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A "dusty" trip to Southend on Sea - 11.01.20

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

Last night was my second time attending a screening of one of my films and the first time in almost two years. It was an evening filled with every emotion I can think of but which has ended with me feeling the enormous buzz of everything Ed and I would like to do with La Victoria Productions.

We arrived about an hour before the film started and sat down to meet the driving force of Shredders, including the original concept, Michael James Dean. An amazing writer who has a knack for comedy blends, we had been introduced some time ago and now gone through this crazy adventure to get to our first film festival (and the third film I have had a hand on set which I have seen on the big screen).

Michael and I had not seen each other since I drove out to see him with my daughter in September, shortly before we decided to release Shredders on YouTube on Halloween. The life of an indie filmmaker is like that sometimes. I have to work a day job with long hours, support my family… then get to film-making. My daughter and I finished the weekly shop an hour after that meeting.

Time went on inevitably with nothing further as Ed and I resurrected La Victoria Productions from its sleep with a new vigour and better understanding of what we had set out to do three years ago. In the lead up to the Christmas season we heard Shredders would be screening at Horror on Sea in Southend in Essex. Michael asked us if we were planning to attend and I said “Why not?”

This would be the first time I attended anything horror related in a community I used to spend a great deal of my time. Because of this I was nervous. Life had taken me in a seriously different direction for a time where I doubted whether filmmaking was really a compulsion in my life or merely a distraction. My day job got infinitely more complicated (as my career has progressed to take on more complex responsibilities) taking more of my time away from the one thing that wasn’t absolutely necessary in my life.

...and I feel justified in saying it’s not necessary. I have a loving wife, a child that I am so proud of and a roof over my head that I value over anything else. That does not mean however that I am not prepared to make sacrifices to fit it all into my life. Remember, my daughter came with me to production meeting and we went grocery shopping after (from which I got a parking ticket that I had to spend even more time on getting revoked).

Back in the bar outside the Horror on Sea festival last night Ed was sitting in his usual Star Wars Boba Fett semi-flight gear thing. It was awesome and nerdy at the same time and that’s why he is the director of our production company and the one who maybe will make his own Star Wars film someday.

I sat in my usual dad jeans and my Snuffulufugus long-sleeve that says “Believe”. I love that shirt. We took my daughter to Sesame Street near Philadelphia last summer and the long-sleeve I bought from the gift shop sums up just how much fun we had as a family that day.

Michael James Dean was dressed in a cool producer-like black suit coat, brown dress shirt, black skinny jeans and some wicked cool skater vans. He was also sporting one of the coolest moustaches I have seen as of late. However, his warm smile and gentle nature always remind that Michael is stylish but not intimidating, a combination of qualities I find rare within the indie film industry circles I frequent.

We were talking about what we have been up to in our lives since the short was made. I told him that Ed and I had only recently come back to film-making as our lives had taken us away from the company for while.

But we were back. And suddenly I was “Mouth” again. Talking a mile a minute, Michael and I were chatting about where Shredders would go from here and what else we were working on. Michael and I were probably just as surprised with each other at how busy with new projects we both were.

Great collaborations though are always about sitting down after a period of time apart and picking up the conversation exactly where it last left off. Ed and I have that down to a “T” between us, but Michael is not far off with either with us. It’s a great feeling of trust you have with other creators.

Looking around the bar with them I started explaining who I knew or might know in the room. Given that we are in the heart of Essex and I have not been around this scene for more than year I did more guessing than anything else. There were a few of the Frightfest crowd that I spent a great deal of great time with in the past and hope to be reuniting with this year. There were only a few faces I recognised and before I could “people watch” for too long we had others join us from the cast and we all got talking about our lives again.

We sat in the back of a great conference room with a projector on the screen. We were the second short to play and followed a very well written short about the tragic effects of social media Off Fleek and honestly it was a bit intimidating to be following up such a good short.

Before our film went up, the film festival director Paul brought Michael and myself on stage to introduce the film. I had such a set of conflicting emotions. Part of me had just achieved a major goal I finally got to stand up in front of an audience and talk about one of my films. There is a reason my close friends call me “Mouth”!

My partner in crime Ed even managed to capture the momentous occasion!

As you can see, the other conflicting emotion was abject fear and the want to crawl into a corner and hide. I was a new producer, with no real street cred to his name, showing one of his earliest collaborations which I loved doing, but didn’t think was perfect, about to have that work unleashed unto it’s first real audience ever, while I prayed in the back of the room that someone thought it was as funny as I did (don’t even get me started about LVP’s podcasts!)

The film started and I got a serious case of the feels as I sat between my brother-in-film Ed “Enano” Burgos and one of the finest collaborators I have had the pleasure of working with, Michael James Dean. Sophia Mephas, a talented actress who shined in her role as Peggy in Shredders joined us as well. Her performance solidified that Michael was right about a debate he and I had about the direction of Shredders cast.

In reading an earlier version of the script, Michael had pitched Peggy’s character to me as Peggy in architecture. I gave him a funny look. Sadly, I have to admit to the corporate side of me said “architecture!?”. It didn’t sound right to me from a production standpoint. What about Peggy in sales or Peggy at reception? But Michael kept explaining the strong leading role she was going to have against two slightly less brave and comedic actors. I was concerned that it would come across as contrived and not genuine even if we wanted it to be what it was, a great role for the right actress.

Sophie Mephas was perfect in that role. Working to our tight timeline (2 shooting days over a weekend) and tight budget, we had to have someone that was willing to get stuck in from the start and adapt as needed to get all the coverage we knew would be required for a proper edit. The entire cast and crew rose to that occasion, very thankfully. Everyone credited (and even those uncredited that supported this film) has nothing but my thanks for putting such a great concept to life on the screen.

As the film played I found that those of us sitting in the back row were already laughing at Michael’s well placed humour and the 80’s camp style we deliberately tried to create in the film. It was a really great reunion, like coming back to an old group of friends sharing the memories of a really cool trip they all went on together.

Thankfully, by the time the jokes and tension ramped up the audience was responding. I still think we found it funnier than everyone else, but I am like that with all my projects. Because I know the beats that were written to make you giggle and the ones that were written to make you jump, it’s always a very personal experience.

When the film ended we returned to our place at the bar. I resumed my rant as “Mouth”, simultaneously talking to a new filmmaker looking for a producer (“Hello there...”) and my usual rants between the need to set up separate companies for liability reasons for your projects and my ten year plan to build a major studio here in the UK (or get bought by a major US studio and have them let us stay out here – I never said I wasn’t ambitious!)

I didn’t know, but my esteemed dude in arms Ed was snapping pics away. He is also inadvertently showing me that I indulged a bit too much over the Christmas holidays. Guess I will be running tomorrow morning.

Driving home with Ed, he must of thought I had gone mad again. It was like a bright light had just been shone on the reason behind all of this. We had created something which others had been entertained by and which had done what we had set out to do. We had shared a journey together, which is always the strange side effect of collaboration, for a common goal. That was something I could “Believe” in. That is something I find compelling.

Upon returning home, I sat listening to my Dark Indie mix in my new designer pajamas (thanks Mamma Chan) typing this blog post out with the biggest smile on my face at 10 past two in the morning of the 11th. That’s the life of a new indie filmmaker...

by Jason "Mouth" Cherot - 11 January 2020

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