Bailing Out of Chicago
May 16, 2012 by Dan Patton
John Titus celebrated the imminent foreclosure of his home in a WinnebAgo rolling to Las Vegas. He went with a professional comedian, a dreadlocked white girl, a retired pimp and a tall Mexican wearing overalls. He paid ten grand for the ride and probably ten times more for the film crew that followed him there. He is intense and paranoid, according to some; crazy, according to most.
Sean Fahey describes him as, “a very nice guy.”
They met in the Old Town Ale House. Years ago. Fahey remembers that the two “had a conversation” but “never exchanged names.” Titus does not “remember specifically the conversation.” He was drinking with his friend and, in his own words, “we were drunk.”
So began a partnership that would eventually take the two from Chicago to Las Vegas by way of Kentucky, Texas and New Mexico. An impractical route, sure; but this was not just some road trip to the desert: Titus had commandeered a large motor home, Fahey had assembled a film crew and they were enroute to making “Bailout,” a hybrid documentary through the aftermath of America’s mortgage crisis. The financing for the trip, including the dough they intended to throw down in Vegas, came from the booty Titus had scored by refusing to pay his mortgage.
Fahey was warned that he would be “in a world of hurt” if he chose to join the people in the WinnebAgo. The gigantic Mexican had a mouth like a gangbanger. The old pimp had not taken a road trip since he got sent to Chino on a drug rap twenty years ago. The comedian had warned the lone female traveler, “you’re gonna’ have to sleep with one of us old guys on this trip.” And the lone female travEler, a philosophy student less than half the age of the rest, told the comedian, “If you try, I’m gonna’ have to shoot your dick off.“
Fahey knew them all as drinking companions and looked forward to the ride. “Everybody who went on the road trip loved the Ale House,” he explains.
But that didn’t go down until roughly a decade after they first met.
In the meantime, John Titus had continued to practice law, developing a reputation that reached the highest levels of bar talk. “I know from hearsay,” Fahey says, “that the brain surgery he does in patent law… He’s like one of five guys in the world who can pull it off.”
Titus’ enthusiasm for his work — breaking complex mechanisms down to their basic components — extended beyond his nine to five job. He took an interest in the growing mortgage crisis, specifically the egregious fraud committed by the banks and the willful ignorance displayed by the government and the media.
“Come late 2010,” Titus explains, “I have this project and I’m like ‘where’s that kid?’”
The project was a commercial for Mike JAnkovich, candidate for Alderman of Chicago’s 43rd Ward. The Old Town Ale House’s neighborhood. The kid was Sean Fahey.
Fahey had established himself as a competent director with a portfolio of commercials, music videos and short narratives. He had recently completed “A Message From The East,” a documentary about Muhammad Iqbal, the renowned philosopher poet of Pakistan.
Although JAnkovich did not win the election, Titus was impressed with Fahey’s abilities. When the campaign ended, he called the young director to his office — a building that Fahey describes as “right off of LaSalle Street” with an “incredible river view kinda’ shit” — and pitched another, bigger, personal idea to him.
He explained the banking industry’s “rush to securitize paper,” a scheme by which mortgages are bundled together into a single product that in turn gets chopped up and sold to investors. He described how, during the process, many of the promissory notes that contain a lender’s actual promise to repay a loan were either lost or, in a certain kind of way, forged. He broke it down just like he was explaining a case to a judge. As he saw it, the situation threatened to destroy the constitutional republic that the United States was designed to be. This made him angry.
Then he talked about his own mortgage. “They don’t have that fuckin’ note,” he insisted. “I know it. And I’m gonna’ make a movie about it.”
“Bailout” makes its Chicago premiere tonight at The Music Box Theater.