Production on "Open Mic Night," Photo Courtesy The Bottleneck
When you love the Lawrence music scene as much as Matt Toplikar does, it’s hard not to show it off. The local filmmaker has been hard at work all week on a film he wrote, directed, and produced called “Open Mic Night.” When it comes to the big screen, you’ll see so many familiar faces in the film that it may be hard for you to contain your excitement over the scene, too.

Brendan Hangauer during production of the film.
Rounding up the locals

The film stars Brendan Hangauer, of Fourth of July. Toplikar says Hangauer plays a musician who falls for another musician at an open mic night. He then spends the rest of his days trying to find her at various open mic nights around town. The inspiration for the film came to Toplikar after watching Fourth of July videos on YouTube. “I’ve been friends with Brendan Hangauer for a while now, we used to be neighbors,” says Toplikar. “We’ve always gotten along real well, and I always thought he’s not just a good musician, but an interesting guy. So I thought he would play well in a movie.”

Marty Hillard in "Open Mic Night,"
Hangauer won’t be the only local musician in the film. Toplikar recruited a host of other rockers and their musical talents, including Jordan Geiger (of Hospital Ships) and Marty Hillard (of Cowboy Indian Bear). “I wanted to do a project where I got to work with a lot of the musicians that I admire around this town,” says Toplikar, who has been especially fond of Hillard’s work from as far back as his early days playing in The Sister Maria. “It’s weird sometimes, when you meet people and you think they might play well on film. He’s definitely one of them.”

A unique position

We, as Lawrencians, should have reason to get excited that (of all the filmmakers out there) Toplikar is the one tackling the Lawrence music scene. He grew up in Lawrence and spent several years working at Liberty Hall, and in recent years he spends his time working on the set of Breaking Bad. But as soon as he gets a free moment, he makes the trek back to Larryville.

The scene from outside the Bottleneck during production
He spent nearly every day this week tirelessly shooting the film at various venues, including The Bottleneck and the Taproom. These are the places that mattered the most to him growing up. “It’s definitely the town where I feel like my personality developed. It’s a town I really love from bottom of my heart, I really miss it a lot,” says Toplikar. “This movie is sort of a love letter to Lawrence, to a certain sliver of the Lawrence music scene… I felt like I was in a unique position to say something about it, share it with people in some way.”

After this week, Toplikar heads back to Albuquerque for a few projects before returning to work on the set of “Breaking Bad.” During that time, he’s going to edit the movie and hopefully be able to return home for the holidays with a little Christmas gift for Lawrence and a showing at Liberty Hall. But he’s not leaving without indulging in a Cowboy Indian Bear set on Friday. Shooting may be wrapping up, but Toplikar is far from finished when it comes to spreading his love of the scene to his crew, most of whom followed him down to Lawrence from Albuquerque. “I get to show them my hometown and the music scene here, and they’re all getting very excited about it, talking like ‘Oh we should come back and do music videos for these bands,'” says Toplikar. “That’s kind of a really cool thing for me.”

It’s kind of a really cool thing for us, too.

by Fally Afani



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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