By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Out of that tent-revival moment, the second wave of eight filmmakers was born -- initially called Group 102, but when the third wave produced some 80 participants, they declared everyone Group 101 and subdivided into nine tribes named after famous film icons: Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects, Max Fischer from Rushmore, Rosebud from that Rosebud movie, etc. A subsequent screening, christened the Shortorder Film Festival, was held in May 2001 as a fund-raiser for the Shakespeare Festival/L.A., before a crowd of 400 at the Knitting Factory. The evening was hosted by Charlie's Angelsdirector McG, and raised more than $10,000. (At the benefit, McG announced, "I'm one of you guys -- I just got lucky.")
A fourth wave of 70 filmmakers was launched earlier this year, some 30 of whom were holdovers from the third wave. Their films will be shown August 15, again at Fais Do Do. In the process of overseeing each subsequent group, the founding members stumbled upon perhaps the biggest secret motivator of all -- community.
"Everybody in L.A. is going for the brass ring," says Jeff. "All of us at this table are. And that's part of our lives. But it's hard to find a community of people who are satisfying their own creative impulses together. There aren't really all that many such communities in L.A. We've created one."
Adds Dina: "I prefer to think of us as the Weight Watchers of filmmaking -- you have to weigh in once a month, there's guilt and shame involved, and we all build support."
Participants in the rapidly expanding program include not only burgeoning directors, but actors looking to expand their demo reels, cinematographers making calling-card films, animators, documentarians -- even working directors who just want to recharge their batteries, or experiment with the medium. Anthony Dalesandro, director of Escape to Grizzly Mountain, for instance, joined to perfect an idea he had about telling a story in a fractured, David Hockney style ("The Box," available on the Web site).
Some recruits even learn that filmmaking, or at least the production end of it, is specifically not what they want to be doing -- a revelation that might have come after five or 10 more years of waiting around for the chance to direct.
"We all have films that will never see the light of day, and that's okay," says Dina. "You're not risking your professional reputation, or your client, or a significant amount of money or time."
"We're advocating action rather than just talking about it," adds Rachel. "You can talk and talk and talk, but once you actually convene to do the thing that you dream of, it's never how you imagine it to be. Once you walk on the set and try it, it's always harder and slower and more painful. But it's ultimately empowering that you realize your own goal, that you walk through some sort of gauntlet. People hold themselves back all the time, and this is one way to overcome that."
"Try the experiment out," concludes Aaron. "If it works, great, you're a genius. If it doesn't work, put it in the closet, don't worry about it, it's 30 days out of your life."
Closing in on its own witching hour of 2 a.m., Dina's makeshift crew is setting up for the "picture martini," the final shot of the night. People are getting tired. Jeff, who's been helping out on sound, just stuck the boom mike into the whirring blades of a ceiling fan. Claire Nach, the special-effects/makeup woman, regales those still with us with her most recent infomercial credits -- one for the Freedom Ring, which shoots Mace, and one for something variously called Eliminodor, Terminodor or Vacu-Fresh, a kind of sawed-off Dustbuster that attaches to the back of your toilet and sucks up noxious fumes. It is unclear from the story where her makeup skills leave off and her special-effects skills begin.
Dina has framed all four cast members in bed in a Bob and Carol and Ted and Aliceshot, and is looking to dial up the energy. "It would be nice if you were spooning, maybe," she says to the two male actors, anticipating a comic reveal. "Good Lord," says Justin Lang, her DP, as scenes from a career in porn flash before his eyes. Everyone gets a close-up, and then it's a wrap -- with at least some of them scheduled to start their next film in just 17 hours.
AS GROUP 101 GROWS, CHANGE IS INevitable. In the past year, what it calls "distant chapters" have sprouted up both domestically and abroad. One year ago, friends of Jeff -- an actress and a composer -- put off relocating to L.A. and started a New York chapter, which, being New Yorkers, they renamed Quick Flix. Once the Web site had been established, e-mails started pouring in from Japan, Australia, Korea and across the planet, from people wanting to get involved. The Copenhagen chapter has just finished its first wave of films (Dogma, look to your laurels). The Chicago and San Francisco chapters are in the middle of their first wave. (The Chicago chapter was founded by an actress who later discovered she had been Maureen's roommate in college.) And there are nascent groups in Prague, Tokyo, Orlando, Nashville and Dallas, with many others in the planning stages. Group 101 offers e-mail mentorship to the chapters who request it, and asks a $250 flat franchise fee in return. And the site's message boards have become a continuous scroll of crew positions, casting calls, job opportunities and insider tips, as virtually all of the L.A. members are employed in the industry. "You look at our e-mail list," says Maureen, "and it's like a laundry list of every top entertainment company in the world."