Down memory lane with the Sean Bean of teenage filmmaking
He appears to be running — quite well and quite fast, actually, as though he’s running for his life.
The boy (early teens, I’d say) keeps looking back over his shoulder as he scrambles through what appears to be a field of brush and bare trees. He’s being chased, certainly; by what, we cannot tell ... but he clearly has no intention of stopping to get a good look at his pursuer.
(No, this isn’t about “Avengers: Endgame” ... yet.)
He stumbles through thickets of bramble; thin branches flick at his face. The ground beneath him is soft, almost sandy, and covered with dead leaves and slick pine needles turned golden brown.
The boy falls to a knee, recovers, but now his running is hampered by a slight limp. They are closing in, and the look on his face has lost the sense of possibility.
He falls again. A shot from the perspective of those chasing him slows to a deep breath, the jangled camera movement stills.
We never see Them, only him. One final shot, a close-up — eyes open and empty; blood rippling from his mouth.
It’s discomforting to watch yourself “die” in such a manner, even if it is 45 years or so later, and you’re watching from the relative safety of a computer screen.
Still, there I was, down in the dirt, Karo syrup and cherry food coloring sticking to my face — the victim of what, we were told at the time, were a band of fascists eliminating those who would fight in opposition.
Seeing this moment of movie magic — a work of high school friends who bonded over creating films with flimsy Super 8 stock and rudimentary cameras — brought back even the smallest detail of the day.
The threat would never be seen. Those of us portraying the band of hunted revolutionaries came to call then “the invisible fascists.”
As I dashed through the woods that day, castmates were off-camera screaming at me to run. An actor needs his motivation, but I’m not sure how helpful it was to be reminded that I needed to escape from those I already knew would leave my corpse to rot.
Between takes, we appropriated a popular novelty song and sang amongst ourselves:
The invisible fascists are coming
They’re coming to take me away, ha-haa
They’re coming to take me away, ho-ho hee-hee ha-haa
It was not, it must be said, the only “death” I suffered in those days. Truth be told, I was the Sean Bean of our film group. If you saw my name in the opening credits, there was a good chance I wouldn’t be around for the final scene.
I’d been shot, stabbed and poisoned. I’d died of old age, been pushed off a cliff and zapped to smithereens by aliens.
Once, I was an apparition who spent the movie popping into scenes with a wool cap on my head — not just the top of my head, like Mike Nesmith in The Monkees, but all the way over my head.
My face was never shown in that one; for when the heroine finally got the courage to pull it off, I had been dispatched, and she discovered her own face beneath the cap.
Take that, Rod Serling!
This all came flooding in flashbacks recently when I discovered that the leader of our merry troupe (who went on to carve out a career for himself as a filmmaker and educator) had taken our 1970s efforts and, in a very 2010s move, transferred them to the internet.
There we were — ACT-ting!!! as Jon Lovitz, Master Thespian, might emote — through period pieces and soap operas, comedies and science fiction, psychodramas and the occasional piece of abstract-art metaphysical tripe.
What were we thinking?
Well, I’m not sure we were ... and that, I know now, was the point.
We were just having fun, embryonically exploring art while spending weekends and school vacations together — instilling a sense of supportiveness and teamwork, even if we didn’t acknowledge (or understand) that at the time.
The other day I read an a group interview conducted with many of the A-listers associated with “Avengers: Endgame” — the 22nd and (for some) final movie in what has become known as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
As I read the comments from the cast it brought these superheroes down to Earth. Sure, acting during an interview is a skill as well, and their camaraderie may well have been a fine-tuned performance by this point — although their shared humor at the behind-the-scenes “magic” seemed genuine.
Created with the most-current technology available, the actors talked about wearing “pajamas” covered with movement sensors, standing in front of a green screen and acting with a tennis ball that was suspended from a height and which represented the “actor” who later would be digitally inserted into finished scene.
Of course, they get paid millions for going through such machinations — because, no doubt, the motivation needed to face off against a tennis ball outweighs that required to escape invisible fascists.
Asked whether “Endgame” and the other films might resonate 30 years or so down the road, the response was an uncertain hope that what they’d done together wouldn’t get lost to time.
When I first came across our meager teenage efforts from the Seventies, I was curious but nonplussed. What I thought had been lost to time was staring me in the face. We weren’t superheroes and we didn’t (often) wear spandex, but we’d created a universe of our own.
Nostalgia, the cliché goes, isn’t what it used to be. But, you know what, sometimes it is.
Sorry, but even if you ask nicely at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mail Tribune copy editor Robert Galvin won’t tell you how to access his film career.