Scab Vendor is a feature film documentary about the life and adventures of Jonathan Shaw. During the course of the film, we follow Jonathan's gypsy lifestyle between his homes in Rio de Janeiro, New York City and Hollywood, while featuring in-depth interviews with many of his famous and infamous friends – including Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop, Jim Jarmusch, Marlyn Mason, Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello, NYC underground Punk icon and writer Lydia Lunch, artists Joe Coleman and Robert Williams and many others. The film also highlights some of his not-so-famous friends, such as the illusive Romani Gypsies of Brazil, shamans, bikers and artists he meets while traveling by motorcycle throughout the Americas - “The only real freedom,” as he has put it.
A legend in the tattoo industry and underground arts community, the film delves deeply into Shaw’s psyche and his major career shift to reinvent himself as an iconic underground novelist. In addition to his fascinating personal history and interaction with some of the most important minds of his generation, the filmmakers will portray the man Shaw is today. A seasoned literary figure, Shaw relaunched his original cult-classic novel on HarperCollins in 2015, and will soon release the first volume of his ongoing memoir series: Scab Vendor – Confessions of a Tattoo Artist, with cover art by legendary American illustrator Robert Crumb (another of Shaw's old friends). Think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets On The Road and A Hundred Years of Solitude, with a generous helping of Requiem for a Dream, written by a heavily tattooed Bukowski tripping on Ayahuasca.
A deep archeological dig through Jonathan's extensive personal archive of historical pictures and audio interviews recorded with his famous parents before their deaths, video recordings of him tattooing celebrities such as Johnny Depp, as well as incredible footage of his motorcycle travels, the documentary highlights revealing narratives by Jonathan about his enigmatic past – his relationship with his father, the famous Jazz band leader Artie Shaw and mother, screen star Doris Dowling, who encouraged him to leave home at the age of 14, never to return.
We follow and explore Shaw’s relationship with the Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian syncretic cult that blends ancient Yoruba traditions with Roman Catholicism, European Spiritism, and Indigenous Amazonian shamanism. Digging deeply into his psychic journey through the realms of the international Ayahuasca community, we see how his work and his faith have enabled him to recover from alcoholism and drug addiction: “the curses of his family".
Scab Vendor - The Life and Times of Jonathan Shaw is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall journey into the secret underworld life of one of the last true great American outlaws. The film is a deep and compelling look into Shaw’s substance abuse, his connection with the spirit world, his surreal relationships and experiences with a bizarre and unusual landscape peopled by a notorious cast of characters rarely seen by outsiders, and his ultimate redemption through art and writing.
In a bland post-modern media landscape stifled by stuffy, politically-correct, boring, predictable tales of mediocre nothingness, the inside story of a widely influential artist and adventurer who has lived a limitless and borderless cinematic life on the edge simply demands to be told.