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[whitespace] Hand holding camera Blair Flair

Campbell filmmaker spoofs Gen-X blockbuster

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

SHAWN FLANAGAN of Campbell's Almaden Films is definitely from the "let's-get-it-done-and-get-the-hell-out-of-here" school of film shooting. He and his crew are filming a scene from their new movie, Bald Witch, at Allie's Corner Cafe in historic downtown Campbell. "Crew" might be an overstatement. There is an actress playing a waitress who is being interviewed about the appearance in town of a legendary spirit called the Bald Witch (a takeoff on the surprise film blockbuster of the season, The Blair Witch Project). There is Flanagan himself, peering through a hand-held camera and chipping in dialogue at the same time. A female assistant operates a microphone boom; another couple of helpers stand behind Flanagan and watch the filming. That's it.

The scene is shot in four short takes ... actually, four different takes in which Flanagan and the waitress/actress pretty much make up dialogue as they go along.

"Do you ever go into the woods around here?" Flanagan asks.

"No," the waitress replies, "I'm afraid of those, those ..." and for a moment she can't for the world think of whatever it is she is afraid of out there (a fact she readily admits once the cameras are off). Another director would have hollered "cut!" in disgust but Flanagan keeps shooting, and the waitress/actress finds the word she's looking for, and seeing the final film it will probably all look like it was planned that way. Though the cafe is closed for business through the shoot, workers clean up in the back and clear the registers as if nothing at all is going on. Filming goes quickly and smoothly, with less than half an hour passing from the time they enter the cafe until they put the equipment away and move on to the next set and shot, unlike the shoots of the movie big boys, where takes and retakes of a single tiny cinematic moment can consume an entire day while they struggle to get it just right.

Of course, since Bald Witch is Almaden Films' valley-based spoof of the immensely popular Blair Witch, a sort of built-in jerky hastiness is supposed to be part of the charm of the end product.

This is the second film for the decidedly low-budget, year-old Almaden Films (www.boneshakers.com). The first was Boneshakers, released earlier this year, described on the video box as "fast-action gunplay and adventure [which] kicks off when ... [a] free-wheeling crew of San Francisco bicycle messengers crash a secret Mob scheme to kidnap homeless and harvest their organs for sale." A decidedly homegrown affair, the film featured one actor who is a good friend of Flanagan's, another who is his attorney. It was filmed at various Bay Area locations, including the streets of San Francisco and the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Available locally at Bradley Video stores while Flanagan awaits a deal with Blockbuster, Boneshakers was originally budgeted at $6,000 but jumped to $60,000 after Flanagan incorporated "a better camera, better editing equipment and a better director of photography; we didn't just accidentally go over budget."

"Still, it was an amazing production," says Christophorio Catalano, a Los Gatos native actor who is volunteering on the Bald Witch project. "It had car chases ... martial arts fighting scenes. One day we had 39 actors on the set. Micro-independent films don't usually have that much action."

Bald Witch, of course, runs on a different, decidedly more low-tech concept made popular by the equally low-budget Blair Witch. Filmed in San Jose, Campbell, and the woods and canyons of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Bald Witch is expected to come in at a budget of around $4,000. Expected to be as quick in the editing room as it is in shooting, the film is scheduled for distribution through Bradley Video stores around Thanksgiving. Both films were financed by Flanagan's partner, local entrepreneur Dan Connolly of Connolly Entertainment, whom he met while working on an Eric Estrada film. They run a conspicuously low-cost operation. Asked how many people work for Almaden Films, Flanagan looks around for a second, and then points a finger at himself.

Gunderson High graduate Flanagan, perpetually enthusiastic, 36 and linebacker-stocky (when he takes his shirt off, he reveals forearms like Popeye's), appears to be having one hell of a time living out his career fantasies. He studied film at De Anza College and later worked as an extra in 15 movies, including The Right Stuff at age 20. "Mostly, I just watched and listened," he says. "I did a lot of student films. I wrote a lot of scripts. I went to a lot of movies."

Interview and shoot over, the company is off to the mountain portion of the filming. Do they know where they'll be shooting? "Naw," Flanagan answers. "We'll sort of ride around till we find the right spot."

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From the September 16-22, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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