THE SUPER 8 DIARIES: VOL. II “My first real audience”
July 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
My first public screening of any film that I made was my 9th grade English project. As we loved spy films, we chose to make a James Bond movie titled “License to Kill” and I played Bond (of course!). We had no idea that nine years later, Timothy Dalton would star in the sixteenth Bond film with the same title! It was Dalton’s second and final performance as Bond and my first and final performance as the dashing secret agent. Again, I was in the 9thgrade. I remember wearing a safari jacket that I thought was the coolest wardrobe ever. Our “License to Kill” had action, adventure, intrigue and all the things that made a great Bond film great. The film was a team effort and we were responsible to turn it into our teacher on schedule. We had a screening in our middle school auditorium during class and I think some of our actors who weren’t in our English class even got out of their classes to attend. I know they got extra credit from their English teachers if they worked on our film. I remember during production, we received a lot of buzz around school and it was certainly the talk of our crowd.
After the big screening, our teacher gave us an “A” and he was very impressed at how it all came together. He had seen other film projects go badly and never end up fully realized, but that didn’t happen to ours. He didn’t fully understand that he was dealing with kids who had made films for three years already! I don’t remember who ended up with the only existing copy of the movie, but I still have a three-minute reel of outtakes.
My second public screening was the The Best Teen Super 8 Films Festival at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles when I was a junior in high school. I write about that in length in my first article “THE SUPER 8 DIARIES: VOL. I – “The genesis of a pre-teen filmmaker.” We sold out the theater at both screenings and even had an article and photo in the LA Times calendar section.
It was then I formed a production company with my friend and co-producer James called Titan Productions. We wanted a cool logo and chose a mighty griffin. We even had stationery printed with the logo and used our company’s name at the beginning titles of our films. We treated our filmmaking seriously.
My third public screening happened about a year later when I was a senior in high school. Titan Productions had just completed our first comedy, “Ironside: The Motion Picture” and it was a forty-five minute epic. It was a parody of the 70s tv show about the wheelchair bound detective Ironside. Leave it to us to make a comedy out of it.
I premiered the film during lunch for the entire high school and I remember the place was packed. It was an important screening, as these were our peers and we wanted to be known as filmmakers while others were known for being on the Varsity football team or whatever. The film received a tremendous response and the slapstick humor played perfectly to our audience. The immediate feedback and energy really brought another dimension to our filmmaking. This was my third film to publicly screen for an audience and we were now making films that would be critiqued by an audience. We were no longer just making films to watch with our friends and family. I think this is when I grew as a filmmaker and the public screenings brought another dimension to the work. There was now an audience to please and not just ourselves. We were taking artistic chances and having to believe in our choices as we unleashed our films upon the world.
My buddy at the time was also taking a ROP class at the local public access studio where he was able to get a copy of “Ironside” on VHS tape using their equipment. That was huge. Now we could watch the film at home on our video machines – another milestone. It opened up a greater opportunity for people to see the film and not have to wait for us to screen it using a projector. We had finally come full circle with our production company’s vertical integration – development of projects, production of the films, public screenings and home viewings – just like Hollywood!
After our successful public screening with “Ironside,” I felt the movie was good enough to take to another level, so I decided to enter my first film festival. I was reading about festivals in “Super 8 Filmmaker” magazine and other places and entering a festival seemed like the next logical step with the film. I entered “Ironside” in the Photographic Society of America’s Super 8 teen festival. Much to my surprise, my film received an honorable mention certificate and competed with films from around the country.
My friend Matt received a first place award for his film and an actual plaque. We traveled up to San Francisco to the awards ceremony and the guy who was running the festival didn’t know I was coming, so he didn’t have a speech ready when I showed up at the luncheon. He did his best to improvise a speech about my film and said it “had a lot of meat.” Meaning it was forty-five minutes long and had a lot going on. Hell, I’ll take that review! I had to laugh. He had already sent my honorable mention certificate in the mail and had nothing to present me during the ceremony but a handshake and an improvised speech.
During these high school years, I had moved into another level as a filmmaker with public screenings for a real audience and competing in film festivals. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was preparing myself to do it for real when I eventually got paid as a filmmaker and my films premiered on television, DVD and in festivals worldwide.
The “Super 8 Diaries” series continues with Vol. III – “The Mechanics of Production.”