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.