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Joshua Neale: Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard

When a recovering alcoholic wants to stop being a Dick and just be Richard, he hits the road to make right his wrongs. Meet the filmmaker who joined this penitent pilgrim on his journey.

Despicable Dick


Tribeca: Tell us a little about Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard.


Joshua Neale:
It’s a tragic comic road trip following a guy called Dick Kuchera, who’s tired of being a Dick and wants to become a Richard. In an epic life of boozing, womanizing and outrageous behavior, he’s hurt a lot of people in his life, ex-wives, kids, best friends etc. Inspired by his 12-step program, he sets of on a road trip to track them down and attempt to make amends. It’s not a straight redemption story though. As Dick confronts the wreckage of his past, he is confronted with some harsh truths, and he really struggles with change. It’s a can-a-leopard-change-his-spots story.


Tribeca: How did you first come across Richard’s story and what inspired you to document his odyssey of apologies? What was he like to work with?


Joshua Neale:
Richard is actually the Dad of a good friend of mine, Kelli, who appears in the film. I’d visited her in San Francisco, and between her and her old friends from South Dakota, I had heard incredible tales of Dick and his behavior. So I went to stay with him and discovered that self-improvement and his 12-step program were a big part of his life. But he’d really struggled with Steps 8 and 9, which involved making amends. He was still estranged from many of the people who were once close to him.


It was a clear he was a great character whose experience in life had the potential for a rich narrative, and amazingly, he was happy for me to make the film. Dick wasn’t the easiest person to work with. It’s not for no reason that he has alienated himself from and pissed of many people who were once close to him. It was a very difficult trip for him in terms of facing up to some of the people and events of his disreputable past, but it was ultimately an amazing journey for both of us.


Tribeca: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened during production?


Joshua Neale:
One thing we filmed that was really quite bizarre is the day we arrived home with Richard after days of filming. His current girlfriend Barb said she had found his dog, Bodie, who had been missing for 4 months. She led us out back to the dog pen and sent Richard into the kennel to look. Richard called for Bodie before backing out gagging and we saw he was holding the dog’s front legs. It turned out Bodie had been dead for months, frozen by the cold Dakotan winter, and only now, in spring, was he beginning to thaw out. After a moment's respect, Richard calls over a next-door neighbor and says he wants to show her a trick he’s taught his dog: ‘Play dead, Bodie.’ It was typical of the craziness that seems to be an everyday reality of Dick’s life. That one didn’t make the cut, but it will certainly be in the DVD extras.

Tribeca: What’s the biggest thing you learned while making Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard particularly from Richard himself?


Joshua Neale:
Patience, tolerance. It was a strange experience to examine a life lived to that extreme, both through Dick himself, but also through the eyes of the people whose lives he has impacted like a car crash. You can’t help but think about the choices you have made in your own life and their potential impact on those around you. It was also amazing to see the way Dick interacts with strangers from all walks of life. He loves drawing people out of themselves, and in his own way he is a very skilled collector of stories and a catalyst for interesting encounters. This was all fascinating to observe as a documentary filmmaker.


Despicable Dick


Tribeca: What do you want audiences to take away from Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard?

Joshua Neale:
A memory of a film and character unlike any they have ever seen before. Having said that, even though Richard is quite a unique and extreme character, the themes of his story are universal. Everyone who has seen a rough cut of the film has a vastly different reaction to Richard, from those who get very angry to those who find Richard hilarious or have a lot of empathy for him. Many people have experienced people more or less like Richard in their lives and his story will certainly resonate. I’m looking forward to seeing it with a full audience, and I’m expecting strong reactions.


Tribeca: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers? Recovering alcoholics? Those seeking redemption?


Joshua Neale:
I wouldn’t want to give advice to recovering alcoholics or those seeking redemption; everyone is different, and I’m not an expert. I don’t think the film does that either—it’s more ambiguous, and, I hope, allows the audience the scope to draw their own conclusions or parallels. It’s complicated, like life. For filmmakers; Don’t lose sight of what first attracts you to a story in the first place; it's always good to keep its essence in mind, but equally don’t close yourself off to what is really happening if that diverges from your expectations. It will probably be much more interesting


Tribeca: What are your hopes for Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard at Tribeca?


Joshua Neale:
It’ll be the first time it screens, so I really don’t have a clue how people will respond to Dick and the film. I’m expecting strong reactions.  I hope they are moved and challenged… and I hope they laugh.


Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


Joshua Neale:
Werner Herzog or Buster Keaton.


Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


Joshua Neale:
All the music from Despicable Dick…Especially Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller, and Townes Van Zandt.


Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?


Joshua Neale:
Just Joshing.


Tribeca: What makes Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard a Tribeca must-see?


Joshua Neale:
Dick himself.

Find out where and when Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard is playing at the Festival.


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