The Lake Arrowhead Celebration of Film kicked off Friday, Sept.
27, with a big dinner. I was impressed because it had about 3 times
as many people as I expected. Over 150 people were there.
Alyson and Del know this, but the Lake Arrowhead area is just full
of really nice people. Lots of professional people who retired here,
plus people who decided to leave the rat race for a better life.
Everyone is very encouraging when someone tries to do something
new (like write a short movie, for instance).
So Vee and I get to the hotel where the dinner is (and where Aly
got married, by the way) and the film fest staff is just so excited
that a filmmaker (me) is there. I thought they were kidding at first,
but they weren't. Sometimes I think they should call this place
Stepford Lake, but it turns out that being treated kindly is very
Sometimes this area seems so small that you're sure everyone knows
what you've been up to. I've really only plugged "We've Got
Johnny" with my closest friends, but one of my pals wrote a
story about our project in the local
paper the other month, so I've had people mention that from time
The film fest is in its third year, but the folks who started it
moved to Northern California and a whole new batch of people stepped
forward to make it happen. They have a good idea, too, which is
to feature classic movies as well as new ones, which is something
I haven't see in our festival travels of late. Many movies have
been shot in the Lake Arrowhead area over the years, and the planners
set a perfect mood by showing a silent picture from way back when.
Vee was enthralled with that, while I went over to the bar, where
I saw the first movie star of the night.
Christopher McDonald ("Quiz Show," "Happy Gilmore,"
"Thelma and Louise" and a zillion others) was in front
of me. He lives up here fulltime (or almost fulltime for the amount
of times I've seen him). I was stoked that he would take time out
of his schedule to attend this event. I cracked up when the bartender,
after serving his drink, asked: "Can I shake your hand? I've
seen all of your movies." The wise ass Bay Stater in me wanted
to say, "Oh, really? Name 'em, buddy!" But I live in Stepford...I
mean, Lake Arrowhead...and behaved myself. (By the way, Christopher
did shake his hand). I walked up, ordered my standard Manhattan
on the rocks and told the bartender he could shake my hand, too.
He told me to go screw myself.
I mingled way more here than at the Temecula
and Big Bear fests, but mainly
because I knew several dozen people who were there. Vee and I chatted
with two of our co-workers for about 20 mintues, when one of them
noticed my festival pass said "Filmmaker" on it. He asked,
"How did you get that one?" I thought he was joking at
first because I had plugged the fest and "Johnny" at our
weekly staff meeting. They weren't kidding, though. They weren't
at that meeting and hadn't seen the story in the local paper. I
told them about our project, and they seemed very impressed, as
does everyone who hasn't actually seen the movie yet.
I returned to our table and met my second movie star of the night,
Vincent Spano, who was very personable but who I didn't recognize.
(Sorry, Vince). The emcee introduced the most important people there,
including Christopher, Vince and keynote speaker June Lockhart ("Lost
in Space," "Lassie," etc.), who spent much of her
youth in Lake Arrowhead. As they were introducing everyone who was
important, I whispered to Vee that I hoped that they didn't introduce
"What an ego!" she said.
As soon as she said that they started to introduce the individual
filmmakers who were present. When they got to "We've Got Johnny,"
they said something like "Screenwriter/Co-Producer Matt Proietti"
and the loudest applause yet filled the room.
"So, have you lived here long, Matt?" said Vince with
I downed a second Manhattan as June Lockhart shared her memories
of her youth in Lake Arrowhead. She is adorable and her speech was
a perfect kick-off to the revamped festival.
On Saturday morning, I went to my office and quickly designed a
legal-size publicity poster for "Johnny." I just opened
up the Los Angeles Times and copied an ad that I saw in there. Having
no quotes from reviewers, I made them up.
"POSSIBLY THE BEST MOCKUMENTARY EVER MADE ABOUT JOHNNY APPLESEED,"
reads one attributed to me.
"ALYSON RIDLON LIGHTS UP THE SCREEN AND ALWAYS ATE HER VEGETABLES,"
is attributed to Vee.
It features the photo of Aly interviewing me as the mayor above
the great "Johnny" logo and web site promo. Standard-looking
credits are below that. I made 10 copies on the color copier at
my office and posted them at the theaters and in a coffee shop my
"Johnny" showed Sunday night. It was scheduled to go
at 6:40 p.m., so they introduce me to talk about the movie. The
theater sat 70 people and I think every seat was taken. I knew a
third to half the folks there, so I wasn't really nervous. The lights
dim, the movie starts -- and the picture is all squiggly. My gut
starts to hurt. They stop it after 15 seconds and my friend, Lee
of the festival staff, runs down to me.
"Is this a Super VHS copy?" he asked.
"Yes. That's what you told me to give you."
A worried look appeared on Lee's face.
"We don't have a Super VHS player."
A worried look appeared on my face. Then a young man runs up with
sweat beads the size of olives on his forehead. He is the projectionist.
"We don't have a Super VHS player," he said.
"That's what I understand."
I mention that I have a mini DV copy at home and a regular VHS
copy at a friend's home. I dash home to get my tape, while Lee apologizes
to the audience profusely and the projectionist sweats profusely.
They put on a documentary, "The Channel," about swimmers
conquering the English Channel. I think this is a better -- but
not perfect -- lead-in to "Johnny."
My friend delivered her VHS copy to the theater about 3 minutes
after I return with my DV one. I told the projectionist to make
sure the movie volume is LOUD. I breathed a sigh of relief and my
stomach ache disappeared. I thought of something funny to say as
they got the movie ready.
"I have bad news. You are going to see 'We've Got Johnny.'"
Ha ha ha. Bolstered by the response, I decide to keep going.
"If I couldn't find a tape, I was going to perform a mime
version of it for you."
Ha ha ha. Vee gives me a look that means, "Quit while you're
ahead, Shecky." So I do.
So they show "Johnny" and, boy, was the volume loud.
The picture was fine. It was being projected up from some contraption
in the aisle (like one of those 3-lamp things used on old big screen
TVs), so it was wider at the top than the bottom. The response was
June Lockhart, Christopher McDonald and Vincent Spano were all
there. Big laughs throughout, but tops to "Johnny 3:16,"
Chuck with ax, Chuck at the small cabin, Flu, Shrub and Sue, particularly
when the moon is out and she's still droning on. Vincent thought
Aly was great.
Lee told me later that June Lockhart said we should copy it on
to 35 mm "and submit it to the academy." I didn't know
what he meant until he explained she meant the academy (as in the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). So now I am worried
about Ms. Lockhart's mental health.
We had some folks over for pizza and beer. They heaped praise on
me and told me to pass on their congratulations to everyone involved
in it. Vee had bought me a cardboard Hollywood Walk of Hame star
with my name on it, and our friends gave me a little fake trophy
that bears slight resemblance to an Oscar.
The festival had packaged all of the shorts and documentaries together,
going from 2 to about 8:30 p.m. for only $10. A wicked good deal.
I went back about 4 p.m., so I missed the Academy Award-winning
short, "The Accountant," which opened up the long package
The first movie I saw was "Barrier Device," made by UCLA
student Grace Lee. It was a very good with some funny moments in
it. The "barrier device" in the title refers to the female
condom study being done by a researcher. Grace was at the movie
to introduce it.
Next up was "Holiday on the Moon," which I saw a couple
of years ago on the internet. It was made by Lake Arrowhead native
Sam Bozzo and stars Matthew Glave (Drew Barrymore's fiance in "The
Wedding Singer") as a clockmaker. It is a very surreal movie,
which Sam said when he introduced it, saying something along the
lines that the audience might like it "if you like Terry Gilliam."
Very clever movie, though it makes me worry about the other ideas
floating around in Sam's head.
This was followed by "America's Favorite Pastime," which
was written in July and taped in three days in August in the Midwest.
This was probably the movie most like "Johnny," but it
was a bit too sacharin for me. It even starred a young businesswoman
from New York City who returns to her hometown. Her father is selling
the unsuccessful minor league baseball team he owns to a stereotypically
evil rich guy who is going to make all sorts of changes. Her high
school sweetheart is the team's mascot, a bear, and uses his paw
to stop a foul ball from beaning her in the head. This movie would
have been better if it was treated as a comedy or a drama; it's
pretty hokey the way it was done. I wanted to see that ball bash
her skull in!
Next up was "Bean Cake," which I read about last winter
in the L.A. Times after it was nominated for an Academy Award for
best short. Done by a USC student who used to live in Japan (he
is not Japanese). Set in 1933 Japan, it's a story about a little
boy who transfers to a new school gets in a whole lot of trouble
with his new teacher when he says his mother's bean cake pastries
-- not the country's emperor -- is the most important thing to him
in the world. Excellent movie.
Then I saw "Hairy," which is about an alien who looks
like a wig and who crash lands on earth. He ends up on the bald
head of a plumber, who falls in love with a lady at a beauty shop.
This had a lot of good laughs in it, especially when the alien gets
jealous when it is threatened by the man's feelings for the woman.
Next up was "Stubble Trouble," a clever, short animated
piece about a caveman who can't get any attention from women because
of his constant whiskers. Everyone but me was laughing. I am a hairy
dude and identified with the little guy's pain.
Based on my experience in Big Bear, I was concerned with the prelude
to "Johnny." It was a 30-minute or so documentary made
by a Turkish-American woman whose grandparents are returning to
Turkey after spending three years living with their doctor son (the
director's father) in California. While there were a few laughs
in it, the movie was a downer because it focused on the impending
death of an old woman. It was interesting, though.
The last two shorts I saw were done by Vincent Spano. Both were
excellent. "Tony & Bobby" was written by his friend
in a style evocative (but funnier, I think) style as Abbott and
Costello's famous "Who's on First" routine. The title
characters are a couple of low-level mobsters (drivers) who bump
into each other while waiting for their bosses outside an office
building or restaurant. It all centers on the crazy nicknames used.
This has been done before (a hilarious "Good Fellas" skit
on Saturday Night Live comest to mind), but this was great, too.
Then Vincent showed a silent movie that was just perfect. I forget
the name, though.