lesser_celery: (Sheeba and the Palm)
[personal profile] lesser_celery
I recently rediscovered some photos I had taken while a group of us in eleventh grade made a silent film version of Bret Harte’s “The Boom in the ‘Calaveras Clarion.’” I had some of the photos reproduced electronically so I could share them.

“It all began innocently enough” when my best-friend-at-school, Carol, and I decided that we wanted to make a short film for our American Studies class. The idea of American Studies was to learn American history parallel to American literature, two class periods a day. Carol and I chose Harte’s story, which we had read for class, because it was manageable in length and appropriate for black-and-white silent filming. (We left out the parts that struck us as racist.)

We were soon joined by Alison, who found the period costumes, and we recruited other people in our class to carry out the project. First, we drafted Henry, who had a camera (this was a long time ago, so it was probably a Super 8 or some such), as cinematographer. The four main characters were played by Michael (Mr. Dimmidge), Hilary (Mrs. Dimmidge), Bob L. (interim editor of the Clarion), and Bob C. (printer). Although I was probably the most experienced actor, I played only bit roles because I was suffering one of the worst cases of acne in recorded teenagedom. Carol, who also had acting experience, didn’t appear in the film at all, because she was the film’s director and (with me) co-producer and screenwriter.

Here are Michael, Bob L., and Bob C. in costume.

I had been in a field ecology class the summer before, and I knew of an old nature-center cabin we could use for two days to film the main story. Later, we shot two other scenes, which were not in Harte’s original story. In one, filmed in Steve’s parents’ basement, I was the (arm of the) bartender who helps the interim editor get drunk because of a plot development. We also shot a scene at the Fairfield (CT) train station, a turn-of-that-century brick building. Carol’s younger brother played a newspaper boy who gets pilloried by upset readers. I was one of the angry crowd, dressed in what later might have been called grunge attire. Henry stood on the New Haven Railroad tracks to film the scene, while Carol served as trainspotter so he didn’t get squashed while looking through the camera.

We showed the film at an assembly for the entire student body of Andrew Warde High School. The film has long since gone the way of most celluloid.

Carol, director, co-producer, and co-screenwriter, and my best at-school friend.

The cabin where the main story was shot.

Left to right: Carol, with a still camera (I hadn’t remembered that I wasn’t the only one taking pictures); Henry, the cinematographer; Bob L., and Alison. My spouse, Anke, who has seen photos of me from when I was 16, was sure that I was in this picture, I looked so much like Henry. This was a constant source of confusion for the school administration.

Hilary (Mrs. Dimmidge) in the foreground. In the background, Bob L., Bob C., Alison, and Steve.

Carol, Bob C., and Alison writing title cards.

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September 2017


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