'Parkway of Broken Dreams' features interviews with artists, writers, business owners, and other denizens of the scene near UNLV
PJ Perez may have left Las Vegas for Southern California in 2017, but his home of 25 years was always on his mind. The longtime local writer, artist, musician, and publisher had his sights set on filmmaking, and he knew that Vegas would be the subject of his first documentary feature film. Specifically, he wanted to expand on a Las Vegas Weekly article he wrote in 2006 about the counterculture scene along Maryland Parkway in the 1990s.
“It was pretty much just ‘untitled Maryland Parkway documentary’ in a Google doc that maybe had existed since mid-2017,” he says of the beginning of what would become the documentary. “When I moved to California, I had all of these filmmaking ideas. I had a couple of documentary ideas, and this was one of them. It literally just said, ‘Can we turn this article into a film?’ I guess the answer was yes.”
The result is “Parkway of Broken Dreams,” which had its Las Vegas premiere in October 2021, and is now available for digital rental or purchase from iTunes and Vimeo, streaming for free on Xumo, and available to purchase on DVD from the official movie website and at Zia Records.
“Parkway of Broken Dreams” features interviews with artists, writers, business owners, and other denizens of the scene that focused on a handful of coffee shops, record stores, bars, and art galleries along Maryland Parkway across from UNLV.
It was the birthplace of The Killers and the prototype for the subsequent scene in the downtown Arts District. “Even though it was a small scene, there were a lot of different facets to it,” Perez says. “Trying to figure out who could represent and help tell the stories from all those different aspects was a bit of a challenge.”
Perez ultimately included about 25 interview subjects, along with copious archival footage, mostly from home videos created at the time. When he first announced the film and launched a crowdfunding campaign, he wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in what seemed like a niche subject, but response to the movie continues to be strong, including a complete sell-out at the October premiere.
“The response to it was overwhelming,” Perez says. “I knew there was a lot of love for that scene, which was part of why I was doing that in the first place, but once I saw the response to the teaser, I was like, there might be something more here.”
In addition to the recent home video release, “Parkway of Broken Dreams” played at several film festivals, and it’s set to air on public television stations starting March 26. It will screen again locally on April 7 at the Clark County Library as part of the Las Vegas Stories series, with Perez joining for an in-person Q&A session.
Through it all, he’s just happy to represent the scene that meant so much to him. “I hope that for the people who were there, that it reflects their experience at least in some way,” he says. “For the people who weren’t there, I hope that they learn something they didn’t know about that area and about Las Vegas, and that they’re able to see in that scene a reflection of their own experiences.”