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02/20 Interview with Leon of Leon's Line

I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind Suburban Films/Stripmall Design this week in their studio's editing suite at their Washington, DC base. He was doing the final edit on the very first release from Suburban Films, "Blurred". After furnishing me with a drink and a very funny golfing joke, which adequately broke the ice and put us both at ease I hit him with the first question. I wanted to know how he first got involved with virtual film making and what the attraction for him was.

"Well I was surfing around at work, I'm a big sports fan, and I was playing a few interactive sports games but getting a bit bored. I went to the View Askew website and found a link to VP and from then I was hooked."

He went on to explain why getting involved with virtual film making is so compelling.

"It was so good to find such a brilliant creative outlet on the web. I have really gotten into pitching ideas, putting the scripts together, working on the web sites, and creating posters. It's also nice that so far the studio has been reasonably successful but I must admit I am a bit nervous about our first release. It is such a big thing for me putting myself out there and up for criticism. I am not that confident about my story telling skills. VP is so chock-full of actual WRITERS, that is can be a bit intimidating."

The film "Blurred" is a film about an FBI agent - Michael Stevens (played by Vince Vaughn) - that is directed by his superior to kill several ultraconservative/reactionary leaders, under the guise of national security. Stevens has difficulty with this at first, but it becomes easier to cope with, which surprises him. We learn that his fiancée was killed years earlier in an abortion clinic bombing and that has caused deep-seated hatred in Stevens. As the movie progresses, we learn there is something more sinister to the directives he is receiving and Stevens begins realizing this when he is asked to kill a popular conservative talk show host and would-be presidential candidate named Buxton Swain (played by Jon Voight). Stevens has also learned that he is going to be "cleaned" after he kills Swain. So he is forced to come to grips with what he is becoming, while trying to stay alive.

"The idea for the film came from a liberal fantasy that I used to have in college", He explains, "and that was about how cool it would be if there was someone out there to kill all the abortion clinic bombers and hate group leaders and gay bashers and pricks like Jerry Falwell, but as I started developing the story, though, I realized how silly it was how I was suddenly thinking like "them", thus I put the angle into the story that I did."

This film certainly sounds as though it may be somewhat thought provoking. Suburban studios are probably being a bit modest about the story telling skills of their writing staff. So far this Studio has managed to get six out of seven pitches in to release no mean feat I think many would agree, and perhaps quite telling of the writing capabilities of Suburban Films. They explain why they think they have been successful by putting it down to; putting in a few character elements, outlining the main idea of the plot, always checking the spelling/grammar, using the maximum amount of words, ensuring a cohesive flow of words and finally, a ton of luck.

Some of the other films in the production line at Suburban include a comedy that is partially autobiographical called Chunky!

"I am really looking forward to writing it as I think I will have the most fun writing comedy. Edith Lubbins (played by Kathy Bates) is a character loosely based on my Mom. In the movie, Edith is a born-again Mary Kay salesman that sells crack to suburban housewives. Mom sells Mary Kay cosmetics in her spare time and we kids like to kid her about her crack habit. So there is a tiny parallel there."

Next in line is a film called "Psychosis", which is a psychological thriller starring Edward Norton. It takes a look at what happens to a person when they cannot differentiate between fantasy and reality. After that we can expect to see "Talent Show" another comedy.

"Talent Show is an ensemble piece set in a rural county and is also slightly autobiographical with respect to my high school years. We moved out to the country for three years while I was in high school and it was a huge culture shock - a whole different world. The movie is meant to give an unflinching view at the hilarious absurdities of small town life."

Also in production is Harmony, Ohio the story of a young boy who is trying to hold his family together while his father is in prison. I wanted to know where the idea for this came from.

"I was pretty poor when I was much younger, my parents were young when they had me. They ran with a rough crowd and thus I was able to get an interesting look at a completely different type of life."

"I find character driven stories completely interesting and this is the kind of film that I have wanted to do ever since getting involved with virtual film making. There is a movie called "Gummo" which has the feel of what I am looking for, but I am going to try and do a better job of following a linear story line than that one did. Harmony, Ohio will also be made in a black and white format, although I am not sure quite how, yet."

We had to cut things short as there was still a bit of editing to do and this had to be done so that the producer could get home to watch a documentary about Jimmy Carter. I could see that I was not going to get another drink, especially as I had drunk most of the bottle of chardonnay, anyway. We finished off our discussion by talking about the possibility of a CO-production. This however was not concluded as it was felt necessary to seek legal advice before signing any deals, but we are not ruling out the possibilities.