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What's Happening? > Director Patrick Read Johnson talks about 5-25-77 at TIFF Next Wave
mike | 15 Feb 2013 | 954 Views | 6 Likes | 0 Dislikes
Director Patrick Read Johnson talks about 5-25-77 at TIFF Next Wave
5-25-77 is Patrick Read Johnson's autobiographical coming-of-teen-age film about a young filmmaker (named Patrick Read Johnson), whose life is forever changed by a pre-release screening of Star Wars (May 25, 1977 being the date Star Wars was released). It's been moving towards completion for the better part of a decade–there are enthusiastic blog posts about it on movie websites as far back as 2007–and while it's still not finished, it's being screened as a work-in-progress as part of TIFF's Next Wave film festival this Saturday. (That strategy–screening the yet to be finished film–has been part of Johnson's innovative and truly DIY filmmaking strategy, one that saw him last year drive cross-country raising funds, a process that was documented by Morgan Flores in his film Hearts of Dorkness.)
We spoke via email with Johnson (who directed a handful of features including Spaced Invaders and Baby's Day Out in the '90s before starting work on 5-25-77), about his film, Star Wars, getting things done and where future Patrick Read Johnsons are looking for their inspiration.
thesubstream: You're screening 5-25-77 as a work in progress, but it looks close to being finished. How much work is left? Does it feel like the finish line's in sight?
Patrick Read Johnson: The majority of the real work is to conform the entire formerly standard definition "road" cut from the "Hearts of Dorkness" tour up to high definition and replace certain temp VFX with the real thing. Then we have to literally "face the music". By that I mean: right now the film has wall-to-wall music comprised of all my favorite 70's songs... and at some point, that all has to be paid for.
P.R.J.: I can't really say there's been a strategy so much as a dogged determination to, as Winston Churchill once put it; "Never, never, never quit!" As for having the trials and tribulations documented, I can only say that you get far more attention and support when you're willing to admit you need help than when you don't. I've seen many a filmmaker lose everything by clinging to the notion that they have to somehow appear more successful than they really are. 5-25-77 will be released. It's a good movie. People like it. It's just a matter of getting it in front of audiences and that requires that it actually be finished. Once upon a time, distributors used to put up finishing funds or had actual post-production people working within their organizations. These days, this is largely not the case... . Distributors are looking for a movie they can simply buy and program and be done with it. So, I will finish mine, by any means necessary, and get it to them. It's not a matter of "if", but when.
tss: At the time you shot 5-25-77 the lead (John Francis Daley, who's great) was an actor that had done some TV, most notably Freaks & Geeks - in the time since production ended, he's become one of the hottest screenwriters in Hollywood, having written Horrible Bosses and the comedy Burt Wonderstone up next - did you know he had that in him when you were working with him?
P.R.J.: Not at first. John actually plays his ambition cards pretty close to his chest. It took awhile, mainly because my mind was on a million other things while we were shooting, to realize he up to far more than he was letting on. I think the time I finally realized he was going other places was after I saw few short films he'd done and was really impressed with them. Obviously I'm incredibly happy for him. And can't wait for him to read this article and send me a million dollars to finish 5-25-77!
P.R.J.: Well, first I have to say I didn't set out to make 5-25-77 because I thought the world was holding its collective breath in anticipation of ever seeing "The Patrick Read Johnson" story.
tss: I have to ask - as a film maker and watcher and someone that's lived with Star Wars arguably longer than anyone not named George Lucas - what was your reaction when Disney announced they'd bought the whole thing and planned to start making sequels as quickly as the year after next? Any thoughts on the directions they're taking it?
P.R.J.: I think it is absolutely fantastic. I think everyone wins.
tss: The late '70s in Hollywood effects-based filmmaking was a time of fantastic, furious innovation that inspired you and countless other filmmakers - where do you see the 21st century version of young Patrick Read Johnson drawing inspiration from?
No matter how good C.G. gets, it's got a terribly long way to go to overthrow 6 million years of the human brain's evolving a sense of what is REAL and threatening or attractive versus what is merely an illusion. And that innate primordial instinct is NEVER fooled, even if the conscious mind is willing to suspend disbelief. That's why Frank Oz and puppet Yoda or Carlo Rambaldi and animatronic E.T. will always engender more response from an audience than any C.G. recreation, now matter how well done. At least they will in the theater of MY mind!