Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday March 20th 2019

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PTK: The Movie

By Jeremy Morrison

Phil Thomas Katt, or PTK, has gotten a glimpse of the film about himself, and so far, he likes what he’s seen.

“It seemed to follow the story pretty well,” Katt told Inweekly.

That story has unfolded over several decades to the sound of an infectious soundtrack. It has played out on countless videos featuring a colorful cast of characters and distinct aesthetic.

And now that story is explored in a new film—“Space Happy: The Phil Thomas Katt Documentary”—premiering at Pensacon this weekend.

The work’s title borrows a phrase the artist is fond of.

“Officially, it would probably mean astronauts going loony or losing it because of long space travel,” Katt explained. “Myself, I use it as just another one of my adjectives. It’s kind of become a trademark of mine, to have a different adjective whenever I introduce myself, either on the radio or in a music video.”

Since the 1970s, Katt has entertained audiences as a musician, radio DJ and video producer as well as host of The Uncharted Zone. Through the years, he has gained a cult following both locally and, via the internet, internationally.

When filmmaker Louis Crisitello first stumbled across Katt’s universe, he was immediately curious.

“A curiosity about, ‘Who is this person doing this?’” the filmmaker said, “and then also, like a genuine admiration, like, ‘Who is this person doing this?’”

Crisitello and partner John Nobbs tried to answer that question with “Space Happy,” and the filmmakers, as well as Katt, plan to answer more questions during a Q&A session following the documentary’s local premiere.

So Much Going On In So Little
PTK has always enjoyed performing and entertaining. He recounts one experience when he was about 10 years old as an early realization of this joy.

“So, I got out, and all the neighborhood kids were hanging around, and I sang the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song because I knew every word,” Katt recalled. “And they were all saying, ‘Wow, you’re so good. Let me go get my mom. I want her to hear you!’ So, that’s kinda where it began because I enjoyed, I guess you could call it, a bit of fame or adulation.”

Over the years, Katt has entertained folks through a variety of mediums. The ‘70s was his singer-songwriter era. By the ‘80s, Katt was working as a disc jockey on a number of regional radio stations. Since then, he has churned out original music and videos and produced the work of other artists as well, in addition to hosting his shows on radio and the web.

Crisitello, who lives in New Jersey, discovered Katt a few years back.

“The wife and I were in bed, just watching random YouTube videos,” the filmmaker said. “I think we stumbled upon Mark Gormley, which then led us to UZ TV and PTK.”

In 2007, Katt produced Gormley’s video for a song called “Little Wings.” It featured the green-screened singer standing at a single microphone and floating across a variety of backgrounds, at times with translucent butterflies.

The video is quintessential Katt and became a YouTube sensation.

“It was kind of the early days of YouTube videos going viral, so that was one of the first ones,” Crisitello said. “I think the internet was still kind of forming what memes were, you know, sharing things, and that video is, like, prime for that. There’s so much going on in so little, you know?”

It can be difficult to formulate a response to some of Katt’s work. It’s music and videos, but it’s more than that.

“I’m not gonna lie,” said Nobbs, “there is a part of it that feels kind of like a surrealist comedy in a way, or it seems like a “Tim and Eric” vibe, where they’re doing this on purpose to kind of get a laugh out of people. But at the same time, a lot of his music videos are just really entertaining to watch, and people that he works with are interesting too.”

When Crisitello and Nobbs began digging into Katt’s universe, they found a world filled with incredibly earnest artists, ones that appeared to be doing exactly what they wanted to do, albeit without the traditional trappings—like fame or wealth—of success.

“At first glance, it can be somewhat crude maybe, but I think the genuineness of it is definitely appealing and admirable. And at the end of the day, he’s doing something right because he manages to have this little cult following of people that continue to look for stuff that he’s doing and they’re entertained by it,” Crisitello said. “So, you’ve got to give the man credit for that and say, ‘Is that a success?’ That’s for the viewer to decide, but I kind of think it is.”

Space Happy, Take One
The version of “Space Happy” premiering at Pensacon is about 30 minutes in length. The filmmakers intend to make the rounds on the film fest circuit with this version before returning to Pensacola in hopes of exploring Katt’s world further and expanding the documentary into a feature-length affair.

“Phil is a mystery,” Crisitello said. “We’re coming back down to film more footage and hopefully delve a little bit deeper into that mystery that is Phil.”

For now, though, locals will get a preview of the documentary and also have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with Katt and the filmmakers.

“We’re excited. We’re excited to play to fans,” Crisitello said. “I think it’s the perfect place to premiere this.”

“SPACE HAPPY: THE PHIL THOMAS KATT DOCUMENTARY”
WHAT: Film screening and Q&A session
WHEN: 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
WHERE: Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.
DETAILS: spacehappyptk.com

To read our complete interview with Katt, click here.