Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

The film “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and its international premiere at the Berlinale in the Panorama section the same year, before going on to have an impressive festival career despite the Corona pandemic. “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” is released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the movie label NONFY Documentaries and distributed by UCM.ONE.


In the shadows of the bright lights of Las Vegas, it’s last call for a beloved dive bar known as the Roaring 20s, home and family substitute for a motley crew of regulars who find distraction from their rough daily lives here. That’s the premise of “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets“, a film in which the reality is as unreal as the world the regulars are escaping from. It’s a mosaic of disparate lives and lets us live the last hours of a bar where we meet people who are reckoning with the past as they face an uncertain future, and singing as their ship goes down.

Filmmaking duo Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross paint an elegiac portrait of a tiny world fading away but still warm and beating with the comfort. The filmmakers’ unusual and compelling approach to non-fictional storytelling makes for a foggy memory of events lost in empty shot glasses and puffs of smoke.

About Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross:

The Ross Brothers are an American filmmaking team whose credits include the award-winning films 45365 (2009), Tchoupitoulas (2012), Western (2015), and Contemporary Color (2017). Born and raised in Sidney, Ohio, and both graduates of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Bill and Turner Ross began work in the film industry in Los Angeles, with Bill as an editor and filmmaking teacher, and Turner in art departments on studio features. But they soon decided to eschew the day jobs of Hollywood and continue the creative partnership they began as kids by making their own films. In the years since, their films have brought them renown as some of the most innovative and interesting documentary filmmakers working today, with a style all their own and always evolving — pushing the art of presenting uninhibited portraits of and journeys through places, with all the complicated, humanistic, and lyrical truth that that entails.

Their work has been featured at museums and film festivals throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the British Film Institute in London. Their work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, the Rooftop Filmmaker’s Fund, Cinereach, the San Francisco Film Society and a generous grant from the late Roger Ebert. They were honored as Ambassadors for the American Film Showcase and as Sundance Documentary Institute Fellows. They were named Decade Filmmakers by Cinema Eye Honors, and in 2018 they became members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

According to Metacritic, Bill and Turner Ross are the 6th best reviewed “filmmakers of the 21st century.

When not making their own films, they collaborate with friends and fellow filmmakers such as Benh Zeitlin (“Beats of the Southern Wild“, “Wendy”), David Lowery (“Ain’t them Bodies Saints“, “A Ghost Story“), A.J. Schnack (“Caucus“), Robert Greene (“Bisbee’17“), Raoul Peck (“I am not your Negro“) and David Byrne. They live and work in New Orleans.

Original title: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Directors: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

Producer: Michael Gottwald, Chere Theriot

Executive producer: Davis Guggenheim, Jonathan Silberberg, Nicole Stott, David Eckles, Minette Nelson, Matt Sargeant, Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Josh Penn

Featuring: Michael Martin, Cheryl Fink, Marc Paradis, John Nerichow, Lowell Landes, Ira J. Clark, Bruce Hadnot, Pete Radcliffe, Felix Cardona, Al Page, Rikki Redd, Pam Harperm, Shay Walker, Tra Walker, Trevor Moore, Kevin Lara, David S. Lewis, Kamari Stevens, Sophie Woodruff, Miriam Arkin

Cinematograpy: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

Visual Effects: Josiah Howison, Markus Rutledge

Editing: Bill Ross IV

Music: Casey Wayne McAllister

Production company: Department of Motion Pictures

Year of production: 2020

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA

Locations: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Terrytown, Louisiana, USA (Interiors [The Roaring 20s])

Language: English

Subtitles: German


Lenght: 98 Min

Rating: FSK 12

Aspect Ratio: 1:1.78

Sound: Surround 5.1

Resolution: Ultra HD (4K)

More titles:

Russisch: Разбитый нос, пустые карманы

Ukrainisch: Розбитий ніс, пусті кишені

Polnisch: Czerwony nos, puste kieszenie

World premiere:

2020  Sundance Film Festival: US Documentary Competition


International premiere:

2020 Berlinale – International Film Festival Berlin: Panorama

Filmlabel: NONFY Documentaries

Distributor Germany, Austria & Switzerland: UCM.ONE


Theatrical release Germany: 02.12.2021

DVD release: March 20, 2022

VoD release: March 20, 2022

Ein Discussion with Bill and Turner Ross (excerpt)

Moderated by Museum of the Moving Image Curator Eric Hynes

“Traveling the world as documentary filmmakers, I imagine you’ve spent a fair amount of time over the years in bars. Is this something that you had long thought of making?”

Bill Ross: “Around the time of 45365, we were living in LA, and we would drive through Vegas for a variety of reasons. The outskirts were always what fascinated us. Since then we dreamed of making a film in that area, where people are either trying to break in or falling out—living in this purgatory. You’re in the desert, you’re in this fake city, but you’re in the realest part of the fake city. There were all these big ideas, which were rich for exploring. We wanted to make a kitchen-sink film, where we could just throw all these ideas within these four walls.”

Turner Ross: “So in 2009 we took a scouting trip there and did two days of filming. The little color pieces in between scenes—a lot of it was shot in 2009. So we were doing location and character studies, and just figuring it out. At that time, with the recession, whole neighborhoods that had been developed were going under, people were living out of motel rooms, the effluent outside of a fantasy land. We originally had a much more direct approach in thinking about it, like, ”Okay, we’re just gonna set up shop here and we’re gonna find what this world has to tell us.” Then we got into other movies, but it always sat with us—we were always collecting notes, collecting ideas. After making Contemporary Color , another film within four walls filmed over multiple nights with inserted characters, we finally arrived back at it, through this idea of a bar film. A film that exists in a common, shared space.”

“How did the bar idea come into it?”

Turner Ross: “When I was nine years old, my aunt was living in New York and she took me to go see The Iceman Cometh on Broadway. For a nine-year-old kid, that’s an adult dose. It’s a four-and-a-half-hour stage play about drunks in a bar, and what always stuck with me was the idea of people with dreams, of people with stories, who all find one another. Why do they choose this space, this space of shared solace, and what does it mean? So we took it to the Vegas idea, which is these lives lived in the shadows of the bright lights. Why are these people choosing to hole away from the brightness? What stories did they bring? We arrived at a scenario that we wanted to create: a space and a dynamic situation in which people could be themselves and truly express themselves. To see what kind of things would come out of a dynamic, prescribed environment.”

“How did you arrive at the space where you shot the film?”

Bill Turner: “We had scouted all these bars on the outskirts of Vegas thinking that we would just set up shop and film there, but we quickly realized that it really wasn’t possible. Either the bar aesthetically looked correct and the people inside it weren’t, or you’d find a bar where maybe a couple of people worked, but the bar wasn’t right. Nothing really clicked or matched up. And beyond that, it was like, how are we going to get down to what we wanna get down to?

Turner Ross: “The reality of a bar is not as profound as the moments that are remembered from the experiences therein. From these bars in Vegas we were learning the look, we were learning the characters, and saw how all these bars had a common theme, which was that the people were from everywhere, in some sort of transition—a thrown-together group of people who came from many different places. Yet a lot of the bar spaces were extremely generically Vegas, like you were going to a Vegas-themed bar. What we needed was a lived-in space that is basically a universal space. It could be anywhere, but it is certainly Vegas. The framing was more important than the actuality.”

“When and why did you decide to shoot in New Orleans? What did it afford you?”

Turner Ross: “Afford is a good word. That’s an actual answer, because in terms of budget, we didn’t have one. There’s this incredible bar down here in New Orleans, Roaring 20’s, a hidden gem in one of the outlying communities that just had that quintessential womb-like old outskirts of Vegas feel that very few places even have anymore, because everything is being gentrified and turned either into a kitschy version of itself or a cosmopolitan upgrade. And we could afford it and we could have complete control over this space. We did the shoot there in three days. There was a preliminary, around the bar shoot with the kids, and then there was an 18 hour two camera non-stop shoot which was the primary shoot. There was a follow-up shoot a few days later that riffed on what had happened within that time frame and then we took a few weeks to distill what had happened and let it spill out into Vegas when we took the crew to Vegas, most of which didn’t make it into the final film. We were still enamored with Vegas, and the film is evocative of it, but in the end the film isn’t about Vegas, or about what comes before and after. It’s about them arriving and departing, and what happens within the space.”

“Your films have always been about community and communities of people, digging into and having a community show itself to you. What’s different about this is that the nature of the community, much like the nature of a bar, is its transience. How do you actually feel a sense of intimacy in a transient space like this, and how do you represent it on film?”

Turner Ross: “That’s why we chose to compose this in the way that we did, so that we could have an intimacy, so that these people could feel a sense of place and feel safe within it. While it does read as a community in the film, most of these people didn’t know each other until the day we filmed. So it was an extraordinary experiment to see if that would work. And then when on the second day of filming, when one of our older guys is actually crying because he has to leave the bar, we realized that community is what you choose to declare. Obviously it’s a huge component of what we were after—exploring why we choose these spaces of shared solace. Some people find that in churches, or in sports. Wherever you can go to lose yourself and to be yourself and be whoever you wanna be if only for a moment, and you check in and check out, you clock in and clock out of these spaces. Like, why do you go into an airport bar and start telling your life story to a perfect stranger who’s on a flight to Detroit? It’s a fascinating scenario.”

“Let’s talk a little bit about who these people are, where you found them.”

Bill Ross: “It’s a collection of people that we met throughout our lives, as well as a lot of bar casting. We went around to I don’t know how many bars here in New Orleans.”

Turner Ross: “We did a dozen casting sessions. We just sat and talked to people and we got about half the bar through that.”

Bill Ross: “One of the first people I thought of was this guy I had seen in a play here in New Orleans. It was another Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The guy that played the father was this struggling local actor, someone who’s good but maybe not great, someone who didn’t quite make it. I could imagine him in this bar, so that’s Michael, and he was really our glue throughout the entire shoot. He was our guy, our inside man.”

Turner Ross: “Michael’s character is inspired by Michael Jeter from the musical Grand Hotel. Hopelessly at the end of his rope and this is gonna be his last great hurrah. We had been looking for this. But then, as with all of our movies, there was a breakdown of archetypes. Who fills out a community, who fills out a bar? And a lot of that was based on notes we had taken in our trips to bars on the outskirts of Vegas. And watching Cheers. What are all those characters actually doing? Who do you put behind the bar, who is the wingman to this person, and who’s just sort of hanging in the background? And then these people start to fill in the space. In a couple of instances, we cast a really strong character, and just asked, “Who’s your best drinking buddy?” And a few of them are.”

“How did you go about creating a space in which these relative strangers could relate to one another and be themselves?”

Turner Ross: “First of all, we actually dressed a bar to be what we wanted it to be. But we also choreographed the space. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Jeopardy comes on. I imagine everybody’s gonna turn to watch Jeopardy , and yes, they do, and what will they say during it? Or the music, or who’s coming [into the bar] when, and why. We were trying to elicit these dynamic reactions. The characters were unaware – the choreography was hidden and the set was closed. So they’re walking into a space just as if they were walking into a bar and they know nothing else, and what happens on the TV happens on the TV. We created this framework, these interjections of stimuli to try to provoke these interactions, to try to create scenarios that we knew could be dynamic. And then as it builds, we started introducing new characters, two people then tell their story to a third. Three people are then the regulars. It becomes four, it becomes five, six, and seven arrive together. And all of a sudden they have all of these stories and they have their positions and they have a history, even if it’s brief. And so as we got further into it, these people take ownership of the space. And it becomes their role that they’re creating.”

“I would imagine that not everything happened as you expected or wanted it to. Particularly during that main 18-hour shoot—how did it go down?”

Turner Ross: “It was control and chaos. Bill and I had different roles. We had a checklist of things we wanted—entrances, exits, images that should be happening at that time of day, what’s the music and on television. There was a five-point checklist for every 15 minutes.”

Bill Turner: “Knowing full well that it would go off the rails. But we wanted to have a structure.”

Turner Ross: “II was in charge of maintaining that and Bill was in charge of finding whatever was naturally happening. Some things went out the window, some things were added impromptu. But we knew that if we wanted certain continuity things and story trajectories, we had to bear them in mind over the course of that shoot. Some things became far more profound than we ever could have anticipated, and some things were dead on arrival. It’s wild to look back on intentions that we had, because so much of it does manifest itself. But the greatest and the most enduring parts of the film are the things that happened through serendipity, these true emotional interactions between these human beings that we couldn’t anticipate. Veterans weeping together. An old man telling a young man to get out. A young man telling an older man that his generation has failed him. These are honest interactions.”

Bill Ross: “II think it worked because our casting was good. We cast people whose emotions are close to the surface, and didn’t have any problem just being who they are, and people who were no strangers to sitting at a bar for a long period of time. It was familiar, and after a while it didn’t much matter to anybody that Turner and I were there.”

“I love how thoroughly diverse the room is in terms of age, race, background, and I presume in terms of politics.”

Bill Ross: “It goes back to what we saw in Vegas. These bar rooms are made up of people that wouldn’t otherwise be together. And that’s fascinating.”

Turner Ross: “Age became such a factor in this. In a way that we were intentional about, but it became something of a somatic landscape that we did not pre-ordain. We wanted to create a space in which those things happen naturally. In real life, they happen via serendipity. And we had to create a scenario in which we could provoke that and allow for that.”

“How did you handle the circumstances of drinking on set? Obviously that’s part of the subject here, but did you set up any limitations or guardrails for them?”

Bill Ross: “We were very aware of the risks and had a team outside the bar ready to get them sobered up. If somebody was getting way too drunk we would pull them out and put them in a car and get them lots of food and water and make sure they got home okay.”

Turner Ross: “None of these people are amateurs. This is realism and we were not gonna create a disingenuous space where these people were drinking non-alcoholic beer. These are people who drink alcohol. This is a space for alcoholism. These people are gonna drink and relate to each other within that framework and that is the armature of this movie. We couldn’t do without it, so there was no pussyfooting with that. It was like, we’re opening a bar. You are gonna drink the way you drink. And we’re gonna be privy to that. We ended up with a cast of people who were willing to participate in this.”

“Do you know if any of them have stayed in touch since you filmed them? If any of them became drinking buddies because of the film?”

Bill Ross: “Big time. Two of the people ended up bartending there. The old man Lowell with the long white hair flew to Australia just a week ago to go on a tour with John the Australian. They just went on a drunken road trip across Australia together. They had so much fun together that they wanted to continue.”

“I’d like to ask you a more holistic question about construction as a way of getting to truth, about the push-pull between making creative choices and then also letting life happen in front of you. Each filmmaker can have his or her own idea of where the line resides, of what’s valued and how to get there. For the two of you, what is that idea?”

Turner Ross: “I think that’s a constantly evolving thought, but in this instance, I feel like the only way we were going to get to what we had experienced in real life was to create this scenario. Rather than write a script and say, “Perform this for me,” what we’re trying to do is either find or create worlds that are evocative of those scenarios, and then try to either elicit or be present for that real thing. It is just so much more powerful when you see it happen. If we need to create a framework to elicit it, and if we then need to editorialize in order for a viewer to have that experience in the way that we feel is most powerful, then that is what we’re going to do.”

Bill Ross: “The end justifies the process. What we’re after is being able to find that shareable moment, that shareable feeling, that shareable experience that maybe you have emotionally in life, or through art—to capture these authentic experiences. And that’s been the case throughout all our films. We have a picture in our head, or a feeling, and we’ve done what it takes to get to that truth..

Turner Ross: “Also we’re not trying to exist under the guise of documentary. It’s not our chosen purview—it’s where our films exist. For us, this is the way that we want to make films. We want to use reality, naturalism, realism, things that are around us and available to make these hand-made movies together. To make movies that are full of ideas, and to try things. And it happened that the palette that we paint with is gleaned from real life. We may be authors or provocateurs, but we haven’t coached these performances out of these people, these people are giving us an authentic piece of their lives.”


2020 Nevada City Film Festival, US: “Best film of the festival” -> Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
2020 Nevada City Film Festival, US: “Best documentary of the festival” -> Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
2020 True/False Film Fest: “Best documentary” -> Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
2020 Champs-Élysées Film Festival: “Best director” at American feature films -> Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross
2021 Cinema Eye Honors Awards, US: “Heterodox Award” for the best contribution -> Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Trailer (English with German subtitles)

You are currently seeing a placeholder content of Youtube. To access the actual content, click on the button below. Please note that data will be passed on to third-party providers.

Further information


“Hilarious and sometimes heart-rending.“ (The Guardian)

„A Brilliant, Boozy Hangout Movie. Both a grand cinematic deception and a bold filmmaking experimentation.“ (Indiewire)

„Blurs the lines between fiction and fact to aptly intoxicating effect.“ (Daily Telegraph)

„A tender patchwork of lost souls carving out their own family.“ (Film Stage)

„A dive-bar elegy that creates a pang in the heart. […] Warm and beautiful without being sentimental.“ (Vulture)

„A masterpiece ode to watering holes.“ (NME)

„Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets seems vital and nourishing, a true exemplar of cinema’s ability to shine light on the infinite variety of life in the world. […] The film is a wonder.“ (Vanityfair)

„Bursting with humanity, grounded in humility, and in love with the poetry of faces.“ (

„Hugely engaging and impressive.“ (Irish Times)

„Brilliantly chaotic and immersive and so compellingly real.“ (Time Out London)

“A compassionate, tragic, comic, bitter visit to a fictional place full of truthful characters.” (


“Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” (NONFY Documentaries) in cinemas from today onwards

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets will be released in German cinemas on Thursday, 02 December 2021 via the label NONFY Documentaries and distributed by UCM.ONE. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2020 and its international premiere at the Berlinale in the Panorama section the same year, before going on…


Theatrical release “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” on December 02, 2021

The acclaimed documentary Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets by directors Bill and Turner Ross will open in cinemas nationwide on 02 December 2021, distributed by UCM.ONE on the NONFY Documentaries label. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and its international premiere at the Berlinale in the Panorama section the…