Gardener Boy

"Wheel in the meat" is how Eric Stoltz prefers to have actors called to the set. At least, that's what he told the crew when he came to town to star in the short film Hello. Written and directed by local filmmaker John Helde, who made his way through the ranks as an editor (most notably on a couple of Alan Rudolph's films), the project recently won the IFP/Seattle Spotlight Award. The prize landed Helde goods and services for both production and post-production, as well as the support of the local film community.

The short is about a man (Stoltz) who decides one day to talk to a woman he's seen for years on his ferry commute to Seattle, and how one simple "hello" can change the tenor of one's life. He's joined by Susanna Thompson (TV's Once and Again), who plays the object of his attention, and Kevin Tighe, who kick-started his own career as Roy DeSoto on the TV show Emergency and since then has built his resumé up as a character actor on movies like Road House (a personal favorite).

With this project I learned that it's not just Seattle's actors and crews who will work for no money. Nonlocal actors will too--and not just the extras. "I liked the script," Stoltz told me, as if that explained everything. And on further investigation, it does; local superstar producer Jennifer Roth sent a copy of the script to his agent asking if he would like to come to Seattle and work for no money, and Stoltz said yes.

Same thing happened with Ms. Thompson. Having worked with Stoltz when he directed an episode of Once and Again, she liked the idea of acting with him. She really took to the whole indie-film vibe of the project, comparing things like the lack of money, lack of private space, and tight scheduling to summer camp. "What makes it easy to jump in on something like this," she told me, "is that everybody working on it is so creative. It's stimulating. It keeps me happy."

I myself have been working on the film as the script supervisor--or "Script Boy," as Eric "Gardener Boy" Stoltz likes to call me. He didn't realize I was a member of the local press when he started calling me that, or that I had the power to take him down. Luckily I like him, so I won't. Regarding the film, the shoot has gone quite smoothly and should end up being a really nice piece.

As for things you can go see in theaters this week aside from bloated Hollywood Oscar contenders, your best bet is the Grand Illusion's revival of the brilliant F. W. Murnau silent film Sunrise (starts Fri Dec 26), or the Little Theatre's celebration of New Cult Cinema--which includes the locally made Gory Gory Hallelujah (Fri Dec 26), the locally made double feature Benny, Marty and Jerkbeast with Polterchrist (Sat Dec 27), and the Seattle premiere of Brewster McGee (Sun Dec 28), all three with the filmmakers in attendance.