Local directors happy to start small, think big

By Jon Roig

Arizona Summer Wildcat

It's pretty rare that you get a glimpse of the learning curve involved in filmmaking, but the showings of the advanced production class's films at the Screening Room on the 14th and 15th should provide that.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and hidden in this next generation of filmmakers could be the next Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese. You have to admire their dedication. Without the millions of dollars available to directors working for big Hollywood studios, students here at the U of A were able to produce short films of exhibition quality.

Matthew Corradi, Kevin Jarvis and Theron Patterson took the time to sit and chat with me and, although I haven't seen their films yet, these guys are totally dedicated to their work and the films sound fascinating. Working with local, mostly amateur actors and a shoestring budget, they were all able to create films they could be proud of. When you wander into the Screening Room, you shouldn't expect to see something like "Judge Dredd" it's a totally different set of aesthetics.

"Student films are an entirely different thing than what you see down at Century Park 12 or whatever," said Corradi. "I mean, obviously, we're still learning what we're doing. What we show down at the Screening Room is not going to be a polished, blockbuster feature. Some technical things may not be as good as a regular feature movie, so what we have to strive for is what's behind it like the story . because no matter how good the technical parts of a movie are, it doesn't matter if they don't have a good story. The problem with Hollywood is they get one story that works and they just copy it for dozens of times. They're not as concerned with originality and story as they are with making money and having a successful film."

It's been said that lack of money can lead to freedom, and that's obvious from the broad range of topics the filmmakers chose to produce. Although Corradi's story explores issues of the public's view of the news by way of a terrorist holding the news anchor hostage on the air, Patterson's short film, "Martin B." is a comedy about a young professional man trying (and failing) to change himself through the miracle of modern therapy. Not only did Patterson write, direct, produce, and edit the film like the rest of the group that I talked to, he also wrote and performed the soundtrack.

But expect diversity in the interests of these filmmakers Kevin Jarvis eschewed the straight narrative story in favor of a documentary about local musician Sam Taylor. "He's been playing the blues for about 20 years and he's really well known down here. The reason why I made it is to show that there is a black community in Tucson, and I wanted to do something experimental: people rarely make documentaries on film in our department."

Shooting cheaply and doing something original can have its disadvantages. The directors had to deal with technical problems, like sound not being in synch and rolls of film being destroyed, as well as deeper problems, like writing a story that's watchable, putting the film together in the editing room, and coming to terms with oneself as a director.

"I don't think people realize how much effort goes into a film. We spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on these films and they're 20 or 30 minutes long. So much time... so much effort . so much energy . I knew it was going to be a monstrous project going into it, and I still didn't realize how big it was going to be," said Corradi. "On a feature film, like in Hollywood, the director has hundreds and hundreds of people working for him. As a student, you spend just as much time and energy on your seventeen minute film as Spielberg does, because you have to do everything yourself."

Patterson had this to add about the creative process: "You as a filmmaker think your project is the worst piece of shit and it's awful until you have part of the fine cut done or maybe when you see the final print. So, like, the very last stages of the film you might actually start to like it. You might have little flashes of liking it in the process: like the moment when you come up with a one or two sentence idea for the script. From that moment until you're almost done, in my experience, most filmmakers are like 'this sucks . why am I even bothering?'"

But filmmaking has its own rewards, even if the directors come from a lesser-known film school such as the one here at the University of Arizona. All three agreed that not attending a NYU, USC, or UCLA had its distinct advantages to come from a town like Tucson can sometimes be tough, but it also forces a kind of ingenuity and dedication that can't be found anywhere else. And, by coming from outside the Hollywood system, you can avoid the big ego trappings of the "Hollywood mentality."

All three of the filmmakers intend to go on to bigger and better things in the future and view these films as an important part of the learning curve of making a film. Just remember when you wander into the Screening Room on the 14th or 15th, it's harder than it looks.

The Screening Room is located at 127 E. Congress St., between 6th Avenue and Scott. The films "The Exclusive," "Sam Taylor: Blacks and Blues," and "Martin B." are playing at 8 p.m. on Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th. Call 622-2262 for more information.

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