As an occasional contributor to Examiner I have been fortunate to meet some of the more obscure artists, actors, and rogue directors who pass through or live around the Santa Monica area. Some are fakes and others are very real. And there are still others that, like the ring I purchased in the Mexican Riviera last week, will be required to prove their mettle over time. I got to meet the Mr. Midnight Movie team geared up and ready to bring their short film festival to Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre on August 19th. The crew proceeded to fill me in on what to expect during their 2 hour romp this coming Friday night.
Their presentation will include six short movies ranging from 8 to 22 minutes in length, including a film by local underground film festival extraordinaire, Gerry Fialka. The midnight movie themed shorts are intended as a nod to the accidental phenomenon that came over movie houses with 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a movie that has topped nearly every list of “best midnight movies” since its release. “The films we selected are as controversial and diverse as each of their respective directors, whose work was selected from a cadre of entries we received after we placed a call for submissions in May,” states the team’s leader Mr. Midnight Movie. A big man, Mr. Midnight Movie was born in Germany, came to the U.S. at a very early age and is currently interested in social reform. “I’ve drafted two petitions, one for legalizing caning for violent criminals and one for the legalization of prostitution. To date, the two petitions have amassed 9 total signatures so you can say the ‘Pleasure and Pain Campaign’ is almost ready for prime time,” he says in earnest. The rest of the team comprises of a long-faced, walrusy looking writer called Jewish Producer and blond haired actor/writer/director Angry Guy from Detroit who is rocking a Shaun Rogers jersey during our lunchtime meeting. Angry Guy wears an expression on his face that seems perpetually intent on pinning down the perfect answer to the obvious question: What the hell makes a movie a midnight movie?
Indeed, defining the midnight movie genre remains a hotly debated topic between the three proprietors of this film festival. “We plan to kick our audience in the ass with films that include non-conventional themes, and characters that make you wonder if they are acting or just insane, but are part of our everyday existence just the same,” explains Mr. Midnight Movie. “For example, I know an older MMR Chinese man who teaches karate at a park in West Los Angeles. He struts around the park dressed in fully authentic martial arts regalia and claims he is a teacher - though I’ve never seen him instructing other people - and looks wildly erratic practicing moves solo in the middle of the park. That man has a fantastic story to tell, but you wouldn’t necessarily think of him as an actor, per se.” Angry Guy from Detroit is inclined to simply define a true midnight movie as such: “Low budget and offbeat,” which he says should suffice, “until we figure out a better algorithm.” Jewish Producer, originally from the San Fernando Valley, feels it is a combination of both views. He colorfully states, “Look, nobody in the art world is particularly concerned with being defined and categorized, we just want to bring forward the types of films you won’t otherwise see, but have elements of your favorite mainstream movies. Only we’d like to keep it a little weirder, and harder without the sophomoric gags. We’ve come to find there’s a fine line between the cult-classic and midnight movie genres.”
Angry Guy explains his team’s methodology used in deciding to maintain a level of anonymity during their first go in their Los Angeles base camp. “Basically, those two guys have work related concerns and I was afraid my Facebook friends would urge me to give up the dream and go home,” he says, “also there’s elements of our plain-wrap names which stand as objective truths about who we are and where we come from. But like everyone else, we have jobs and loved ones who might not get it, yet. In future shows, especially in cities where we have less connections, things will be different.” Mr. Midnight Movie interjects, “Also you can expect even harder hitting films, we’ve only scratched the surface on what is possible, but August 19th will be a sort of turn-back-the-clock experience where we start to push the idea that its OK to return to the way the movie-going experience used to be: fun and without hassle or guilt for expressing your enthusiasm.”
As Angry Guy from Detroit gets up to step outside for a smoke break, Jewish Producer sets down his $5 “dirty” chai tea latte to discuss how the project began. “Mr. Midnight Movie was conceived during a five-person meeting we set up that only he and I attended. Angry Guy wasn’t an after-thought he just wasn’t invited to that meeting. Since that night there’s been a lot of serendipity at play; some force has allowed us to tighten up our vision for how the film festival will be presented. We have already started working on our plan to take this festival to a few more cities and grow it because the feedback has been 100% inspiring.” After a brief pause and a quick pound on the feeble coffee shop table that turns a couple heads at the back of the coffee shop, he continues, “We are setting the foundation for our future as film makers with our show at the Aero. We have a genuine appreciation of the historical impact of the midnight movie genre. These are films that were not accepted, initially, then somewhere along the road, they became huge successes only to be forgotten again. We feel it’s time to re-ante, only this time we’re bringing fresh material. We’re honoring the past by giving our respects, but also moving forward at the same time.”
Not one to pass up on giving a final word, Mr. Midnight Movie is intent to have a final say, and does so with serious jubilance. “Eventually, our film festival will have all of the elements of a John Waters movie - gender bending subplots, twisted characters, good music, ensemble casts – and then some. We feel we have put together an interesting collection that will entertain the people who come to the show. If our goal is to break the current "traditional" movie-going experience, we have achieved that. We won’t tell you to be quiet, turn off your cell phone, or request that you buy really expensive popcorn. Young folks are already rebelling against the world and older folks stuck in shitty jobs want none of that. Our experience encapsulates that modality. It’s these frustrations that we have picked up on and it’s these sensibilities that helped us determine our lineup for August 19th. We’d like to bitch slap our audience into an uncomfortable roar because we feel – like they do – that too many aspects of pop culture have been retarded by political correctness. On a final note, we did have one Dutch director send in a submission that was so intensely erotic we kept it for our private collection, but couldn’t in our right mind show it… this time. Thank you, Dutch guy.”
In May Mr. Midnight Movie Film Festival’s crew found reason to celebrate when it was accepted to join forces with The 5th Backlot Film Festival. The Backlot is a larger, more established film festival created in 2004 focused on bringing greater understanding of the debt that contemporary filmmakers owe to early film pioneers. In addition to giving Mr. Midnight Movie their Friday night time slot, they will be showing a presentation of The Sting, and honoring actress Jane Withers as well as screening many other films from August 17-21.
The Mr. Midnight Movie Film Festival will also be honoring one director with an award immediately following the presentation.
Also appearing with Mr. Midnight Movie Film Festival will be local talk radio show host (KFI 640 AM) and actress Lisa Ann Walter. She will be on hand as the MC for the proceedings. She is the writer of the new amazing book titled: The Best Thing About My Ass Is That It's Behind Me.
Mr. Midnight Movie Film Festival and the quest for novelty: Think about it, it’s a good thought for a Friday night.
Uso Justo, by Coleman Miller
I Am Not A Robot, by Mark X Farina and Gerry Fialka
Grapes On A Vine, by Michael Feinberg and Alexander McKee
Punking Out, by Ric Shore
Landlady, by Katherine Maxwell
Failing Upwards, by Daniel Owens
And a special film by Lisa Ann Walter
Aero Theatre 9:15pm -11:30pm
1328 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
BUY TICKETS HERE: http://backlotfilmfestival.com/program.htm#Friday
General Admission: $11
Student/Senior Discount: $7
More information also available on their official website: MrMidnightMovie.com
Also follow Mr Midnight Movie on Facebook.