ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

MEETING DAVID NAUGHTON & THE CREATION OF A FILM SERIES FOR DUMMIES!


GREETINGS and welcome to a brand- new entry from JER’S POINT!!! It has been far too long…many things have come and gone since my last entry in 2013. Personal, professional and other hurdles have really tested just how well these legs can jump over. Well, I can report that all is good and my writing cap is back in place with a new year of topics and subjects to discuss.

So, the question lies…what exactly have you been doing with yourself? My response would reflect the immortal words of Don Adams’ Maxwell Smart in saying… would you believe hosting a film series and schmoosing with actor David Naughton?... I hope I have your attention because this blog entry is dedicated to the interesting, first- hand accounts that occurred between the months of July- September of 2013 in the preparation of an actual theatrical film series and involving David Naughton on a fundraiser quest with me.
the outer theater building
Living in a quasi-small town near the now famous Coachella, CA area (known for its annual music festival with the same name) has its advantages… you can, if you really want, have the opportunity to have your voice heard. Sometimes all it takes is getting the conversation started and hoping that someone will listen and help get things going for you. Through a six- degree- of connection, I began talking to the General Manager of a converted theater just a few blocks away from where I live. The more recent events occurring at the newly refurbished theater consisted of live theatrical shows or plays. The theater is made up of three ‘houses’, if you would. One restored house is dedicated to the live shows, another is under construction for cabaret and live music performances…and the final is a newly restored, to its original theatrical house, complete with stadium seating, surround sound and a movie screen. After about a year of conversations and phone calls, it looked like the deal to begin the planned project was ready to move ahead.
The ‘deal’ in question is to propose a film series, to be presented at the theater and have the films chosen by me, along with having the evenings’ presentations hosted by yours truly! Before the series could come into place, experimentations and quick planning had to come into immediate action. The first major hurdle: What format would the films be presented in?

the inner theater itself
The removal of the age- old 35mm projector was the first step, since one couldn’t really rely on the current state of classic 35mm film prints. It was time to step into the 21st century and install a combined and tested blu- ray player and 5k projector… hours of tweaking both picture and sound was necessary to get the best presentation for a paying audience. Other hurdles came and went… advertising, rental agreements, keeping the audio/ video guy happy, financing and donation handling… but the most difficult task laid ahead… how does one begin the selection process for a film series and which films to choose? The daunting task began after an agreement of a consecutive twelve week run beginning in July and ending in September to play one film per week every Saturday night. Twelve weeks? No problem…now, to choose only twelve films to play! Oye!!!
I would imagine that, if you have elected to read JER’S POINT (and thank you so much for electing to do so…) that you, the reader, is either a fan of film or find film interesting to some sort of degree. Fine… with that level of interest and knowledge…imagine, if you would, that you were allowed twelve weeks to show twelve films of your choice. Only twelve… no double features, no all- day series runs… nothing more than one feature.. one day per week. The task may sound easy to some, but a wide range of optional emotions carry over and personal feelings had to be put aside, yet considered in selecting the chosen dozen!
"Mother, we didn't make the cut!"
My personal feelings did stand up to the forefront! There were films that I selfishly wanted to place on my roster because, well, damn it… I like them! PSYCHO, STAR WARS, TAXI DRIVER, THE GREAT RACE, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and even my all- time favorite THE TEN COMMANDMENTS had to fall off my list. There were options to consider… could I meet my personal interests and the public's likes at the crossroads and appease all along the way?
Have you ever just sat and made out a list of your top favorite films? Just for fun? My good friend and former COUNTERPOINT critic Johnny Chazz and I used to sit and draw up such lists for fun. What began as a list to help pass the time with would metamorphically grow into a list of the “top 100 films” by our own accord! Now, take that list…observe and dissect each and every title…why did it end up on your list and where did it fall in rank between 1 through 100? Now, break your list down to only twelve and live with your decision with no regrets! Yeah, that’s kinda how it went!
NO MORE!!!
The series, from the beginning, was structured to represent who I am as a film fan and that it would be summed up in one word: eclectic. So, I wanted the series to reflect that right from the very beginning...to be able to see the entire series and see that variety was available to anyone who would want to plan on what film(s) to see throughout its run. The choices were going to be diverse and not something to be expected, yet familiar at the same time. I didn’t want to show films that have been exhausted on late night network or pay cable channels… I mean, do we have to show PITCH PERFECT and HARRY POTTER for yet a 25th time within a 30 day month period? I wanted to focus my selection of films that a younger generation never got to experience in theaters. This generation feels it is perfectly fine to watch a full length theatrical film on their I-phone. Their I-phone? Are we serious here? This type of entertainment viewing is acceptable? My answer is a definitive NO and that would be the basic foundation for my reasons to create this series. Let’s begin building and weighing out the options. Let’s start at the beginning… the first film had to have some recognition, something that would bring attention to the entire series… be the loudest bang of the series to kick things off on the right foot.
A true lover of film recognizes certain qualities that may not transcend to the average viewer. Ever since I can remember, the presentation was crucial to the performance, based on the scope and ‘event’ of the film in my eyes. For example, several films garnered a special day trip to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA to view such films like THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, THE COLOR PURPLE and THE GODFATHER III… just to name a few.
No way to watch films!
I couldn’t even start to think about seeing films like AVATAR, STAR WARS, SUPERMAN, ALIENS or BEN- HUR on an I- phone or tablet or even a laptop, especially if it were for the first time. Even the biggest HD TV couldn’t duplicate the experience of a theater. You need the aroma of popcorn in the lobby, the selecting and positioning of a stadium or theater seat, the sensation that comes over one as the lights dim and the buzz of the audience is heard as the screen lights up with the images that will entertain its audience. As aforementioned, the choices of what films should make a return to the silver screen is crucial and many factors had to be taken into consideration.
A major factor to consider begins with the selection. Would a particular film appeal to a mass group of viewers over another film?  Which films would bring people out of their prospective homes to come down to a theater and pay admission to see a film they can rent on Netflix and enjoy within the comforts of their own personal environment? What genes would have more appeal than others?
I began with the idea of trying to appease to everyone’s pallet, thus the eclectic concept. Both genre and decade of the film’s release were equally important in my decision making. I could easily lean on pure 1980’s films with its large catalog of films to choose from, but I wanted to reach every demographic as best as possible. Here’s how the final twelve came down.
Oddly enough, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW doesn’t get half the respect it should receive within the Palm Springs, CA neck of the woods as one would think it would. We don’t have the midnight theater circuit in my area and I don’t believe too many ‘locals’ have had the chance to see it in an actual theater but maybe more on a home theater version. I wanted to make ROCKY HORROR the film that would kick off the series with an ‘audience participation’ invite to the presentation as well. Come dressed up; bring the props, the rice, the water pistols and your “Time Warp!” On top of the freedom of participation within the theater, I decided I would show the U.K. version of the film. As opposed to the standard American version that has been shown in theaters since that fateful day back in the year 1975, the European version contains the omitted song “Super Heroes” that appears at the near end of the film. No need to try to convince me, the film is now on my final list… one down and eleven more to go.
I won’t bore you with the detailed rundown of each and every film, but using the blu- ray format allowed me to offer alternative versions of films that weren’t shown in theaters. For example, the Academy Award winning AMADEUS alternative version allowed me to screen the Special Edition Director’s Cut that included 20 minutes of new scenes incorporated into the cut. I was able to do the same thing with yet another Academy Award winner, GLADIATOR. These extended versions were never shown in theaters and it was an honor and a special treat to see sights and sounds inhibit the theater in a grandiose way… for the first time. This is especially appealing to fans that knew the theatrical version but weren’t aware or knew of the alternative extended options. Two more to add to the list.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, The Director’s Cut of both AMADEUS and GLADIATOR have already made the cut. So, now to fill the gaps with a nice bridge built over covering various genres and decades. I wanted to add an intriguing foreign film into my series. I live in a predominately Hispanic valley, so I thought a nice film in Spanish would do well. After much deliberation and a touch of my own personal feelings made me move the contemporary classic PAN’S LABYRINTH to slide into a slot on my list. The Benicio Del Toro film was internationally recognized and well received by both audiences and critics, it appeals to both the foreign- language film fan and covers dramatic and horror/ sci- fi/ fantasy genres that would surely appeal to a larger audience at the same token.
Family films are a great staple to bring everyone out without isolating anyone within the household. So many to choose from… such classic films like MARY POPPINS, BUGSY MALONE and BACK TO THE FUTURE were all considered at one time or another. No, I needed a film that pulled from my mid- teenage years: The 80’s! Again, so many to choose from E.T.: THE EXTRA- TERRESTRAL to THE SANDLOT could be opted as a possible quintessential representation of 80’s family fun… but there was a movie that just spelled out ‘fun’ for anyone who has seen it. Imagination, adventure and a bunch of misguided tikes can only equal out to the 1985 classic hit, THE GOONIES! Think of how glorious the scope, the art direction and the mayhem of this film would look on the big screen…moreover, a whole generation of young fans who would finally get to see this gem on the big screen! Done!
Classics, classics, classics! Who doesn’t like a great classic from the past? This generation may not generally appreciate a black and white film, but there is definitely an audience ready to enjoy an excellent blast from the past in the b/w sense or a fantastic throwback piece! How far back, in terms of decades, should one go? Should I select a great 1950’s film shot in Technicolor and shown in Vista- Vision like OKLAHOMA! or Hitchcock’s VERTIGO? Oddly enough, I have always found it amusing that some film studios (or directors) would decide to use a black and white format to make their films after the use of vibrant colors were made available and enjoyed by audiences. The 50’s truly peaked in the presentation of color motion pictures, yet almost a decade later, would still stray from the format with such early 1960’s films like PSYCHO (1960) and The Beatles’ A HARD DAYS NIGHT (1964). The format may have served many purposes, but 1962’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s harsh and intense storyline proved to use the rigid black and white format as a possible metaphor in its story of segregation (whites against blacks) as well and draw major focus to a time forgotten and giving it a classic (maybe historic) visual appearance. To this day, Harper Lee’s novel is read and discussed in schools across the country. It still proves to be an important and educational tool about the society we live in, taking account of our shameful past and recognizing that it still exists in today’s 21st century. My choice to elect TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is simple: it’s a damn good movie and it’s a damn important good movie!
One good classic film deserves another! I wanted to go deeper into the history of films and possibly choose a silent film. I knew I was stepping out of my comfort zone, since I had personally seen only a handful of soundless films and considered myself to be a novice on the subject. One film that had caught my eye and the attention of film fans from around the world was the film and history of Fritz Lang’s 1927 METROPOLIS. The German classic began unfolding itself in director Fritz Lang’s head after a trip to New York to promote an earlier film he had made in October 1924. While arriving to the Harbor by boat, Lang was stunned with the beauty of the larger than life skyscrapers that had created the man-made skyline before him. Never had he seen such metallic towers rise from the grounds and create a backdrop like he had seen. He became obsessed with the scene and immediately saw a future inhabitance filled with towering buildings and the minuscule of man below it, like army ants running to its mound. Production began in 1925, compiled by a cast of virtual unknowns and following a relentless schedule that went nonstop until its wrap- up one full year later on October 1926. Premiering at a staggering running time of 154 minutes, Having been filmed entirely in Fritz’ homeland of Germany, the film was funded and owned by the German production company of Universum Film AG or UFA. The studio thought the length and storyline was far too exhausting for the average patron and decided to edit a much shorter (and incoherent) version of the film for further distribution purposes, including the highly anticipated release in America. The film had been pared down to the approved 115 minutes.
Throughout the years, many have tried to piece the film together to its original Lang version, with the unfortunate destruction of negatives and original copies, it became impossible… it came close, but not fully completed. On July 2008, a damaged, but original negative version of the film, rose from Buenos Aries, Argentina when a copy of the original cut had been sent for distribution purposes in Argentina and subsequently landed in the hands of a private collector.  The print was acquired, digitally copied and restored to its new 148 minute version… the most complete edition available since its original Berlin release on January 10, 1927. This particular edition was released by Kino International as a special edition on both DVD and Blu- Ray formats as: THE COMPLETE “METROPOLIS”. This was the edition I would show on the big screen in my film festival. This version had not been viewed by the general public and I felt a personal obligation to make it available to the film lovers who would come.
Although ROCKY HORROR is clearly defined as a ‘cult’ film, it is also categorized as a musical as well. There are two genres being covered, but that doesn’t mean that the lover of one would love the other. There might be people who like peanut butter and chocolate but won’t eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup! So, I needed to separate the peanut butter from the chocolate and enjoy both as they stand alone!
Let’s start with the cult film that doesn’t have to be a musical. There is a wide range of various interpretations to what defines a cult film. This genre is not black and white…(although there are some cult films that are black and white, but I’m trying to be humorous now!). REPO MAN, THE LOST BOYS, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, SUPERFLY, ERASERHEAD and BLOODY MAMA are all examples of films that have been labeled as “cult” films. Some are dramas, actions, horror films, b- movies and other types that differ from the other but all slip nicely under the “cult” umbrella. One of my greatest memories of a definitive cult film occurred at the age of 13 when I snuck a copy of this film, on VHS, to a friend’s house for both of us to see for the first time… the film was A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and I wasn’t the same ever since! Call it what you want and turn it around and dissect it into fours, CLOCKWORK is all the trappings of a traditional cult film. It’s ‘ultra- violent’, sex- filled, rude and perverse. In other words: perfect! The combination of the classic soundtrack that includes the works of Beethoven and Strauss, along with the rich colors and cinematography that the film presents itself with makes this a great film to visually be stimulated with by watching it on the silver screen again.
 
Now, the musical. THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE KING AND I, SOUTH PACIFIC…even PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE or JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR… any and all are worthy options and all appeared on my list at one point or another. I wanted to be somewhat contemporary, yet classic. My choice needed music but not put an audience to sleep. A film that is recognizable but maybe not seen or heard of as often as it should… be stimulating in both the visuals as well as by its musical soundtrack. A personal favorite of mine that would make the cut is THE WHO’S: TOMMY. A rock opera is perfect, there is no spoken dialog and filled with music from the opening scene right down to the end credits. An assortment of recognizable actors and musicians including Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Ann Margaret, Jack Nicholson, Elton John and Roger Daltrey would play a huge part in my selection just for name recognition. Director Ken Russell definitely created a world around Pete Townsend’s music and lyrics and they are images that are inerasable once they are experienced. The scenes are burned into the back of your brain and your ears ring through the power of the music and the performances of the musicians and singers. TOMMY is clearly a movie that needs to unveil in the darkness of a theater and be seen and heard!
Now, I completely understand that TOMMY or THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE show isn’t everyone’s cup of tea… they are of the acquired taste, putting it mildly! Now, as the Project Director, my initial rule was to try to please an eclectic audience, giving them a large buffet to which they opt whatever their palate requests. I grew up watching a lot of musicals on television and I know that those experiences heavily influenced two choices thus far. However, aside from THE GOONIES, I have inadvertently ignored the ‘family’ film to which mom, dad, brother and sister can come together as a unit and enjoy a film together. Another musical? Hell, why not? We just don’t see musical films in theaters like we used to. But you know what sounds even better than that? How about a ‘sing- along’? Oh man, I might be really pushing the envelope here but I saw how popular THE SOUND OF MUSIC sing- alongs are when they play at the Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl, for crying out loud! This is where The Beatles and The Doors played! The frigging sing- alongs actually sell out! I didn’t want to infringe on the Bowl’s good thing so I had to devise my own alluring music- filled treat. Before I could go further with a possible selection, I had to research which musicals had sing- along editions available with lyrics that would appear on the screen for the novice as much as for the viewer who had sung along on its umpteenth time. MARY POPPINS came pretty close a number of times…very close. I had to think… would MARY POPPINS be a little too sweet? Now, once I discovered that this particular film I chose had a sing- along edition available, it just had to be my obvious choice. There are certain films that just become an overnight classic, no matter how you slice it. Let’s look at the ingredients involved: a soundtrack that has sold over 40 million copies, starred two of the hottest young talents of its decade, received a family- friendly PG rating and it’s all summed up with one single word… GREASE, is the word! Who wouldn’t want to sing along to the theme song performed by Frankie Valli? Ladies, you would be teary- eyed over a rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted To You’… guys, you’d love “Greased Lightin’” (c’mon, you know you would!) and many other great sign- along gems! Plus, you have an audience of familiar ‘greasers’ like yourselves doing their best Travolta or Newton- John singing! It’s on the books!
I am definitely touching on all subjects: Drama, Comedy, Family, Foreign/ Horror/ Sci- Fi (yeah, PAN’s LABYRINTH is a triple- header), Musical and Cult are covered. One specific genre not touched but rings true within my heart is the Western. My late father was an urban cowboy, of sorts. I wrote about him and dedicated my blog about Westerns to him, so I needed to put his favorite film back on the screen in his honor… the classic 1969 Sam Peckinpah western, THE WILD BUNCH. Controversial for its time and considered a very bloody and brutal film, WILD BUNCH grew in both reputation and popularity overnight! Spearheaded by a cast of talented actors including William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, the story of a band of aging outlaws heading from Texas to Mexico is a story that clutched the heart of men (and women) throughout its original run and ever since. Dad loved it, I love it… it’s on my list.
Well, there it is, the list is complete…the list is good! The final twelve are:
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, AMADEUS (Director’s Cut), The Complete METROPOLIS, GREASE: the Sing- Along Edition, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, PAN’S LABYRINTH (subtitled in English), THE GOONIES, GLADIATOR (Director’s Cut), TOMMY: The Movie, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE WILD BUNCH.
Any good presenter always tries to outdo him or herself whenever possible. Histories of various athletes, performers, singers and actors have all tried to outdo and stretch the talents they are recognized for. Even The Great Houdini would try to top the last thrilling death- defying act with something more harrowing the next time! I see myself as a presenter… a performer, if you would. Afterall, I would be standing in front of my paying patrons and plan on doing a small introduction to each film. A mini- monolog describing the film’s unique characteristics that may include some trivia pieces, a look into the director or actor’s career and maybe a pivotal observation… anything to enhance the appreciation of the film and giving the viewers something they wouldn’t expect when they buy a ticket to a film. Would that be enough to outdo the general viewership? There is always room for more.
DAVID NAUGHTON and JER!
The Palm Springs area is notorious for the hob-knobbing of the Hollywood elite. Some come for its seclusion and others have come to simply retire. Others come to play, including partaking in one of the Valley’s most popular pastime: golf.. and is there a fair- share mount to choose from!  A neighboring friend of mine works at such a resort and has met many celebrities throughout his career. In a passing conversation with him, the subject about films (surprise, surprise) came up and then the question was rung: “Hey Jer, do you know the movie AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON?” My thoughts went into a defensive mode… are you kidding me? The film alone still stands as a definitive landmark for its time in both the unique creation of mashing both comedy and horror genres as well as beingsolely responsible for introducing the Best Special Effects Academy Award category. My friend continues to go on about knowing actor David Naughton, who portrayed the doomed protagonist David Kesler, due to his occasional visits to the golf course. The casual invitation kind of slides in as he informs me that he could arrange for David to come by the course one of these afternoons, putt a round  and have me meet him afterwards! I know that I would have so much to say since my discovery of the film at the age of 13 when in 1981 I actually had the chance to see the monster movie in its premiere theatrical showing. My interests in both film making and special effects were most heightened at that age and my impressionable state thought it to be the best film to come along (it still has held the test of time as is still widely respected, in my eyes). Yes, of course I agreed to the potential meeting, so within a matter of days the possible suggestion would become a reality as I was informed that Mr. Naughton would be thrilled and a day and time would be in order as to when I should stop by the golf resort for the meet and greet.
"Be A Pepper"
That day soon came. I was there and prepared to meet Mr. David Naughton. Coming off the fairway in casual golf attire was the (wolf)man himself. It was a nervous and exhilarating moment for me, to say the very least. We had a moment to sit down inside the clubhouse’s lounge area and chat about the film and his career. This man was a triple threat between singing, dancing and acting beginning as the Dr. Pepper man between the very late 1970’s and early 80’s! He later had a disco chart- topper with his hit “Makin’ It” and finally crossing over to film. I had an internet printed photo for David to sign, which he graciously did. He then opens up a magazine he had been carrying around with him and he showed me about five or six different stills he had brought from his own collection and asked if I wanted any of them signed. I greedily asked for three and he signed them with a smile! We took a couple of photos outside and almost went our separate ways with a handshake.

“Mr. Naughton, can I ask you a question?”, I proposed at the last minute. “I am putting together a film series and I would love to have you showcase AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and maybe be available for either a Q&A, an opportunity to meet and greet with you or sign autographs.” David asked me to contact our mutual friend and he would see what he could do.
At that moment I thought that I was maybe being given the brush- off and I should be happy to have had the chance to meet him and leave it at that. I did contact my neighboring friend and he would communicate the details, as the liaison he would become. Surprisingly enough, less than a week later, I get the confirmation and David’s personal phone number so that we could work out the details at our own time…exit my neighbor, enter moi! 
Jer (l) with David Naughton (r)
By Mr. Naughton’s request, he would move ahead with an appearance only if a fundraiser could be incorporated to assist an organization of some sort. We decided that the very theater I was going to conduct my film series from was ideal, since they are a non- profit operation and desperately in need of financial assistance. The date selected would be, oddly enough, September 13, 2013…Friday the 13th! So, on one hand I had my film series list in order and on the other hand I was able to secure a legit celeb that would personally introduce his own film and meet and greet an audience. I felt I was sitting on top of the entertainment world.

To read the article printed in the "PALM SPRINGS LIFE" magazine, go to the following link: http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/Desert-Guide/September-2013/Horror-Classics-Return-Features-Appearance-by-David-Naughton/

David greets my mom at the fundraiser
Fast- forward into the date of July 2013. The film series would be a large learning tool, but arguably, a success in many aspects. I had never conducted such a series and experience was now listed on my resume for future references. The audiences ranged in demographics and obviously noticed that both the showings of the GREASE Sing- Along and THE GOONIES were the most successful of the program. Note to self: more blockbuster family films! Each film pulled its own crowd of interested patrons and feedback was important. Hearing that such a series was much needed made me feel very happy and gave me a sense of accomplishment. The AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON fundraiser was a very personal experience to myself and to the addition of  the program! To view how our guests were treated to hor d’oeuvres and beverages while being given a chance to schmooze with David Naughton was an accomplishment I was able to see happen from my own conception.. and the fact that it worked out how I wanted it to. He made everyone feel welcomed and his introduction before the film started was a well- rehearsed kick- off from a man who has obviously done this a number of times before.
The audience awaiting GREASE: the sing- along!
And so, my friends, this is how yours truly spent last summer…away from the blog world and exploring another uncharted world. One that can now be said has been visited and one that will be seen again soon… very soon.

Well, there it is! I hope you enjoyed this entry... please share and write back your COMMENTS, LIKES and DISLIKES! I will respond to all incoming messages!
 
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2 comments:

  1. Anything planned this year?

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    1. Hi and thank you for expressing your interest... nothing planned this year, due to my hiccup of health issues earlier this year... I am hoping to do something by next year. I would love to include other people from the industry...so spread the word!

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