Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My fascination with James Dean, and how my 'Deaners' film idea came to be...

Early 2014 at Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles 
Not too long ago, I became a fan of James Dean... a big fan. And if you were to tell me (2 years ago around this time) that I would be living alone in the San Fernando Valley (broken up from a relationship), and that I also would be making a pilgrimage this month to James Dean's hometown of Fairmount, Indiana to shoot a short documentary featuring his fans and the annual festival held in his honor, I would've had a hard time believing you. But, in retrospect, I wouldn't want it any other way. 

It was late 2013...I had made that move to singledom... and on a Christmas break (when I had much time to hang with Netflix, I caught 'Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean' (link goes to the trailer). Although some bits are fictionalized and nuanced, I really enjoyed this film that served to some degree as a slice of time biography of James Dean's pre-fame life. Beautifully shot, well-acted, and poetic, it also inspired me to learn more about the legendary icon. All I knew before was of the films, and that on Hollywood Blvd, any souvenir gift shop has him up there with Marilyn and Elvis on mugs, keychains, magnets, and more. 

I dug deeper and started with articles, found myself watching his (3) films he had made before he had met his tragic end, and then moved on to reading biographies. I fell into a rabbit hole of gathering information and learning more and more about him, his life, his affect on American culture, and how he was unique, ahead of his time, and more... it's hard to sum up all that's fascinating about him, and why 60 years after his death, he is still being honored and remembered... this article ('James Dean Never Died') does a good job of it. 

His legacy lives on in his fans that are beyond loyal... and
new fans spring up every year. There's even a new film being released soon called 'Life' (link goes to the trailer) that explores a small period of time after he's finished his first film and is on the brink of stardom (starring Dane Dehaan). 

On September 30, 1955, before 'Rebel Without A Cause' (and eventually 'Giant') would be released to the public, James Dean's life ended in an auto accident in Cholame, CA (on his way to Salinas for a car race the next day). 

Fans had a hard time with this death. He was able to show (and represent) the hidden angst that America's teenagers / young adults were facing in the day. For years after his death, he still received millions of letters. He also was nominated twice posthumously for best actor ('East of Eden' and 'Giant'). Not bad for an actor who only completed three films. 

James Dean's hometown of Fairmount, Indiana had taken on the responsibility of being ambassadors to his memory. To his childhood, young adulthood, etc. The town became a place where fans could go to learn more about and celebrate him. Many relics in his history (props, costumes, and more from films, and his personal possessions) live there in Fairmount, along with the town being his final resting place 60 years ago. 

40 years ago, to meet the need of the fans en masse, this small town
started an annual festival in James Dean's honor, and welcomes people from all over the country and world that sometimes lovingly refer to themselves as 'Deaners'. The festival now spans over (4) days, has a car show, shows his films for free to the public, and has a general town fair / carnival atmosphere for Deaners to converge with booths, carnival rides, games, bands playing, look-alike contests, and more... 

Also, on September 30th each year, a memorial service is held where the attendees then walk from the church to the grave site. And also hold a candlelight vigil in memory. 

I was ready for a new project after having produced my 1st film, 'The Man Who Loved His Cat' (link goes to the trailer) and decided that I wanted to shoot a short documentary on the fans and the festival. I had never produced a documentary before,
and love learning and applying knowledge. I decided this in February, and in just under 8 months prep time, I will be there this Sept. 23-28, and shooting interviews with key people that are ambassadors to his memory and/or are just major fans. I have hired on a couple of crew in addition to myself (DP and Sound Recordist) and will capture as much as possible of the festival and more to be able to tell a story and share... and most importantly to have this film serve as my contribution to the
legacy of the great cultural and legendary icon, James Dean. 

I have no plans to distribute the film. I would hope it could get some festival play at the very least. In the end, it will also be a gift (online) for other fans. It's a passion project of mine that I'm excited about. 

I'm not crowdfunding to make this happen, not asking anyone for money... this is completely out of my own pocket. My big favor that I could ask of anyone, however, is just to 'like' the facebook page I had created for the film itself. Updates will happen from Fairmount, and along the film's process/progress. And it's free. Your support in that would be so much appreciated! Here's the LINK TO THE PAGE that I had just created: 

Many thanks, and I look forward to sharing the film with you someday, 

David Garry 


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