Well, folks, this week we’re going to stray a bit from the norm — something pretty exciting that all of Auburn can be proud of is about to take place. Let me tell you about it…
This tale begins way back in about 1984, when I was a sophomore at Placer. In those long, summer days before any of my friends had driver’s licenses, we spent a lot of time goofing off. One of our favorite pastimes was making “movies” with a video camera.
Our illustrious career culminated with, what has long since become a family classic, The Ty Shalley’s Safari to Adventure series. I played the host, Hank Jones of Backwater, TX, and fellow Auburnite, Ty Shalley, was the man behind the camera. In these “movies,” we’d wander around the foothills and pretend to be in some wild land, hunting exotic species. One time we filmed in Ty’s backyard in the Auburn Racquet Club, and I hunted, with a rubber band gun, the wily E. Pluribus Unum — otherwise known as Sumo, Ty’s dog. Another time, we filmed at my house as I tried to take down (by hand) the rare Golden Goose of Asia, which was actually just a family pet.
The best Safari to Adventure, however, featured Hank Jones on a Smurf hunting expedition. The only problem was, we didn’t a have a Smurf to shoot at. Enter my brother Gareth Smith, who was about 7 or 8 at the time. We dressed him up in some blue jammies, painted his face Smurf color and made him wear a stupid-looking Smurf hat. In the video, Hank sets up in a blind and blows on a Smurf call to draw the little blue creatures within range. Well, the call works like magic, but Hank’s aim, as he often put it: “weren’t so good.” He misses many shots at his prey with a plastic Uzi, and the Smurf eventually comes back and takes out both the host and the camera man. Gareth stole the show and a career path was born.
Gareth became fascinated with making movies after that, only he preferred to be the director, producer and camera man instead of an actor. In high school, he made a movie called Showstoppers about the Del Oro High School Marching Band, which earned him a spot at the prestigious California Summer School for the Arts program in Valencia. A college project at UCLA, a short film he made called The Gift, won him an award from Sony and the American Film Industry and Gareth received an expensive digital video camera for his efforts.
About three years ago, Gareth and his buddy Mike Horowitz came up with an idea for an unusual film, originally called Switch, but later renamed This Guy is Falling. Since then, thousands of hours have gone into the movie, which deals with what would happen if gravity was turned off in the world. It’s a mock of disaster films in an completely original artistic style. The actors are real, breathing humans, but all the backgrounds are fake (painted). Gareth and his team tried to make the backgrounds so realistic that the viewer won’t be able to tell what is real and what isn’t. At only 12 minutes, 10 seconds in length, This Guy is Falling is an amazing piece of work.
After putting their collective heart and souls into this thing for three grueling years (that’s over 91 days worth of work per minute of film), Gareth and his crew were recently rewarded in a big way. This Guy is Falling was accepted into the world famous Sundance Film Festival, which takes place Jan. 20-30. Yep, Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival. The same one that attracts all the Hollywood types to Park City, Utah for 10 days every January. That’s big-time! I’m sure Gareth is the first Auburn resident to have a film on display there.
His film will be shown 4 times on the big screen next week, which is pretty awesome in itself. Seeing something you’ve made up on a screen that’s as big as a house is probably akin to walking out onto the perfect grass at Yankee Stadium for the first time as a rookie ball player. Even more exciting is the fact that This Guy is Falling will be included in the same screening as a short flick by famous Hollywood actress, Anne Heche. That means all the big-wig movie people from L.A. there to see her movie will also see Gareth’s. Cool.
Gareth and his band of young upstarts broke camp and jumped on a bus last night for the 17-hour ride to Utah, where they will conserve money by stacking like cordwood in one hotel room. In ten days, they may come back with a little less money than when they started. Or they may knock the socks off some Hollywood producer and come home with a fat contract and the beginnings of a lucrative career in the movies. Either way, I can say that I’m damn proud of my bro and I think you should be, too. One of our own making good.
Oh yea, Gareth, if you ever do a feature-length film on Smurf hunting, I’m your man…