From `Witch' to `Dreamers'

Movies: Director of photography for the surprise summer hit turns to making a `labor of love.'

Film

October 15, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach and Ann Hornaday | Chris Kaltenbach and Ann Hornaday,SUN STAFF

His work on "The Blair Witch Project" has given Neal Fredericks' name some notoriety. Now he's hoping his latest film, "Dreamers," will do the same for his skills.

"It's put me on the map as far as being a legitimate director of photography in Los Angeles, and that's all that really matters to me," Fredericks says of his work on "Blair Witch," the indie film that cost $30,000 to make and has gone on to gross nearly $140 million. "But it's just another film that I shot, when you come down to it.

"But `Dreamers' is a real movie. `Blair Witch' was always intended to never really be a traditional movie, the way it looks. The fate of the film was left in the actors' hands. `Dreamers' is really a labor of love."

Fredericks, 30, a southern California native who grew up in Chevy Chase and started studying camera work while a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, will be in town this weekend to introduce "Dreamers" at the Charles' Cinema Sundays, scheduled for 10: 30 a.m. Sunday.

The film was written and directed by his wife, Ann Lu, who came to the United States from China in 1993 to pursue her dream of making movies. Much of "Dreamers," the tale of two boyhood friends struggling to conquer Hollywood, is based on her experiences.

The movie has been shown at several West Coast film festivals and was recently picked up by a distributor. Although Fredericks can't name the company yet, he expects "Dreamers" to see a limited release before next summer.

"Audiences have really liked this film," he says from his parents' Laurel home. "The thing about it is, you don't have to be a filmmaker to identify with the characters in it. Anybody who has ever aspired to attain a goal, an almost unattainable goal, can see themselves."

Visually, Fredericks says, "Dreamers" has offered him the best chance yet to display a visual style all his own. Each character, he notes, is given an individual color scheme, to reflect his or her personality. The film also offers the occasional surreal twist, dreamlike sequences that allow him to manipulate the camera into doing what it normally wouldn't do.

"As the DP, you have to have your own style," Fredericks says. "I create my own style [using] my instincts and my eye and the script of the film I am shooting."

Fredericks and Lu met while working in Atlanta on a film called "Compelling Evidence," a film he says was "so bad, we had nothing better to do than sit around and talk about films."

That film has never been released in U.S. theaters and has only been seen on cable. "Dreamers," he notes with pride, both deserves and is realizing a better fate.

Individual tickets for Cinema Sundays are $15 and may be purchased Sunday beginning at 9: 45 a.m. Coffee and bagels will be served. Four-film "mini-memberships" are available for $56 ($48 for renewing Cinema Sundays members). For information, call 410-727-3464.

Fredericks also appears at 7: 30 tonight in Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium at Towson University with fellow Towson grad Ricardo Moreno, who did art direction for "Blair Witch."

Film fest on tour

The Maryland Film Festival kicks off its Fall Tour on Thursday at the Slayton House theater in Westminster. Two of the festival's most popular films, Paul Zinder's "Mom Mom Loves Herbert" and Elizabeth Holder's short film "Weekend Getaway," will visit Frederick the following Friday, then Annapolis and Easton the following week. Zinder and Holder will be on hand to answer questions.

For theater information, visit the festival's Web site at www.mdfilmfest.com, or call 410-752-8083.

Extras, they want you

"The Replacements," the football comedy starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, and "Cecil B. Demented," John Waters' new Baltimore-bred comedy, are looking for extras. "The Replacements" needs people in their 20s and 30s to be in a concert scene. Interested candidates should call the information line at 410-372-8116 or send a recent snapshot with their name, phone number and address on the back to Extras Casting, c/o The Replacements, P.O. Box 13066, Baltimore, Md. 21203.

Waters needs folks to be a part of his movie's action-filled opening scenes, when a movie star (played by Melanie Griffith) is kidnapped by a group of guerrilla filmmakers. The scene will be filmed at the historic Senator Theatre and will involve all manner of stunts, explosions and gags. Call 410-752-3181 and dust off your black-tie attire.

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