Mountain News
July 25, 2002
By Ken Carreiro

 
 

FORMER EDITOR WRITES SHORT MOVIE

LAKE ARROWHEAD - As the old song rattles on that, “There’s no business like show business,” it doesn’t say a thing about cracking into Hollywood’s film industry, considered one of the toughest feats in the world.

Sometimes it’s a man-sized chunk of serendipity or a lucky accident that does the trick. Other times a number of unrelated things can conspire in your favor, and -- lo and behold! -- you’re almost standing tall into that magic world of make-believe.

Take, for example, the case of one-time Mountain News and Crestline Courier-News editor Matt Proietti, now a local Realtor and always a film buff. Back in his hometown of Leominster, Mass. He has a slew of relatives and friends as batty about filmmaking as he is. Leominster is a smallish city and the birthplace of American pioneer Johnny Appleseed, who for over 50 years planted thousands upon thousands of apple seeds throughout the territory south of the Great Lakes and between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Proietti, via email and visits back East, met with like-minded buddies from his Massachusetts past and recently put together a 20-minute comedy about Appleseed’s legend, “We’ve Got Johnny,” described in its press information as a tongue-in-cheek “comedic peek into the seamy underbelly of an icon of American folklore.” The movie was then entered in the Fitchburg, Mass., State College F-4 film contest, the F-4 standing for Free Film Festival Fitchburg, held on the campus last March.

“This was not a big budget festival,” Proietti said.

Most of the 80 or so amateur films entered cost between a low of $600 and a high of $13,000 to bring to the screen. In the case of “Johnny,” the wrap party cost more than the production, what with relatives, friends and interested townspeople all chipping in with the acting, borrowing equipment and schlepping all over Leominster to produce the show.

And guess what?

“We’ve Got Johnny,” which took a tight 3 1/2-day schedule to produce was the contest’s top vote-getter, nabbing the Audience Award of the festival for its story of a young New York reporter returning to Leominster, her hometown, to cover the impending sale of the town’s last apple orchard and, while at home, questioning her new Big City values.

Proietti isn’t kidding when he says the effort was broad-gauged: there were 15 or so locals who worked for or acted in the project. Proietti’s parents had acting roles, while he himself played the city’s mayor. His stepdaughter, Alyson Ridlon, a Rim High graduate who was involved in drama at the school, starred as the TV lady, with an assortment of lifetime Leominster friends, among them A.F. (Andy) Grant, director and chief of photography, who must have said a la Mickey Rooney to his friends in the old days, “OK, gang, let’s put on a show!” And away they went.

“We recognized our strengths and weaknesses when we put together the show. I wrote the show in California, Andy did the film planning in Massachusetts and Alyson studied the script in Kansas.” Ridlon lives in Lawrence, Kan., where her husband and fellow Rim High alum, John, attended the University of Kansas.

The group has entered “We’ve Got Johnny” in about a dozen small film contests, mostly in California and the Northeast.

The filmmakers have now come up with their own web site -- www.gotjohnny.com -- jammed with biographies, tidbits and lots of Johnny Appleseed merchandise. A VHS copy of the movie goes for around $13.

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