: the films : the pitches
: the posters :
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
He went on to explain why getting involved with virtual film making is so
"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
"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
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