“Jerome’s Razor”, “Slices of Life”, “Five Lines”: some enigmatic examples of local independent filmmaking

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have to build up an account of my own online presence in around 2005, when a major incident happened as I was substitute teaching. I’ll be getting to accounting for my own screenplay scripts that I put online.

When I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2003), I started to network with the Independent Film Project in Minneapolis-St. Paul  (link ), going to festivals, screenings and events. 

Shortly after my end-of-2001 layoff, (in January 2002) as I started to live on “severance”, I went to a particular function near the University of Minnesota, and saw the film “Jerome’s Razor”.  That evening, I met one of the leading players, Mark Parrish, in the reception in the bar afterward.

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The film, by Jon Swon, is bifurcated, starting with an office romance by the protagonist Jerome (Marcus Edwards) in Minneapolis.  Marcus journeys to New Mexico and goes on an adventure with some people in a commune, where Parrish plays the ring leader, Thomas.  The film was shot in digital video and at the time seemed very “on location”, everywhere.  The New Mexico scenes look like the country around the Lama Foundation, which I had visited twice while living in Dallas, in 1980 and 1984 (the second time was for a “spring work camp”).  The film does not have a happy ending.

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There were a few other films then with this structure, which some people compared to Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” (1962).  One of these was “Kaaterskill Falls” by Josh Apter and Peter Olson, a suspense film set in the Catskills.

During my substitute teaching experience at the Career Center in Arlington, there was a film class.  I had a chance to show the teacher the website for “Jerome’s Razor” in late 2004, and he and some of the students were impressed.  At the time, it was not on imdb yet, but much of the film could be watched at its own site.  I don’t recall what the “razor” in the title refers to.  In the Army, we used to say that a razor is a great equalizer.

The Arlington Career Center produced a couple of student films, called “Slices of Life: The House Party” and “Slices of Life II: The 50-50 Club”.  The films merge separate story lines about teens facing various levels of responsibility.  In the second film, the issue of homophobic slurs comes up, as does the idea that one character has to take a part-time job to help support his siblings and parents instead of pursue his music.

The school systems and local churches did some other noteworthy short film work.  In 20605, at West Potomac High School near Alexandria, VA, a well-equipped school with a separate building for media technology (and an “Academy”) the AP chemistry students produced a short to teach chemistry to middle school students, called “Reltonium.”  The students dressed up as clowns and atoms, to demonstrate how radioactive elements can decay.  A local church produced two spoof “horror” shorts, “Friday’s Aliens” and then a sequel. “Sunday’s Aliens”.

The idea of converging characters inspired a suspenseful film set in the DC Metro, “Five Lines” (or “5 Lines”), by Nocholas Pangopalus, Brainbox Pictures (a studio in Silver Spring MD which seems to have disappeared) with characters riding different color-coded lines in the Metro.  One of the characters is an Army soldier who beats up a gay man near the Arlington Cemetery station as part of an initiation, and his commander tries to cover it up. The film was shown at the AFI Silver in Filmfest DC and got local media coverage.  A similar Hungarian film was “Kontroll”, set in the Budapest Metro.

Let me get back to Mark for a moment.  I came back to DC from Minneapolis for a ten day visit and arranged to drive my rent car up to Boston to meet Mark for lunch (in Legal Seafoods in the Prudential Center), in a cool spell in early May.  I remember staying at a Comfort Inn in northern Connecticut and watching “Smallville”.  I got to Boston around 11, and reached Mark on my Qwest cell phone as he was getting close to the “Big Dig”.  I don’t know Boston’s tunnels.  Anyway, we did talk about movie ideas for my first book, and in subsequent postings I’ll be showing what ideas I’ve come up with.  Yes, it’s been a lot of years, but movies take a long time.  I remember the drive home, thinking of the possibilities as I approached the Maryland Bay Bridge.

Mark Parrish shows some other films on imdb.  One of the larger ones is “Mustang Sally” (Iren Koster), where again he plays ring-leader to some college boys as the visit a “house of ill repute” outside LA in the mountains.  The film opens with Mark’s character telling the story from a hospital bed, as had escaped with a broken leg.  His companions did not fare so well in what was a takeoff from “House of Wax”, so to speak.  I’ve seen the baseball film “The Pitcher and the Pin-Up” (aka “The Road Home”) where he makes a brief appearance as a teammate.

There’s a couple other films to mention here, preparing for a later posting on a critical incident when I was substitute teaching.

One of these is “The Most Dangerous Game” (1932), based on a short story by Richard Connell, often read in high school with the movie often shown.  A madman owning an island arranges a shipwreck so he can hunt down the travelers for sport after lodging them.  Real youth fare?  It’s about “brains v. brawn”, when that’s a good message.

The other is the curious British satire “A Canterbury Tale” (1944) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  where a “land girl” and two soldiers delve into a mystery related to Chaucer’s destination after the girl suffers a “glue attack”.  The film, after various philosophical musings, ends with an enormous musical triumph invoking “Onward Christian Soldiers”, as war descends on Britain.  The entire play, based on six of Chaucer’s tales, was presented at the Kennedy Center around 2006.  It’s common reading in high school senior English.

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