a lot of say in and I feel really building. But they enjoyed my work and I became friends with them and went to Vice parties in New York while I was doing Chew On This.

From an article on Richmond, VA that Christian wrote for Vice that comes up every few years.

Vice was like the center of its own culture before it got so huge and commercial.

Yeah, I can tell you exactly when that happened. I can tell you the day that it happened, I was there. But I went to Vice and that was like a dream for me. They eventually offered me the publisher position for their travel magazines, and that was something that I would never in a million years turn down. Like travel all over the fucking world for Vice and write about shit for Vice– are you kidding me? That’s the best thing in the world I could ever think of.  ed. note: We flew to Vegas and I handed Christian over to Vice that weekend. Funny, sad story for another time.

I cooled on that, funnily enough. I did go have some great adventures and do some really cool things. And it was wonderful to sit in the room with John Martin, Suroosh Alvi, and Shane Smith– this is right after Gavin fuck-you-in-the-face McGinnis had left, they kicked him out for being a racist piece of shit. But I’m sitting in their office with these people and I’m looking around and, mind you, Vice at this point was like 35 people. It wasn’t the massive conglomerate that it is right now. And I have massive respect for these guys. I’m part of their team and they’re looking to me for answers or ideas. And it was just probably one of the most wish-fulfilling deals. 

And this is important because there’s a lesson. I don’t want this to just be a story like, “Look, this is what Christian did.” This isn’t just me reading my resume. You know,  there’s a point in your life where you–  it’s like when people say don’t meet your heroes. I had a crisis there. Because I had reached my goal. I had done the thing that I had set out to do from the time that I was at Punchline. I remember while I was there, I was sitting in the bathroom taking a shit and they used to have a bathtub full of magazines, so I’m in there taking a shit and I picked up a copy of Vice. And this was newsprint Vice, it had a glossy cover, but the inside was all newsprint. It was from like 1998. And I read it, and I was like, “Oh my God, I want to work for this magazine.”

And from that moment, from 1998, I was aware of Vice, and then between 2000 to 2003 I got to actually meet these people and got to know them. And then by 2008 when they offered me a job, I was like, “Holy crap, absolutely. I’m taking that job.” And I go, and then I realized what it means to miss your home. Not only was I not in Richmond anymore, but I was barely ever in New York. I was constantly flying somewhere else. Like two or three weeks out of the month, I’m in some other town. Sometimes it was cool, sometimes I was hanging out in Miami. Sometimes I was hanging out in Tijuana and scared, you know, hanging out with some cartel people.

And as exciting as it sounds, there’s a certain point where you just get tired. And I was tired. And I didn’t want to do it anymore. And then this was around the banking crisis, and the magazine publishing business took a nosedive. It was freaking awful.

It really felt like the end of an era with all the free mags. It really was the way people connected. And then social media became the dominant way people connected. 

There was an entire category that died that we existed in. It was this kind of keepsake media style, culture mags, that honestly, people would carry with them to go places, just so you could see that they had one, right? These are things you put on your coffee table when you’re in your 20s to make people think you’re cool. Like, “Oh, you got a copy of that? You know where the cool shit is.”

You would have to go to Commonwealth to get Vice. You’d have to go to Need Supply Co.

One of the main suppliers was American Apparel back in the day. It was such a weird time, I know that there are a bunch of documentaries coming out about that time now. And it’s interesting to see it in retrospect. But it was wild, it was oftentimes steeped in some pretty shitty male gaze misogyny. 

the Christian Detres interview
Photo by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost

I think from 2008-2013,  there was a whole change in society in the way that we treat people.

I think Obama has a lot to do with that. Having seen how he was treated, by people that you totally didn’t want to align yourself with, elevated the conversation. But I can’t give all the credit to him, I have to give credit to women and the gay community, the LGBTQ community for stepping up for themselves. We follow in their wake, but they step up for themselves. I gotta say, Vice and a lot of those streetwear magazines and street style magazines actually, whether it was conscious or not, elevated the conversation, or put those people in positions of iconography to where their sexuality or gender or whatever was something to be celebrated and not something to be like jeered and laughed at or used as the butt of a joke.

But anyway, it was a very problematic time as well. The point I am trying to get across is to always set other goals beyond the thing that you’re searching for at the moment to avoid the dips. It was probably the culmination of everything I’d always wanted to do but also probably the time that I was at my least happy. I had friends in New York, I was making good money, you know, I was doing all right. But I didn’t have much else to look forward to.

So when I left Vice and came back to Virginia, you and I had a long talk and set it all back up and I came back in at RVA. I definitely felt like I learned a lot. I felt like I had what internally feels like authority. Like, I know what I’m talking about. Please don’t argue with me. Rubbed some people the wrong way with that. But I don’t want to get into a big gripe session about Richmond, that’s not what this is about. But believe me, I can.

I mean, you went from being in New York, being part of a team of media that was ascending to a global level to coming back to Virginia. 

That didn’t bother me. It really didn’t. Because when I came back, there were other mitigating things, too. I didn’t just do RVA. Within six months of being back here, I got this graffiti studio that was gifted to me by this local developer, Justin French, who wanted to do this massive graffiti exhibit. He offered me the chance to head it up, was paying me, and gave me an apartment and this massive warehouse and like $30,000 worth of spray paint and $30,000 worth of frames and canvases. And said, “Have at it.” Invite graffiti artists from all over the country to come in and do sessions and have people paint and paint and paint. 

That was in Scott’s Addition before Scott’s Addition blew up. 

Yeah. This guy owned 27 buildings in Scott’s Addition. He ended up going to jail for like 10 years because he was defrauding the government.

I think that situation actually set up the growth in Scott’s Addition. Because all his properties went back on the market at the same time. 

Also at auction. Well, anyway, my show didn’t work out. Justin French went to jail. But, I’m telling you, to this day, one of the coolest things that happened was our whole drive-thru gallery idea. We paved this 200-foot-long, 20-foot-wide gap between these two buildings that had a blank unbroken brick wall on both sides. And we were going to hang motion sensor lights with canvasses under them all so that you can drive up with your girlfriend or your parents coming in from out of town if you wanted to show them something cool. The lights were supposed to come on as you moved the car forward and it would showcase each one. There were some great ideas.

At least in my career, this was one of the first times I felt a real crash and burn. I had been riding a very improbable line of successes. Everything I had done somehow turned into gold or at least silver. And then I’m at RVA, working with you and I’m doing this graffiti, splitting my time, which didn’t work out as great. That falls apart, not even in an amicable way. The FBI was like raiding my shit; they took all of my paintings. They took 200 paintings from me. And then my living situation became untenable. My relationship with RVA was fraying. 

Because my personal life had fallen apart too. 

Yeah, you were having your own issues. And then Ken Howard broke his fucking neck.

We love Ken.

Yeah, love Ken to death. 

All the core people were aging out. 

Kelly Brown & Christian launching Gungho Guides 2012

It was The Empire Strikes Back. You were in carbonite. I got my hand cut off. It was fucking awful. That was a dark time until Kelly Brown, who’s an interior designer here in Richmond, and I started Gungho Guides, which for those that don’t remember, it was a review publication that was folded out like a map that you would get at a theme park. It was a map of Richmond that had all these different little tweet-length reviews. It was the first time I’d ever really tried to write in that format, to be pithy. 

Most of what I wrote were jokes, though some of them were informative. Some places were just too boring to think of a joke for. The premise of it was, why would someone actually want to be in this place? You can get good food pretty much anywhere in Richmond, you can get the same damn glass of Jameson or a PBR anywhere. Why do you want to go to this bar? Why would you want to hang out here? I thought it was fun and interesting, to kind of take the piss out of Richmond a little bit. 

It was very popular, so we ended up doing one in Charlottesville. And as much as I enjoyed that, the real pivotal moment for me with that publication was when Steven Spielberg was filming Lincoln in Richmond, and Spielberg’s personal assistant had gone to Sticky Rice or something and picked up a copy of the thing. She read it and thought it was hilarious. And so she went to the production office, unfolded it, and put it on the refrigerator so that your gaffers and key grips and producers and people coming in from out of town would have something to refer to if they wanted to go out to dinner or go out to a bar.  My phone number was on there, and It got to the point where enough people were using it and commenting on it that she called me and was like, “Hey, how would you like to be a cultural liaison for the film?”

I was like, “What is that? I don’t even know what that is. But yes, I’ll do it.” It’s a Steven Spielberg movie, of course I’ll do it. I will help fucking clean the floor. I don’t care. But it was pivotal to me because I had piddled around with some film or TV, but done nothing professional. But when I saw what was going on there, I got to meet some heroes of mine. For the three months that they were in town, Joseph Gordon Levitt and I became good friends and we ended up partying and going out. Joe Cross, who is a great actor and you should check him out if his name doesn’t sound familiar to you right away. Lee Pace from Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hobbit.

It really demystified something for me. Film was a massive, massive thing in my life. I’ve always been a big movie buff and not many people know this, but when I was a teenager, in high school, and into the first year of aborted college, I was an actor. That’s what I thought I was gonna do from the time I was 11 years old– I thought I was gonna be an actor. That dream fell away by the time I was 18. The point is, here I am doing this, working on this film, not in any real way. I mean, really my whole job is just taking people out to dinner and taking them out to drink and finding them weed. 

But I did get one great payoff. Spielberg was hanging out at Penny Lane, he liked old British pubs, so he had been hanging out there. And I hadn’t met him yet, hadn’t seen him. His assistant was telling me this and I was like, “Oh, shit, he wants to go to a British pub. Take him down to Patrick Henry Inn.” I was telling her how historical it was, and I may have even got their history wrong for all I know. Because I was telling her that this is where George Washington and people used to hang out when they were in Richmond, which was probably not true. 

One night, I’m sitting at home, it’s like 11 o’clock at night and his assistant calls me and says, “We’re sending a car over to come get you.” And I was like, “Why? What did I do?” When I went down there, the whole cast of the movie was there. Spielberg had invited everybody once he got there and was just like, “Oh, this place is great. I really love this place.” And James Menefee was behind the bar, I remember the look he gave me when I came in was priceless. But I got to meet Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis and another three-name actor who I can’t remember right now. 

Anyway, I did Gungho Guides for a while. And, you know, I found that a lot of times my moving back and forth out of Richmond– which I’ve done so many freaking times– usually coincides with the beginnings and endings of my relationships. When my heart breaks, it breaks real hard. It’s very dramatic. My relationship with Kelly had just ended and left the door open for me to explore. And at this point, Bust magazine in New York was looking for a marketing director. 

I knew them through my friend, Callie Watts, who’s been working with them for 20 years or longer than that now, actually. She invited me to come up and meet the publishers, and I’d met them before at other events but not in the context of working for them. It was kind of crazy because they had been around for 19 years, since 1993. This was the most iconic feminist pop culture magazine in the world. Bikini Kill and Courtney Love were name-checking this publication. 

Kim Gordon used to write for them every once in a while. Roseanne Barr was a writer for the magazine. But anyway, they invited me and I was the first man ever to actually draw a salary from this publication. And I had to look back on some of the other publications I worked with, and previous photoshoots– I literally did a photoshoot with girls in bikinis washing cars, right? This was a giant leap from some of the very basic shit that I had done in the past. It was an opportunity to do things on a different level. 

I’m still very good friends with everybody from Bust magazine. I love them to death and they’re amazing. They’ve introduced me to so many great things in my life and so many great people. But it was a turning point for me as far as understanding what had value within the arts and culture space, and what things were worth putting your name on. And it changed my perception of the angry young man paradigm of a very male-centric, male gaze perception that I had of life and of art. 

Christian Detres interview
Christian with Callie Watts, editor at Bust Magazine 2018

That was kind of the end of your publishing career, with Bust?

Yeah, that’s the end of my publishing career. I worked mainly within the music industry sphere for Bust magazine. And in doing so, I had a lot of opportunities to meet up with people that were working in film, video production, and all that kind of stuff. So I met Eric Weiner from The Wild Honey Pie, and I’d been working with Project Fathom, so I started making music videos, and I found that I was actually pretty fucking good at it, you know, and I really enjoyed it.

To this day, if there was still a decent market for making music videos, that’s what I would be doing. That was the thing that I really enjoyed the most. I have done some recently, and I’ve continued making them throughout my film career whenever I get the chance or have the time. It’s something I will probably always continue doing simply because I just enjoy it. But the turning point happened when I left Bust, and I was working with The Wild Honey Pie full time. I was making music videos and kind of ‘music spectaculars’ where we’d get like six bands and we’d go to some random location, film twelve music videos with all the bands, and make a music film out of it. 

And around this time I met my wife and that was a massive change for me, you know, meeting Melissa and being brought into her world. And that’s when I met Rosario Dawson, and that was also like a spark under me. like. I suddenly had these connections that I didn’t have in the past– I knew people that were doing shit. I started to realize I knew people that could move the dial on things, I knew big decision-makers and branding people.

Through, essentially, knowing Melissa, I met James Dawson, Rosario’s cousin, who’s a contractor. His friend’s dad was renovating their building. So I went in for like $25 an hour painting, not painting portraits, but just painting walls. And I had my headphones in, sunglasses on, on top of a 20-foot ladder, high as a kite sanding down these iron pilasters in front of this building and like oiling them with linseed oil. 

And when I get in that mode I’m like an x-acto knife, like I’m like lining up every fucking thing perfectly. While I’m doing this, this short, 50-something-year-old dude is standing on the sidewalk watching me. He was like, “Hey! you’re doing a really good job up there.” And I turn around, pull my headphones off, and look at the guy, and I’m like, “Oh yeah… thanks!” And he says, “Is this what you do? Are you a painter?” And I was like, “Well, no.” At that point I could legit say I worked in film, like I was working consistently making these videos, so I was like, “No, I’m a producer of sorts.” And he’s like, “Oh, so am I.”’ And I was like, “Really? Get out of here!” 

Andy Fierberg, Christian and I on set for Statues Never Die 2022

So I came down from the ladder, and we introduced ourselves to each other, and he says, “I’m Andy Fierberg, movie producer.” So I was supposed to be working, but we had a long talk. He brought me into the house, brought me down to his basement film studio, and he started showing me all these old films that he’d worked on. He did– what was it– Secretary, that fucking Oscar-winning thing. He did Fur, the Diane Arbus story with Robert Downey Jr. and– uh, what’s her face from Eyes Wide Shut

Nicole Kidman.

Yeah, Nicole Kidman. So I’m fascinated by this man, and we’re having a great conversation and getting along really well. He showed me this movie that he had directed fairly recently. He had directed it and finished the film but never released it. And I asked him “Why didn’t you release it?” And he was like, “Here, take a copy and watch it.” So I took it home. The first two acts of the film were great. The third act just fell off a little bit and kind of lost its way, and I realized why he didn’t want to release it. He had produced like 35 films, but he had never directed a film. So he was shy about it, and I kind of gassed him up about it. 

Saying like, “You’ve got great energy, your actors are great, you’ve got really good people here.” One of his lead actresses had just got cast in a James Bond film; she was a Bond girl. So I was like, no, now’s the time, you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. People are gonna be looking for movies with her in them. Just because that’s how the distribution channels work, it’s not the blockbuster movie, but it’s something with the same actor, so they’ll buy that now, you know? 

But he was insisting that no one was gonna buy this thing. I was like, “Yes they will.” So I bet him that I could get his film released. I told him to give me $10,000 and six months. And in six weeks, I got global distribution with Netflix in Europe, and with Univision in South America. So I got his film distributed and he was entirely grateful. And from that moment on, you know, it’s funny because I still ended up painting the rest of his fucking house, but he kind of took me under his wing and was just like, alright, I’m gonna take you with me. 

So he put me on as an associate producer on that film. And then on the next film with Laurie Williams, My Art, which was her follow-up to Tiny Furniture, I got to advise him as well and be his right hand, and I got to make some really creative decisions on the film. And you know, I spoke with Laurie at length about different things like how I felt this act worked, or this scene worked, or whatever. And so he and I gelled really, really well on our vision of how to create our art. Like, we were making these indie films, and they weren’t like giant, you know, I think that was like a $3 million film so it wasn’t enormous. I know it’s enormous for a lot of us, myself included, but it wasn’t Hollywood-style amounts of money. 

So I kind of gave up everything else and started working with him. Anytime there was a gap between projects I would work with him at his house. So I became kind of like his kid. He didn’t have any kids. He and his wife, Giuliana Bruno

She’s brilliant. I want to say that on record, she’s brilliant.

Brilliant, brilliant woman. She’s a Visual Arts professor at Harvard. So I got to be under this umbrella of absolute greatness. And everyone he introduced me to– like I got to meet the camera people that worked on Alien– all these people who worked on all these great films, and this is what became my surroundings. And I give him all the credit in the world for having any sort of faith in me. He put me on just about every major project they did after that. He either recommended me if it was something that he didn’t want to do, or he put me on projects with him. 

And throughout those years, I started realizing, you know, as much as I wanted to be the artist, or the writer, or the photographer– and I did do those things. Like during that time I started working with New York Fashion Week, and I worked for Ford Models, and did all their fashion coverage for one season, and then I worked with Epson, and produced a $17 million show with them, which was ridiculous.

But I kept making connections. And this is something that is a lesson, never lose somebody’s phone number. Always save somebody’s phone number. Find out in conversation, not just what they do, but what they want to do. You could have a first AD that wants to direct or a key grip who wants to do something else.

Most of the time, those people want to do something more. 

They always want to do something more. A key moment of insight is, anytime you’re networking with people, don’t find out just what they do, find out what they want to do. Because that way, when you have a project that maybe doesn’t have the biggest budget in the world, but you need real talent on it, you’ll have people. You’ll have someone who’s been a camera assistant for 10 years but really wants to get on camera. You’ll be their first credit.

That was the biggest insight you gave me when we were starting RVA Mag, when we had this little magazine. I was like, “I want to connect with people in the community.” So, I started asking people, “What would you like to do?” There was a lot of great, raw talent around us. But you were the only one that had the experience of seeing stuff get big.

Yeah, that had been my entire career.

Christian Detres, 2017

I mean, we’re talking about 18 years ago though. RVA Mag will be 18 In April. I just remember that initial jump-off, like, you telling me, “This can be more than what you think Tony.”

Yeah, well, I mean, like I said earlier, whether it’s happenstance, luck, or talent, I’m not gonna take it away from myself.

Sometimes it’s talent. Or timing. Or conversation. Sometimes you just need a conversation with someone to open your eyes to what you could do. 

I was used to the concept of growth. I was not used to the concept of stagnancy.

I think stagnancy is something that happens a lot here in Richmond. You get to a certain point, and it’s like, “We did it.” Time to pat yourself on the back. I think that mentality is changing a little bit though.

I’ve seen people break the mold and people that stay in it– which most people do. The difference between here and New York is that in New York, people tend to rush towards collaboration. They rush towards being able to pull in talent from everywhere. Whereas, I think here, people tend to get really possessive, like someone’s gonna steal it from you.

Because it’s crabs in a pot and the bucket is small.

I understand why that feeling could come up. But it’s not true. Because every good thing that you and I have ever done here has been about bringing people in and creating a community. And you don’t build a community by sitting on your eggs and being scared of everybody around you. And I feel that Richmond could benefit quite a bit from some of that energy in New York. Like you got something that you need to get done? Outsource that shit. Talk to people.

Because you can’t do it by yourself in New York. That’s a big key.

It’s just as hard to change shit by yourself here as it is in New York. The people that actually decide to work with others and share the spotlight around instead of trying to hold it all for themselves are the ones that get things done. Those are the things that get big. Those are the things that get appreciated. And I think that there’s a lesson in that for a lot of people here. Like, yeah, it’s a small market, smaller than New York, clearly. But it’s not that small.

There’s a smaller talent pool. But on the top end, they’re just as talented as anybody else. 

People want to work. And they want to work on unique things. As I understand it from my point of view as a filmmaker, Richmond has a reputation of being a great location. It’s a good place to shoot– there’s talent here to pull from. But all it is, is a location. One thing that filmmakers here– and I know there’s a lot of them, and they’re good– but why are we not seeing stories? Stories from here? Built here, right? Stories that are conceived here, executed here. There’s people that come in here from Dopesick or Fear the Walking Dead or whatever, these giant corporations that are like, “Well, Richmond looks like shit in this neighborhood. Let’s use it as a post-apocalyptic thing.” 

If that paradigm exists and persists, that’s all Richmond will ever be– somewhere that someone decides to come to because, for one reason or another, Richmond looks like something they want it to look like, as opposed to being a place where good films come from. And there are plenty of other midsize cities that have a film heritage. And Richmond’s film heritage, as far as you know, is like Dietrich Teschner and his crew who did the thing on the river. He had an idea and he executed the idea. He used his surroundings and his human resources. That’s one thing that I’ll give myself credit for– I’m mad resourceful. And I do not always have everything at my disposal. 

You cook with the ingredients you have.

But you gotta find those ingredients. That’s what I’m saying, you know, spend more time finding those resources, remembering those resources, and noting those resources. Keep holding them in your back pocket.  

But anyway, over the next few years of working with Andy and making films, I started building a reputation. The last couple years, and my work with Julian Rosefeldt has been really interesting, because when I got hired on with Julian, I was being hired as essentially a line producer. Andy Fierberg was the producer, right?

He’s a genius filmmaker, by the way.

A genius filmmaker, I love him to death. But Andy left the film and they promoted me, essentially, to being the producer on the film. And I had to learn some things mad quick. But I mean, I always do this myself– I have impostor syndrome like a motherfucker. And I gotta stop doing that, which is another lesson. Stop doing that to yourselves. Just be proud of what you know how to do. If you know how to do something, you know how to do it. But I mean, don’t stop learning, obviously. Be aware when you have something to learn. 

That’s the other thing, mentors are invaluable. And you don’t need to ask them to be your Padawan, you can just stand there and listen. Because people like being listened to. And if you’d come at people with that attitude and come correct, that kind of humility is actually something that’s going to endear you to people who actually do know what they’re talking about. And they will help you. More people will help you than you think.

After I finished the thing with Epson and had a couple seasons under my belt with New York Fashion Week, I had the expectation that every iteration of it, I was gonna get some work. I was hanging around with Rosario and her brand. I got hired by Tumi Luggage to shoot with Petra Němcová, which was amazing. But once that starts happening, that’s when you can represent yourself to other artists that you just happen to meet, which is what happened to me with Elli Papakonstantinou, who’s this Greek librettist and a two-time Fulbright Scholar– she’s a brilliant woman celebrated all over the world. 

I just happened to meet her and told her I was a producer. She’s had an opera that she was trying to get placed in New York, so I helped her build all of the marketing materials, all the pitch decks and all that kind of stuff. I helped her develop the strategy behind actually getting the thing made. And we landed a spot on the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s new work series that they do every September– I got them to pick up the opera. And it did really, really well. It’s got great reviews. 

And you know, I got mentioned in a couple of different articles here and there in The New York Times and whatnot. And then it made it easy for me to point at these things to prospective people. And then Andy was always still in that corner. So when I finished that, Euphoria became an opportunity. And that opportunity turned into dealing with one of the most brilliant directors I’ve ever worked with, and some brilliant cast members like Giancarlo Esposito and Cate Blanchett.

And like CGI, VFX, and setting up for that. This is another thing for young, independent filmmakers coming up in Richmond. All of the tricks that you think you’re not going to have to use ever again when you go legit– that’s not how it goes. You’re still going to take that illegal shot, you know at three o’clock in the morning, in a location that you don’t really have permission to be on. It’s sketchy sometimes, but the thrill of getting the job done, and getting the shot is enormous. 

And the vantage point, from the producer’s standpoint, is stressful. People are relying on you to get it right. You know, you don’t really get a chance to get it wrong; you have to get it right. And this is where being prepared matters. Being prepared means having a plan B, a Plan C, A Plan D, E, F, G. You got to know, down the line, that every single little thing can break. Every plate that’s spinning can fall, and you gotta pay attention. You got to pay really damn close attention to the point where you break your goddamn mind. It’s hard. It’s really hard. 

And then you have to deal with people’s personalities, you have to deal with actors, you have to deal with other people that want your job, you have to deal with other people that are bad at their job. Sometimes you hire the wrong person. And this is also where the idea of “being nice” comes in. Being kind and being nice are two different things. You should always be kind, like if someone fucks up, be kind, but you don’t have to be nice. If someone can’t do the job, they can’t do the job and you need to be able to let people go. I’ve hurt myself by being nice; I’ve never hurt myself by being kind. There is a really massive distinction that I think any professional executive should learn the difference between.

My old boss at the Washington Business Journal, who was my boss when I was going through my divorce, was kind to me by allowing me to leave for a few months, and setting me up with another job here in Richmond, actually at the VMFA. But after he invited me back and I had been there for a year, still getting over my divorce and kind of wilding out a little bit and fucking up a little bit– he was still kind, but he wasn’t nice. He didn’t just let me fuck up and continue to fuck up. He let me know there was a price to fucking up; I learned the consequences. 

So anyway, shooting Euphoria flip flopped because of the pandemic, you know, we were supposed to have shot it back in 2020 originally. I produced that film three times. It happened three times– that we had a plan and we’re gonna shoot it and then we had to scrap the whole thing, planning to shoot it again like nine months later.

And then with Statues Never Die, that was another great, incredible opportunity for me, where I worked with this legendary, legendary filmmaker that I didn’t even know existed before I was told I was working with him– to be honest. I had to do some research and figure out who he was. And when I did, I was like, “Oh, my God, this guy’s outstanding.”

I didn’t believe you when you told me you were working with him. 

Yeah, I had to rise to the occasion. The other part of being a producer is also being able to deal with different personalities with grace, and be able to understand that your job is to get the movie made. A lot of people ask, seriously ask, “What the fuck does a producer do?” And my answer, if you want a succinct one is– everything. There isn’t a single fucking thing that happens on a film set, that you’re not responsible.

The catering didn’t show up. That’s your fault. Did this actor get drunk last night and they’re not ready? That’s your fault. When you take all that responsibility, you realize how hard the job is, but you also realize how crucial the job is. This past November, when I sat at the Park Avenue Armoury in this enormous room with every fucking critic that has any thing to say about New York happenings and film, listening to glowing reviews and everything, you know, that felt amazing. I’m sitting in that room, my wife next to me, dressed to the nines. And I’m the executive producer. It’s not like, “Oh, it was my vision,” or, “It was my creative impulse to make this film.” But this work of art would not have been made– as to at least to the same quality– without me. Right? Like, I did that.

So look, we gotta wrap this up. We’re coming up at an hour and a half. <laughs>

I’m sorry.

It’s fine. I knew it would happen. 

I’m gonna wrap this up with the future. The story I didn’t tell throughout all of this, the thing that’s probably the most relevant and and very personal is, six years ago, a buddy of mine and I conceived of a television show called New York State of Mind about the diaspora of coagulated culture in New York as a groundswell and a wellspring that is appreciated through RVA Magazine, through many other magazines, through hip hop, graffiti, and skateboarding– things that have always been important to me and important to my business partner Brett Stein of NY State of Mind clothing.

So, we came up with this TV show, and if I have any sort of storyline that I’m striving towards, it’s that one. Simply because this was our mutual idea between the two of us. And we have been working on this thing for six years We’ve been in communication with and talks with HBO, we’ve been in communication and talks with Netflix, we’ve been in communication and talks with all the fucking distribution companies, producers, and executive producers.

I’ve flown out to LA and met people out there. And then been back and forth on the verge of contracts. This show has stubbed its toe on literally everything you could possibly stub your toe on. Honestly, even if the show never gets made, I have had incredible conversations with Omar Epps and KRS-One and people that are idols to me. People that are massive originators of these cultures, ideas, you know, people that are luminaries. And I have their ear, and they certainly have always had mine. We have a pilot approved for early June that the rest of the series is contingent upon. But we’ve got BBC 4, Ovation Network, we’ve got Red Bull and all these other people that are dying to see this pilot, and people that are actively like, “I can’t wait to see it.”

And for years and years I’ve been working on this thing, and– I’ve used this example a lot when I try to not get disheartened about how hard it is, or how many times you can almost be at the peak of the mountain. It can be like Sisyphus, you know, pushing the fucking rock and if you push it a little too hard then it goes down the other side and you’ve got to push it back up again. And the greatest example of this, coming back to Spielberg, is kind of a silly thing, but Spielberg had an idea, probably like 13 or 14 years ago, to make a live action film trilogy of Voltron. And it’s fucking Spielberg! How does this man have a problem getting anything made? But for literally 10 years, Spielberg could not get this thing made as a live action film trilogy.

So he had all the scripts written and everything and he ended up compromising and making it an animated series for Netflix. It’s on Netflix now– you watch it and it’s like, “DreamWorks Voltron.” How the fuck does DreamWorks get to do that? This is literally Steven Spielberg’s failed attempt at something that he couldn’t get financed. Steven Spielberg couldn’t get it financed for 10 years!

Does that give you hope? Is that what you’re saying?

What I’m saying is that anytime you get anything fucking made, celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate your wins, because everyone will always remind you of your failures. Rarely does anybody ever remind you of your successes– you have to do that for yourself. Because even I still struggle with the whole imposter syndrome thing. I made myself a reel recently for the very first fucking time. I made myself a reel of all the work I’ve ever done.

I watch that thing sometimes when I’m feeling down. I just watch it to show myself like, “No dude, you actually did things, and you actually made things– things that people like, things that critics like, things that are traveling right at this very moment to the Tate Museum in London.” Both of those films, Statues Never Die and Euphoria, will be at every major film festival in the world. And I’m proud of that. I’m fucking proud of that. But no one’s ever gonna come to me and say that.

Christian Detres with filmmaker Sir Issac Julien 2023

Are you ever gonna be satisfied?

If there’s a final insight that I can give anybody on that note– on whether you’re going to find happiness by being satisfied– you will never find happiness by being satisfied. Happiness is not satisfaction. Happiness is finding satisfaction. I know it’s cliche as shit.

At some point we’re gonna be really old and be like, that’s all I can do. I physically cannot do anymore.

And sometimes in my lowest moments where I feel that imposter syndrome setting in, I have to realise that I have lived 1,000 fucking times by never stopping, by never resting– not by never resting, I do rest– but by never wanting something else. This is why I always say, augment your goals, because otherwise it’s like, if you only have one goal for so long, once you get it then it’s going to be like the dog chasing the car– you got it now what are you going to do? What do you do with the fucking car that you just caught? You don’t know what to do.

So honestly, I think that happiness doesn’t come from being like, “Oh, I’m satisfied now. I won the Oscar, or whatever.” Happiness comes from asking what’s next? What’s the next thing I’m going to do? And that’s where my satisfaction comes in, is the hunt. It comes from being on the hunt for the next thing that’s interesting. It doesn’t have to be the be all and end all, like the next thing I do doesn’t have to put the stamp on my Wikipedia page; it’s just the next thing I do.

And when it’s just the next thing I do, that demystifies the whole thing. It’ll be what it’s gonna be, and then I’ll do something else, and then I’ll do the next thing. And when I’m too tired and I don’t want to do it anymore, then maybe I’ll look back at that reel again, or make a new one. Then I’ll be able to look at that and be like, “Oh shit, I did some pretty cool shit.”

At this point in my life, you know, I feel like whenever I have conversations with people and they’re like, “What do you do?” Like, they want to sit around and talk about things, and I’m half drunk and they want to hear stories– I can tell them stories for days. For daaaays.

We know that. Anybody reading this knows that. <laughs>

But there’s like a bajillion stories, and that’s where my happiness is. My happiness doesn’t come from feeling like I’ve made it. I don’t think I’ll ever make it. I’ll never ‘make it’ in my mind. Maybe to other people looking at me they’ll say, “Oh, you made it. You did this thing, and you’re finally there.” I’m like, “No is there’s no ‘finally there’ for me.” I’m just interested in doing. I’m interested in making. I’m interested in creating. If I’m not doing that then I don’t feel comfortable, and I don’t feel right with the world.

the Christian Detres interview
Christian and Melissa Detres’s sci fi / The Shining wedding 2017

So one of the main reasons I wanted to have this conversation is that I feel like you, and I, and some of our peers have fulfilled our initial promise [of making it]. Because everybody talks about like, “Oh you have so much potential.” So now, being mid-career, you’re like “Okay, have I lived up to that potential?”

It felt like a good time to have a conversation with you, and to get this in the books. This will forever be on the internet as long as the internet is alive, and as long as the RVA Mag website is paid for, which I hope is at least another couple of years.

Honestly, thank you for doing this, because I really do feel like it was about time for me to– not eulogise– but time for me to take into account what I’ve done, for my own sake, not for the sake of anyone else reading it, but for me.

I need to remember that there is a long history behind me of trying– trying new things, expanding my mind, expanding my wheelhouse, and seeing, “Can I handle this?” And then I handle it, and then it’s like, I know now that I can handle that. And now there’s this new thing that’s bigger, and I can handle that too.

And then a smaller thing comes along, and you’re like, “No, I’m not just gonna handle this, I’m gonna knock this out of the fucking park.” And then you knock it out of the fucking park. And then you try something bigger than the last big thing that you did, and that’s even better. Maybe it’s harder.

There’s always a bigger mountain to climb.

Yeah, and sometimes it’s ridiculously hard. And I know that you know this because you were there, but between Statues and Euphoria, I didn’t have free time. I didn’t have a free moment. I mean, I hurt inside. A lot of it was awful. But as I told Kim (Frost) when we were in the studio earlier, when I left the set of Euphoria on the last day of shooting, and we wrapped up that evening, and had a party–

That was a great party.

Yeah, it was a great party. But I got up all bleary-eyed and hungover and went back to the set to wrap it all up, and put everything back on the trucks, and send it back to the rental companies, and spent all day driving around fucking Manhattan bringing everything back. Gotham Sound was the last place I had to go to. I dropped off all the shit at Gotham Sound, walked back to my car, got in, and realized that I was finished. It was off to post-production.

Did you cry?

Yeah, I did. I fucking bawled my eyes out on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Such a bitch.

I know, such a bitch. But by the end of it I think– there’s a thing about watching it on the screen. And I think anyone that’s ever made anything like this, however big or small– it could be just a video you shot on your phone that you wanted to do, which– can I make a segue? All of you out there have phones with good cameras and video editing software.

Christian Detres at RVA Fashion Week April 2023

Nothing is stopping you.

Nothing is stopping you. This technological world that we live in right now– especially with the new AI stuff, with all the new tricks, and the special effects that you can order online, and everything– there’s nothing stopping you from doing it, except doing it.

This is the last thing, “Do or do not, there is no try.” I mean that that sounds so trite, but there’s so much wisdom in it. If you want to do something, get up and fucking do it. Just get up and do it. It doesn’t even matter if it sucks. Just get up and do the damn thing, because talking about it, thinking about it–

It’s self defeating.

It’s just a stationary bike. You’re not accomplishing anything. Sometimes you do have to talk it through, and sometimes you do have to go through the stages of ideating and creating in concept.

Wait, I have to get the last word. You and I are really great friends, and I’m really proud of you. That’s it.

I’m very proud of you too.

Give Chistian Detres a follow @_tan_solo_

Main photo by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me




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