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The Undercover Filmmaker:
"Anything I've Seen?"

by Jeremy Hanke

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One of the things I love about filmmaking is how much people are fascinated by it, at least in as much as it impacts them personally. If you go to your local pizza parlor and mention that you're a filmmaker to one of the customers, they will immediately look at you appraisingly and, after informing you—confidentially—that they "used to do a little acting in high school," follow up with the ubiquitous filmmaking question: "You done anything I've seen?"

This question is interesting on two counts.

First, it presupposes that I know what movies this individual has seen. Perhaps the assumption is that, either all filmmakers are Jedi (and can therefore do the Jedi Mindtrick to read their minds) or that we're virtual stalkers and have been rumaging through there Netflix queue to see what they're watching.

Second, it also presupposes that the fact that you are a filmmaker means that you are automatically the sort of person who makes the sort of films they would have been seen at the local megaplex. (For some reasons, Indie film lovers never seem to ask this question; only people who's entire cinematic awareness involves films that have the same advertising budget as the national debt.)

I think the reason for this question can be boiled down to a secret belief that every American has: That Peter Jackson or Kevin Smith live in their neighborhood and are just keeping a low profile. (It's related to the belief that all children harbor that they're father is a secret agent.) Apparently these are the only two non-actor filmmakers that the average American can pick out on sight, due largely to the amount of television screen time the two have been able to finagle over the years, which, if memory serves, currently eclipses Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, and Conan O'Brian combined. The fact that they look enough alike to at least be brothers, if not twins, makes this fact all the more amusing! (Of course, they might not be wrong. Star Trek's William Shatner doesn't live too far away from me here in Lexington and, in fact, has made a name for himself with some of his local shenanigans.)

[Note: I have been informed that I must legally amend my comment to: "locally alleged shenanigans." I am also required to include that neither he nor anyone in his camp have ever been convicted on any charges of shenanigans, "whether implicit or implied." We now return you to your regularly scheduled tirade.]

As such, when someone asks me this question, I find it's best to simply reply suavely, "Why yes? Have you heard of Titanic. I did that one when I was in college."

Of course, if you do that, you might end up with the following conversation:

"I saw that one. It was pretty good, until the aliens attacked."

"Yeah, we were on the fence over that one. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea."

"For some reason, I always that Arnold Shwarzeneggar made that one?"

"No, that was Terminator 8, actually."

"Really? I think that I missed that one."

"Well you might have, it was released straight to iPod."

"To iPod? You don't say."

"They had to. It wouldn't work otherwise."

"What do you mean."

"Well, as the series progressed, they found the inconsistencies in space time theory just became too noticeable on the big screen. Eventually, only a screen smaller than a playing card could let some of the plots work."

"Wow, you don't say?"

"Why do you think they killed the Sarah Connors Chronicles? The screen was too big."

"Now that you mention it, I think I saw something on that in Us Weekly."

"Undoubtedly. It's the way things are going."

"Wow. Things certainly change pretty quick."

"Indeed, faster than you can imagine. Especially in America. Film's our chief export."

"Really? I thought it was porn."

"Porn's a close second. We actually have enough filmmakers to just tip the scales."

"Wow. Hard to believe. I mean, there are some many naked people and whatnot."

"Very true. In fact, I've heard rumors that there are almost as many naked people as there are human beings on the planet."

"That sounds fishy. I'd have to see some statistics on that."

"The problem with statistics is that 73.4% of them are made up on the spot."

"Huh? I had thought it was lower."

"Well. It was. Last year. By definition, they're random, so you don't ever know what you might get."

"Really? Sort of like that thing that allows teleporters to work in Star Trek?"

"No, I think that's something involving Heisenberg."

"Yeah. He's that guy on Breaking Bad."

"Mmmmm...Not the one we're talking about, but kudos on watching AMC."

"I heard they were recasting that with all cats."

"Cats? Really? I hadn't heard that."

"Yep, I heard they had those Hensen fellers' make puppets, not those anima-Tanic things."

"Hmmm... Then he'd probably go by Schroedinger..."

"Why do you say that?"

"Just a hunch."

"So which movie did you say you directed, again?"

"The Fast and the Furious."

[Note: I'm legally obligated to remind everyone who reads this that any resemblance to any conversations I've had with anyone, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, including, but not limited to, William Shatner.]

JeremyHankePicture The director of two feature length films and half a dozen short films, Jeremy Hanke founded Microfilmmaker Magazine to help all no-budget filmmakers make better films. His first book on low-budget special effects techniques, GreenScreen Made Easy, (which he co-wrote with Michele Yamazaki) was released by MWP to very favorable reviews. He's curently working on the sci-fi film franchise, World of Depleted through Depleted: Day 419 and the feature film, Depleted.

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