Jamie Klotz’s Origins Extra: A Special Thank You

This weekend it finally hit me that we’re premiering The Extraordinary Secret of Jamie Klotz’s Diary II this Friday. I have no idea how many people or who exactly will turn out. I hope for the best but plan for the worst… I did spend a little time this past weekend watching the Q&A from the premiere of JKD1, prepping myself for the Q&A this time around, just in case no one asks any questions, I can still have some to give the cast. Then I spent a good chunk of Sunday and today reflecting on the work over the last decade or so that led to this. Some of it, like the Adventures in Hot Springs, or lost projects like Shards of the Transient Diamond and Taterfied, I have talked about before, but while watching old videos and reading old scripts, I realized that there was one person specifically that I needed to mention and give thanks to…

While ideas for Gibbers as a comic book go back well into my middle school years, the idea for a movie (whose script evolved into at least one scene in JKD1) or even being a filmmaker honestly did not even cross my mind until I met a kid by the name of Charles “Chuck” Geiser.

I said during the Q&A for JKD1 that as a child I had wished to become a singer, and then puberty hit and so I instead pursued film. That’s not an inaccurate statement but not the entire truth. I met Chuck, who was two classes ahead of me in school, through mutual friends and I wish I could say we quickly became close friends but it was more that he did his thing and I followed like an annoying little puppy dog.

Chuck as "The President" in Patriot Red
Chuck as “The President” in Patriot Red

Chuck had produced a short film for a social studies class project. A (sort-of) political thriller, Patriot Red told the story of how the United States was taken over by a communist government which was later overthrown by a group of freedom fighters. If it sounds a lot like Red Dawn, it kind of was, except with a cast of three, zero budget, class in-jokes, and a whole lot of early-2000’s-epic orchestral trailer music.

But to 15/16 year old me, it was the most epic thing I’d ever seen. I

Roman as the freedom fighter in Chuck's "Patriot Red."
Roman as the freedom fighter in Chuck’s “Patriot Red.”

had Chuck burn me a DVD of it (as well as the film by a friend that inspired him, New Projectile 187 – and the mash-up of the two that he created) and I watched it over and over, not so much that the story or movie itself intrigued me, but the idea that someone my age could feasibly create a cohesive short film with just their friends and a camera. No matter it was for class, or that it was incredibly silly. This was a whole new creative world opening up to me. And then myself and a mutual friend and classmate, Roman, asked Chuck to help us with our own class project.

Despite my awkwardness on screen, True Love Sunglasses is what really got me hooked on filmmaking. I vividly remember sitting at the computer desk next to Chuck, enthralled as he pieced each clip together in Windows Movie Maker. The rest of the cast – Roman, Brittny, Cody – had all left, but Chuck & myself finished the project together, even adding goofy credits. This was where I fell in love with the post production process, deciding where to cut, which take to use, what music to use, and so on.

The chronology in my head vs reality is a little hard to pin down but with the help of some timestamps on old video renders saved by Matt Luebeck and personal notes on the margins of notebooks from the time period, I can safely say that True Love Sunglasses was filmed in early autumn 2004 and I was given a copy of Patriot Red at around that time. By late autumn/early winter 2004, I had scribbled notes about potential projects like “In Search of Jamie Klutz’s Diary” and “Where the F**k is Bermuda Anbesol.” In early 2005, I saw National Treasure at the local theater (a second-run theater) with my friend Jim (of A Day in Hot Springs fame), went straight to Jim’s house after the screening and stayed up all night writing the first draft to the Gibbers movie, and a couple months later, on Friday, May 14, 2005, I know for a fact that I edited my own first video project for a class.

Eventually Chuck addressed my spinoff, which he hated, in this comic. © Charles Geiser
Eventually Chuck addressed my Adventures in HS comic, which he hated, in this comic strip. © Charles Geiser

Chuck had also been creating comic strips starring cartoon-ized versions of his real life friends (“South Springs”) and frequently throughout his senior year and shortly thereafter kept talking about filming a feature film adaptation of the comic, and I was totally game, although it never came to fruition. Having ingrained myself into a social circle a couple years beyond myself, I ended up both as a character in the comic itself and later began aping the comic with my own iteration starring the characters of “The Week in Hot Springs” with equally lofty ambitions to complete the seven-day story of Jesse Gump, when it became obvious that “WIHS” was proving a difficult project to finish.

The cover to the comic version of Quest for the Lost Treasures
The cover to the comic version of Quest for the Lost Treasures.

It’s telling that I have so much of the work Chuck did backed up still, including a couple MSN messenger chat logs in which Chuck described to me the outline of his big-scale South Springs story, “Global Denomination,” would be. In spite of me not actually having thought of, read or watched much of any of this again until this past weekend, it was significant material that meant something to me not just for its place in my personal friendships but also in terms of creative growth.

In 2009, after Shards of the Transient Diamond had been taken off the slate but before we started production on the Adventures in Hot Springs webseries, I took it upon myself to remake the then-5-year-old True Love Sunglasses with a different cast.

When I last saw Chuck, he and I spent a chunk of time together reminiscing and catching up. I filled him in on the story of JKD1 and by that time, we had already started production on JKD2. His reaction to the stories were that they were “certainly unique.” Ironically, neither would have been possible if he hadn’t taken it upon himself to help a friend with a class project and let the awkward sophomore sit and watch him edit, make suggestions and crack jokes.

So here’s a very special pre-premiere thank you, Chuck for inspiring me to keep creating.

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