It is safe to say that the first Star Wars film changed the course of the film industry in the United States. With a spare budget, a cowboys and Indians script and some novel comedic touches, suddenly all things from far, far away galaxies were all the rave. Especially if you happen to be Patrick Read Johnson.
For Johnson, a nerdy-enough 15-year-old when the first Star Wars film came out, the George Lucas blockbuster was a life-changer. He claims that he saw the film 34 times when it first came out. After that, he turned himself into a kid-filmmaker on the order of Charles Kazny, the bossy teen filmmaker in the movie Super 8, who tries to make a zero-budget zombie movie, which sets the stage for the featured story concerning a homesick alien with a ghoulish appetite.
Johnson went on to a credentialed career in Hollywood, working on films such as Spaced Invaders, Angus, Baby’s Day Out, The Genesis Code and Dragonheart, in various turns a producer, writer and director. But the story close to his heart is 5-25-77, which is his autobiography that tells the story of a teenage film bug who spent his youth recreating scenes from Star Wars, Jaws and other films, in a decidedly feverish hero-worship that takes place in the bedroom community of Wadsworth, Illinois, where he grew up.
Ten years in the making, limping along due to a lack of funds, Johnson now says he has the final cut of 5-25-77 in the last stages of production and a distributor hovering nearby. He also says he’s had help from two Star Wars series producers, including Kathleen Kennedy, who produced The Force Awakens and Gary Kurtz, who produced A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.
All that remains is … well, a really great script and a few quirky sub-plots and some under-funded special effects and viewers will see a real-life dramatization of Super 8 meet Edward Woods (the director noted for his flying saucers spinning around on the end of visible pieces of string).
Johnson says that’s about right. He told Yahoo Movies that his special effects prowess in his fledgling years included firecracker propulsion on spaceships held aloft by wires. And, he says, he was warned for 5-25-77 not to make improvements on the make-do special effects he used as a kid. After all, you can probably earn more without capital than with it in your early years, anyway.
Expect a significantly timed release for 5-25-77, says Johnson, although one that will not interfere with release of The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars film, due out Dec. 18.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess where this one will go, except I can’t help but hear Charles Kazny screaming in my ear: “Production value! Production value!”
That, of course, remains to be seen.