Busker’s documentary features Kingston festival

The new documentary ‘Becoming Wacky Chad’ features scenes from the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous. Screen Captured Image.

Anyone who has attended the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous over the last 15 years has likely seen Chad Deitz perform in some capacity. The native of Syracuse, New York, first took part in the Kingston festival as a member of the Pogo Dudes, a troupe of pogo stick experts who quickly became one of the festival’s most popular acts throughout the mid-2000s. In 2010, Deitz made his solo debut at the Rendezvous, performing as Wacky Chad, an act he has brought back to Kingston nearly 10 times, including this past weekend for the 2023 edition of the festival.

Throughout much of his career, Deitz has had a camera on him, recording his journey from an entertainer at Chuck E. Cheese, playing kid’s birthday parties while honing his circus skills, to becoming one of the most accomplished and sought-after street performers around. Deitz’s brother Isaac is a filmmaker and, for over a decade, the two worked on a documentary about his life as a street performer.

“I started videotaping a lot in my backyard,” Deitz said of when he first started out, “just practicing trying to land a backflip, or whatever. [At the same time] my brother had a black and white [children’s] camera… and we used to use it a lot. We’d make skits with it.”

As Deitz’s careet took off, his brother began to follow him to gigs and festivals, gathering footage of the budding street performer.

“We never knew what to do with that footage, so we thought ‘let’s make a documentary.’ So, we got some news clips together, VHS tapes, old cellphone footage… Nobody had an iPhone when we started collecting all this footage,” Deitz detailed.

According to the performer, one of the hardest tasks for the two brothers was figuring out how to put the documentary together. “It was a little bit tricky to figure out how to pull the story and what story to tell… it was just too overwhelming,” he explained. After compiling more than 10 terabytes of footage, Deitz was able to put together a 24-hour timeline of the most valuable content, which his brother was then able to shave down into the film it is today.

“[Isaac] just said, ‘Put together one timeline of all the footage.’ We had to condense it down, get rid of the fat, [and feature] just the best parts. So, I was able to squeeze all the best footage into one 24-hour timeline, [and then] Isaac was able to pull a story from that,” Deitz noted. In total, the brothers spent around 12 years gathering footage, while it took Isaac just three months to edit the material into a feature-length documentary.

The documentary, titled ‘Becoming Wacky Chad,’ is ultimately a story about following one’s dreams and Deitz’s desire to make the world a happier place. “[It’s about] the relentless pursuit of dreams and trying to make the world happy, despite all the hardships that come along with the job. People don’t [always] see the behind-the-scenes hardships, [like] getting stopped by the police, or getting injured, or just practicing [a trick] that’s really hard,” explained the busker.

While the brothers had more than two decades’ worth of source material to draw from, the film features plenty of content from the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous, including Deitz’s first-ever street performing festival as a member of the Pogo Dudes. In fact, the city of Kingston bookends the documentary, with the 2016 festival serving as the film’s finale.

“It shows [around] three minutes of the Pogo Dudes to show that part of my world, like touring and being in Kingston for the first time. So, we talk about that, and [when] we made the front page of the [local] paper; it sort of just got me into the buskers’ world… And then, I booked here solo because I kind of got the in… I don’t want to give away the ending, but it [culminates] with the 2016 festival, just showing the festival and the daily grind we all do,” Deitz said of Kingston’s role in the documentary.

‘Becoming Wacky Chad’ recently had its Kingston premiere at the Screening Room. The film will eventually be available for online streaming. Image via Wacky Chad.

To celebrate Deitz’s longstanding connection to the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous, ‘Becoming Wacky Chad’ enjoyed a brief two-day run earlier this week at the Screening Room, which coincided with the 2023 edition of the festival. The busker described the experience as “awesome.”

Deitz added, “Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, [and] a lot of other famous people have documentaries about them, and they get to watch their life flash before their eyes. When I first saw the documentar, ,it was like the pieces of the puzzle were kind of put together… Nobody ever gets that chance really see video memory of their life [through] 27 years of footage. It really gets to you,” he said of the experience of watching his story on the big screen with an audience.

In terms of what he wants audiences to take away from the documentary, Deitz said he hopes the film will allow people to develop more respect for performing artists who don’t tend to get a lot of attention and recognition. “It gives you a bit of an immersive perspective into the life of a street performer [and those] working performers you see all the time… who get lost in the mainstream. There’s so much great talent, but because it’s not in front of our face, we don’t actually watch.”

As for the release plans for the film, Deitz is working on a streaming method that would have audiences decide how much to pay for the film after watching it, similar to how buskers earn their living by asking for money at the conclusion of their performance.

“Because it’s a movie about me a street performer, we’re going to have a little message before the movie… and then a little QR code that says, ‘Hey, if you stay to the end, you can pay this way.’ We’re not going to put up a paywall, we’re going to let everybody watch it, and then [they] get to decide [how much to pay]… It is one of the first feature films where we’re really asking for money in a way that has just never been done [before],” he said.

To learn more about Deitz’s career as a street performer, and to keep track of the documentary’s public release, visit the Wacky Chad website.

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