Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Kid Making Movies

I recently saw the new J.J. Abrams / Steven Spielberg film, Super 8, which centers around a group of 12 year old filmmakers in 1979 [you can see the review on my other blog] .  Both Abrams and Spielberg have a knack for portraying the subtleties of child with rare accuracy - the body language, the politics and the world perspective unique to a certain time in our lives.  In Super 8, the lead character is not the leader of the  group - he's not the kid who sets everyone off making a film.  He's bought into it wholeheartedly, though.  He's the head make-up guy (the only make-up guy) and he takes his position seriously.  He's even got a make-up kit so that he can handle everything from standard make-up to the zombies featured in their movie.  His friend the filmmaker has issues of Super-8 Filmmaker scattered about - the very magazine I read as a kid (in the time frame of the film, I would have been a few years older than these kids).

Here I am at 11, making my first film!
You know these kids.  Moviemakers or not, they're the kids you probably grew up with.  As a kid who considered himself a filmmaker, I recognize the dynamics.   Filmmaking was an adventure - certain friends signed aboard with me for the duration, and we took ourselves seriously (most of the time).  I did the same for them.  I starred as a priest in an Exorcist spoof, which required a special make-up application including liquid latex to form horns on my forehead.  The girl in the film was made-up in with the same material, leaving her as hideous as Linda Blair in the original film.

In junior high school, several friends joined with me to create outlines, scripts, costume designs and other elements of a Star Trek-like project that was never completed.  It didn't matter, though.  It really wasn't about finishing a film most of the time - it was about dreaming.

We did finish some films, though.  One friend joined with me to create a film called The Little Vampire, featuring his little brother as a vampire-in-training who couldn't do anything right.  We built a rickety coffin in my backyard, including a fishing-line contraption so that the lid would appear to rise by itself.  Another fishing line effect involved the boy vampire (costumed in a blue cape made from my old bedspread) attempting to turn himself into a bat - and becoming a white dove, instead.  Like all of my films of the time, this was a silent film with silent movie-style titles to represent dialogue.  I actually attempted a rough soundtrack via an audio cassette, which sorta-kinda ran in sync with the movie.
The film was completed and toured:  My home, for a screening for my family, and my friend's home, for a screening with his family.  Then, it was on to the next project, and the film would rarely be seen again.

I've come to recognize my childhood filmmaking adventures as my team sport.  We cared as much, and were as passionate as any ball player, but were doing it without much of an audience, and were entirely in our own world  - and having a heck of a lot of fun!  Even if we didn't finish half the films we started.

Like ballplayers say, it's not whether you win or lose...

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