Geeking Out

geeking out


Culled from a lifetime of movie love and 12 years of video store experience, James Westby wrote the screenplay for FILM GEEK in 3 weeks. “I didn’t have to do any research. I realized that pretty much all I ever talk about is film. This is about as personal a movie as I could ever make.”

Luckily he found a producer who was a fellow movie fanatic in Byrd Mcdonald, a recent Portland transplant. “When I met James, it was that instant recognition of “oh, we are going to be able to talk film.” When I read his script, I knew that even if the film only reached an audience of hardcore cinephiles, that was still a substantial audience. Fortunately, the film has a much broader appeal, likely because people today are much more film- literate than ever before and can enjoy the joke.”

Made on a tiny budget with a four-person crew, FILM GEEK has a documentary-like quality acquired by run-and-gun filmmaking. Westby says, “I love the French New Wave. Who doesn’t? Godard and Truffaut and those guys just kind of scrapped those early movies together. That kind of mobility and freedom is implicit in mini dv cameras. In many cases on Film Geek we just turned the camera on and started shooting. Very little lighting was ever done, and it looks pretty awesome.”

Apart from the New Wave, another film movement was a key influence: the mainstream comedies of the 1980’s.

“The films I grew up with, like Valley Girl and Better Off Dead, were so sweet and funny and romantic. I would watch them over and over again. And they were always peppered with wordless, pop-song-driven montages as a storytelling device.”

FILM GEEK‘s protagonist, Scotty Pelk, is essayed by actor Melik Malkasian, who has acted in six of Westby’s films. “I researched the part by not hanging out with anybody for long periods of time. And by listening to James and Byrd talk about movies.”

Before shooting began, Byrd insisted that Melik and James see CINEMANIA, a documentary about film fanatics. “Melik was so depressed after seeing CINEMANIA because he realized he was going to have to live pretty low to capture the essence of someone for whom showering, eating and breathing are secondary to watching films.”

The director says, “Scotty Pelk is a man obsessed with film. And he’s the kind of geek who gets equally excited about Ivan Reitman as he does Bergman. He’s kind of like a robot. Then he meets a girl and starts to become human, kind of.”

The most amazing aspect of FILM GEEK is the way in which budget was not a restraint but a real advantage in that we didn’t second guess anything during production,” Byrd recalls. “It shows me just how rewarding filmmaking can be if you aren’t worrying about raising insane amounts of money or what happens if you take chances that don’t work.”