Scab Vendor - The Life and Times of Jonathan Shaw

Los Angeles, California | Film Feature

Biography, Documentary

Mariana Thome

1 Campaigns | California, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $16,375 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

164 supporters | followers

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A documentary about the life and times of Jonathan Shaw, the celebrity tattoo artist who changed the world of tattooing in the 1980s in New York and, at the height of his career, gave up everything to redeem himself through writing, eventually becoming the next Bukowski.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

With Jonathan's story, we represent multiculturalism not only in the U.S. but in countries such as Brazil and Mexico. In his road trip life story and multilingual journey, Jonathan embraces a diversity of cultures, nationalities, and religions which we also showcase in our international crew.

The Story


Maybe you only remember the name Jonathan Shaw as the infamous “tattoo artist to the stars” who opened Fun City, one of the first tattoo shops in New York, before tattooing was even legal over there. 


(Jonathan really liked cappuccinos, so why not?)


Or you may know him because he inked Johnny Depp - a close friend of over 30 years - who even channeled him as his role-model for Captain Jack the Pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean.



Or perhaps you have seen the magazine he founded back in the 90s, International Tattoo Art, at your local newsstand.

Maybe you caught him in the small screen, as the first tattoo artist to ever appear (more than once) on The Tonight Show with David Letterman. 



Or you might know his parents, the legendary Swing-era bandleader Artie Shaw and Film Noir starlet Doris Dowling.


(badass, no?)


Or… maybe you’ve never heard of Jonathan Shaw at all.

Let's assume that’s the case and tell you a little more about him. For many years, Jonathan was known as a world-renowned “celebrity” tattoo artist.

As an Influential Tattoo Man, his client list included names like Iggy Pop, Johnny Depp, The Cure, Shane MacGowan, Dee Dee Ramone, Marilyn Manson, Jim Jarmusch, Johnny Winter, Kate Moss, Orlando Bloom, Kathy Acker. The VIP list goes on and on. Even Vanilla Ice was lining up for an appointment - much to Jonathan's embarrassment.


But hey, it was the 90s, right?


(Jonathan and freshly tattooed Max Cavalera, from Sepultura, Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy)



At the height of his career, Jonathan chose to step away from the industry he helped form to fight his own demons - his addiction to narcotics and alcohol - and to reconnect with his elderly parents.


(Jonathan Shaw and 92-year-old Artie Shaw)


He is sixty-four now, over 17 years sober, and has found his redemption through writing. Jonathan has penned three novels and published two books of his vintage tattoo flash collection (yes, these are also perks!). He was even dubbed “the next Bukowski” by Rolling Stone magazine.


But this was only possible because of a passion for writing that he fostered since he was a teenager. This passion pushed him to escape from his life in Los Angeles at the age of 19 to explore the Latin American world and then encouraged him to repeat the same trip almost 30 years later. 




Over the course of Jonathan's life, he has traveled the South American backlands by motorcycle, thumb and tramp freighter. He has lived in third world slums among notorious drug cartels, consorted with the rich and famous, mixed and mingled with witch doctors, criminals, wise men, and women – writing about those experiences and redeeming himself from a past life of addiction and anger. He called Brazil and Mexico his home and speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese. 


(Jonathan at age 24 in his cheap hotel room in Veracruz, Mexico)

(Jonathan in the same hotel room, age 47)



We have been working closely with Jonathan Shaw since 2015. Our first years were rough and very gorilla filmmaking, it was all about us and our little camera, following Jonathan around and going through over 5000 of his archives, including photos, letters, and some of his early drawings. 


(Jonathan Shaw and director Mariana Thome on set in Rio de Janeiro)

(from left to right: Director Lucas de Barros, sound mixer James Lefkowitz, producer Chris Jurgensen, director Mariana Thome, Jonathan Shaw and the Fun City crew)


We got to know him, his habits, his taste for great (and cheap) Thai and Mexican cuisine, and we...



Now we are drowning in footage, struggling in the cutting room.



Documentary filmmaking is hard. Thousands of hours of filming, countless amounts of archive material, and we even animated parts of Jonathan's life! 



And now we would love your support in taking Scab Vendor through the finishing line. We have got a lot of cool perks for you all and even convinced the retired tattoo artist to go back to the chair and do 40 tattoos for the campaign.


Here is a breakdown of what we need after we finish cutting the movie:

  • We need to clear a vast amount of archive material, such as interviews that Jonathan gave to TV newscasters 
  • We also need music licenses
  • Composers, colorists, and sound designers
  • Mostly, all of this needs to be seen on the big screen, so we must package the movie to send to film festivals. 


Our goal of $15,000 is the absolute minimum that we need to raise for post-production. But we are confident that with your help, we can even achieve our stretch goals! 


  • If we raise $16,500 we'll be able to cover the costs of running our campaign

    If we raise $18,000 we'll be able to pay our dear friends who have done so many favors for us in the process of doing this documentary

    IT'S PARTY TIME. If we raise $20,000 we'll throw a party with Jonathan Shaw and invite all Seed&Spark contributors.

    If we raise $22,000 we'll be able to clear many of the songs that we're dying to use in the film, such as Iggy Pop's The Passenger (I know you can totally imagine this playing as Jonathan travels the world)

    If we raise $25,000 we'll throw a party in Los Angeles and one in New York and invite all Seed&Spark contributors. 


We are hoping to premiere SCAB VENDOR in the fall of 2018, but we will only be able to achieve that if we have enough funds to finish our movie. If you can't make a pledge you can also help us by: 


Spreading the word! 

Use #scabvendor across all social media and follow us on Instagram


Let's HAVE FUN. This is a story about the 1950s Golden Age of Hollywood, the counterculture of the 1960s, the early-punk of 1970s, the Latin America of the 1980s, the art scene of Downtown Manhattan in late 1980s and early 1990s, furthermore, this is a dark, funny, story of who we like to call the Forrest Gump of the Underground. 


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About This Team

We're the core team of the Scab Vendor documentary! Here is a little bit about us: 


Mariana Thome - Director

Mariana grew up in the island of Florianopolis in South Brazil, but she resides in Los Angeles where she moved to pursue a career in filmmaking. She is the Creative Director of the artist collective MARACA, located in Venice Beach. Over the years, she has directed and produced several short-films which were showcased in festivals such as Creative Minds at the Marché du Film in Cannes, Cinema Diverse, LA Femme Film Festival, New York Horror Film Festival, and the Mexico International Film Festival. Currently, Mariana writes, directs and produces short-form content for MARACA, and spends most of her time working on the post-production of her feature-documentary Scab Vendor, on the life and times of legendary tattoo artist Jonathan Shaw, who is mostly known for inking several of Johnny Depp's tattoos.  Mariana has developed and shot a proof of concept for her TV-Series Desterro, a crime show based on the folklore of her hometown in Brazil. Moreover, she is currently working on a TV-series about the 1980s and 1990s in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with historian and videographer Clayton Patterson, whose work is currently exhibited, archived and preserved at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.


Lucas de Barros - Director
Director, Photographer, DOP, DIT, Editor, Colorist and Post-production coordinator with over 10 years of experience, Lucas is really a jack of all trades in the digital media world, having worked in virtually any function on the business in countless productions all over the world, from Argentina to the United Kingdom. As a director, he made music videos, short films, and the feature documentary The Sound of Chamamé - about South American Folk Music. He's a friend of Jonathan Shaw since 2005, a founding partner at Novelo Filmes and lives in Florianópolis, Brazil with his wife and son.


Christian Jurgensen - Producer

Growing up in Europe, Switzerland, he had the opportunity to visit different places from an early age. The contact with various languages and cultures would be something he's fascinated with until today. Bringing the human family closer together became his mission.

Christian Jurgensen is a Creative Producer with an extensive background in visual storytelling. After successfully finishing his Bachelor's in Media & Communications at the Southern Cross University in Australia, and a quick snoop in a reputable advertising company in Hamburg, Christian decided to fully engage in filmmaking. This brought him in 2011 to Los Angeles, where he completed a Master of Fine Arts and lives and works until today.

Driven by a deep passion for professional work and creativity, Christian has been a part of numerous projects in various positions and managed to produce, write and direct projects of his own. With his music video production company, Future Generation Pictures, he won Best Music Video in 2013 for his adaption of the legendary Energy 52 - Cafe Del Mar - DeadMau5 Remix.

Today, Christian is the Creative Producer MARACA INC. a creative media and entertainment collective, and works on several projects, including short-format and feature documentaries and fiction pieces. He is in post-production for the highly anticipated feature documentary Scab Vendor, on the life and times of renowned tattoo artist and writer Jonathan Shaw.


Enrique Aular - Producer 

Enrique Aular is an award-winning filmmaker and communications advisor. He produced Hermano, what became one the most successful Latin American films, both commercially and critique-wise. And with more than 600 commercial, short films, and music videos filmed, he has literally dozens of international awards such as Clio Awards, the New York Festival, London International Advertising Awards, Cresta Awards, El Ojo de Iberoamerica, FIAP, PROMAX and more. Beyond his filmmaking career, Enrique has also been recognized for his work in culture and communications for development: he is the founder of the Plátanoverde Magazine (which won the National Book Award for Culture Magazine) and he is communication advisor of UNICEF and CAF development bank on Latin America. Mr. Aular is currently a Spokespersons for Peace of the United Nations.


Juan Bernardo Gonzalez & Arturo Pereyra & Sebastian Arrechedera 

Our first believers and Executive Producers of Scab Vendor 


When Scab Vendor was a big idea, and all we had was small cameras and a lot of passion, this group of investors joined us and made possible for us to produce our documentary! We were able to travel to New York and visit Jonathan's tattoo shop, Fun City, where we interviewed over 20 subjects, including filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and Gogol Bordello's frontman, Eugene Hutz. They also made it possible for us to travel all the way to Rio de Janeiro, a place that Jonathan calls home, and then all the way up to Veracruz, Mexico, where Jonathan learned how to tattoo in the 1970s. We are more than proud to have such big believers in our team, without them, this movie would not have been able to reach post-production. 

Current Team