Glory Days

A local filmmaker is putting 1988 Spokane on the screen

Joshua Nicholson has never quite been able to shake a certain Wednesday from his memory, not that he'd necessarily want to. Now he's reliving that day — July 20, 1988.

If you were in your teens or early twenties and living in the Inland Northwest back then, you might recognize that as the hot-as-hell Wednesday when Metallica, Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come all played the same stage at Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium as part of the national Monsters of Rock tour. More than 30,000 attended, and the now-yellowed pages of the Spokesman-Review from the following day feature quotes from teens saying things like, "The world is run by old fogies who have no sense of what's going on." It remains one of the region's best-attended rock concerts and very well may have been the high-water mark for teenage life in 1980s Spokane.

A quarter century later, Nicholson, 42, his hair metal days long behind him, is stepping back to the summer when he and three of his friends did everything they could to get themselves into that seemingly impossible display of rock music. About two years ago, Nicholson turned into a full-time filmmaker, hoping to bring his movie Sunboyz to the big screen. The film is about four friends who are partying their way toward the Monsters of Rock tour, with days at the lake, cruising through downtown Spokane and engaging in the sort of behavior that made 1980s teenagers the perfect centerpieces of John Hughes' films.

"These things did happen. We did go to this Monsters of Rock concert. All of this might not have happened in the same weekend, but I threaded them together and that's where the story came from," says Nicholson, who is serving the feature film's writer, director and editor.

He began casting the film a year ago and shot about a third of the script last summer, but then the production went on hiatus. After spending more than $50,000 on the production, Nicholson needed to find a way to raise the remaining cash to finish the project. This week, he launched a Kickstarter funding campaign to bring in another $55,000 to resume shooting this spring.

Like any film production, Sunboyz has slammed up against no shortage of challenges. Most notably, Nicholson and his Spokane-based crew have to make sure everything in the movie — the cars, the hair, the clothes, the buildings, the streets — is true to 1988.

"Logistically, it's a nightmare. But for costumes and props, there are great outlets here in Spokane who have helped us out," says Nicholson.

Nicholson graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1990 before heading to the University of Washington — where he'd regale college buddies with the stories that eventually became Sunboyz — and spending a decade in the Seattle mortgage industry. He returned to Spokane in 2003, and his knowledge of the city helped him find the sort of locations that would have audiences believe they'd been transported back to 1988.

"Being from here, I know where all the bones are buried. I know what pops on film," says Nicholson.

He then dashes off a list of true-to-the-'80s spots that appear in the film, including Dick's, Rocky Rococo's and the Parkade, as well as Coeur d'Alene's Sherman Avenue and spots on Hayden Lake. From the trailer cut from the initial round of shooting, very little appears out of place, the hairstyles look as if they required an appropriate amount of Aqua Net and there's just the right dosage of neon.

Nicholson gave the characters the actual names of his real-life friends, depicted in the film as experiencing the sort of idiotic teenage things you'd rather let your adult self forget about. But Nicholson says all three of his friends — he still calls them his "best friends" — have seen footage, and have no qualms with seeing their teenage years acted out on film.

But it is a little weird, Nicholson says. Weirder than he expected.

"I'm watching my childhood again. It's almost like an out-of-body experience when you see it for the first time," he says. "I think the initial shock has worn off for them, though."

Despite the film's production having stalled, Nicholson says his talented local cast and crew are ready to return whenever he gives them the word. There will be more props to track down and a few vintage cars to wrangle, but Nicholson says he will finish Sunboyz.

"Once you get to the point where so many things have gone wrong but you're still working on the film, you don't worry about it anymore. You realize you can do this." ♦

To view a trailer from Sunboyz and contribute to the film's production costs, go to and search for "Sunboyz."

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About The Author

Mike Bookey

Mike Bookey is the culture editor for The Inlander. He previously held the same position at The Source Weekly in Bend, Ore.