Lights, Camera, Action...

Sly Filmmaker Makes Fox Star Of His First Work

January 15, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Two months of plodding across muddy fields, lugging heavy camera equipment and filming baying hounds and hunters on horseback had paid off.

Jonathan F. Slade whirled his camera at the hunter's cry of "tally-ho," catching the sleek brown fox in his viewfinder for 20 seconds as it raced away into the cover of a thicket.

He captured six seconds of his documentary's star on tape.

"Ittook me a while to focus," he said with a laugh. "But I finally got him."

Slade, 26, is writer, director and producer of "The Hound, the Horse and the Horn", a story of fox hunting with the Carrollton Hounds.

When completed, the film will be the property of Carroll Community Television, which will broadcast it on Channel 55. And, Slade said, he will have a piece for his portfolio -- a work of which he can be proud.

"This film is completely my vision," he said. "It willstand and fall or succeed with me."

A graduate of Western Maryland College, Slade earned a master's degree in fine arts last May at the University of Southern California. He then landed a job as production assistant on the set of the "Doogie Howser M.D." television series.

"I was just a go-fer; I was looking at getting coffee for years and years," he said with a laugh. "I did get to wash Stephen Bochco'scar."

Two months later, he decided the Hollywood scene was not for him. He packed his bags and headed home to Carroll, where he sees afuture in film-making.

"I wanted to get away from all the traffic, smog, gangs and drugs," he said. "In California, there's no real life. Everybody is sniffing out somebody else trying to get a job. The constant pressure to succeed ends up undercutting creativity."

Here, Slade said, the pace is less pressured, and he found people willing to help him get a start. Since he was experienced and certified to use camera equipment, Channel 55 Maryland Public Television lent him gear. All he needed was a project.

"What do I know enough about tomake a documentary?" he wondered.

His answer: fox hunting.

As a child, Slade had often accompanied his parents on fox hunts around the countryside. The Carrollton Hounds still give chase every Wednesday and Sunday, and members were willing to be Slade's subjects.

Hesaw the film as a chance to teach people about the sport.

"They call it a hunt, but it's really a chase which the fox always wins," hesaid.

"The fox is about 100 times smarter than a hound. If you had 100 hounds and one fox, the dogs would still be outnumbered."

He's been working on the 20-minute film since October, and hopes to wrap it up soon.

"I keep pushing my self-imposed deadline back," he said. "I find one more person to interview, and I'm like a kid in a candy store

with all this equipment here."

While he's making movies, he works as a free-lance assistant producer for Maryland Public Television to earn a living.

"I am lucky. If I had a standard 9-to-5 job, I couldn't do this," he said. "I make enough money to pay the bills and still have time to work on projects that mean a lot to me."

Slade has plans for other movies, and has written two scripts for"character-driven, slice-of-life tales." His stories have heart, he said, not car chases and nuclear explosions.

"In Hollywood, they don't care about a good story unless it's going to make them a million," he said. "There's no heart in films. They spend $70 million on sets, special effects and actors and wind up with a piece of trash.

"They make a lot of money with movies like 'Batman' and 'Dick Tracy,' but who will remember them in 10 years? People want to

be entertained, but they also want some kind of connection."

When he was accepted in USC's graduate program, which he called one of the best film schools in the country, Slade said he felt he had to go. When he finished, he had to come home.

"I wouldn't wish Los Angeles on anybody," he said. "I had to go through it to realize that coming back here was the best thing."

Slade said he's not an ambitious man. He saidhe would like to make "small, low-budget local films" and earn enough money with them to make more.

"I want to work here with people who enjoy making a movie, not somebody who is hacking out a living."

He advises others against going Hollywood.

"I saw the front doorout there," he said of his Hollywood experience. "I'm going to find the back door in the film industry. I know it's here."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.