under a low slung sun
we filed in to be seated as the longest day was done
the late night sunlight blocked by cinderblock walls
buzzing crowd eager with anticipation
the screen grows dark, and beer flows gold
the light bursts forth with new stories told in an array
of colorful sounds and soundtracked emotion
strewn across a silvered screen
As the last vestiges of day tip their hat to the first twinges of morning, meridians passing in the night, plenty of Alaskans will have a hard time closing eyes and shutting down. Creative Alaskans dig their all-nighters and watching the sun rise from the other side of the night.
In wee hours of summer, Alaskans squeeze every ounce of life out of the lingering days. Conversely in the longest winter nights, we drearily have the same experience in reverse, traveling to and from work under the stars and dark. Both of these unusual states of mind seem to be virulent breeding grounds for boundless creativity.
Expounding on our amazing painted, drawn, printed and sculpted arts scene, the blossoming growth of local film groups are showing that Alaska seems to have a heavy population of cinematically-starved filmmakers, directors, producers, make-up artists, actors and people with just really awesome imaginations.
Like any silver screen showing, the evening started with a dimming of lights and a smattering of previews. Not typical for a movie theater were the hoots, whistles and w00ts of an engaged, and largely invested, audience when logos and names flashed on high.
Enticing trailers of short movies to come grabbed my attention right away. We’re given a peek into the upcoming shockumentary series from Crooked Pictures: “The Midnight Son.” I’m a fan of a well-told ghost story; combining the documentary style and hometown references, this hints to be a pulse quickening adventure series.
“Proper Binge“ (whose “making of” is an epic story in itself) promises to be a vivid and powerful story of addiction, family and fucking-up. This is yet another genre that hits awful close to too many Alaskan homes.
The theater goes dark and from here on out my notes become virtually unintelligible scribbles, but that’s okay – I was transported immediately into Crooked Pictures’ “Time Machine” – a haunting collage of sweat, smoke and madness in a disturbing Clockwork Orange-like ride.
Alaskero Pictures introduces us to their web series Exes whose first episode, “Ben & Angie,” offers us a funny interlude of a been-there-done-that relationship. Exes is a comical story of a man, a woman and the invisible bungee cord that evidently ties them together.
Hybrid Color then gives us “Orc,” a beautifully shot and thoughtfully arranged slice of a mythological epic, directed by Woodruff Laputka. This well-cast fantasy is a quick story of family, duty and ultimately vengeance. Stellar costuming, action and scenery lend this short production a genuine big movie feel. Impressive and well-crafted sound incorporates grand music to set the powerful scenes; and raw sound to cement it them in reality. I have to admit being on the edge of my seat the whole time.
We are treated to a comedy break with the Danger Skit Show. A wild ride of someone having fun burning their VHS to DVD and blowing it up on the big screen which led to consistent applause and belly laughs – or maybe it was just one guy laughing a lot and loud. The Danger Skit Show crew gave us a mashup of 80’s Anchorage commercials, animation and… come on guys, you’re totally high.
“Matt & Maddie” (the longest film of the evening coming in at 37 minutes) opens scene at the Taproot on open mic night. We are treated to two pieces of amazingly decent original music from born-and-bred Alaskan, Joseph Bourgeois, both performed by the lead actors Rebecca Barker and Van Sanders. The title characters’ first date ended up being a long walk through a familiar neighborhood that ended at Maddie’s crashpad, and there they appear to fall in love during a random acoustic duet of Fleetwood Mac’s “Secondhand News.” I found this charming story of infatuation relatable and honest from the first shy awkward glances in a bar, to that very last tellingly awkward glance after one last song. Please note – I will give a cookie to whoever finds me the soundtrack this this extremely well produced flick.
In a film which includes hilarious characters from local comedian Matt Collins and local musician Seth Boyer, not only was it really cool to see a handful of familiar faces and actual friends on screen in high definition, but it was also a total grin-event seeing my own hometown represented in a movie. I wonder if this is how New Yorkers or Californians feel to see their own street corners and landmarks in the background; instantly connecting them to the movie and instantly investing them in the story. I have been known to say all Americans are New Yorkers, because our earliest memories growing up in the East Village on Sesame Street. We learned to laugh on Saturday nights in Studio 8h, and we fell in love and/or were murdered every other month in Central Park. Finally, I get to see an adorable story with a backdrop of my real world memories.
After being treated to these five surprisingly amazing local short films, I am determined to go see more! These are not shaky 8mm backyard flicks, these are high quality, Hollyworthy films. Well played Alaska! I can’t wait for the next Open Projector Night.
Special thanks to D.K. Johnston of Alaska Filmmakers