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FILM CORNER - Return to the Island: How a Recut Lead To A Career Relaunch (Part One)

In my column last week, I talked about Laslo Films, my award-winning filmmaking friends in Washington, and in one part, I discussed how I met them in 2018 during a screening block that consisted of their film, Jeremiah's Woods, and my short film, Reaper Island: Redux, and how both films went home with awards (with Reaper Island: Redux winning the So Bad It's Good award). That particular time was the beginning of the career relaunch I needed after not making an original film since 2013.

This bigger picture all begins with my first short film, Reaper Island, which was made in 2008, and had its premiere at the Seguin Film and Arts Festival during a special block called Run What Ya Brung. Different filmmakers brought their films for a small audience to watch at the historic Palace Theater in my hometown of Seguin, Texas. The reception for a film that was meant to be a serious horror flick was pretty negative, and I will admit (looking back) that the film was extremely amateurish, I didn't know anything about copyright laws, and it was honestly not good.

However, the following years, I became better, especially with my storytelling and editing skills when I was attending Texas Lutheran University to the point where I didn't even want to mention Reaper Island to anyone. However, things changed drastically when several of my projects went into production hell and was cancelled or not made at all.

Right around 2017, I had every single film I made available to watch online, except Reaper Island. I decided to pull a Francis Ford Coppola and rework a new version of the film. The first task was finding the raw footage, which I eventually found on an old CVS DVD. The next task was harder with editing the footage to have the story run a bit more smoother, and after several tries, I released the final product online as Reaper Island: Redux.

The following year, one of my good friends (and fellow Texas Libertarians) Timothy Martinez asked me to send him a link to my Vimeo account, so he could watch the films I made after I told him that I had a collection of independent shorts I made from high school to college. After I did so, he eventually messaged me back, and told me that out of all of my films, he enjoyed Reaper Island: Redux. When I asked why, he told me that he found it to be a So Bad It's Good film, and that he could tell that I originally meant it to be a serious film (and the fact that in the new version, I admitted that the film was not great).

Soon, while browsing FilmFreeway, I noticed a film festival advertising that they had awards for films considered as either cult classic or So Bad It's Good. I asked Tim what were his thoughts about the festival, he replied, "Dude, submit it! It will win that award!" And so, on March 21, 2018, I submitted Reaper Island: Redux to be a part of the So Bad It's Good competition at the 2nd annual Austin Indie Fest.

After finding out it got selected on October 16th, I was excited. Reaper Island would have its chance to shine at a film festival again ten years after its original release, and in a new re-edited version too.

November 9th. I had my bags packed and went to the Holiday Inn Austin Airport for the festival I was highly anticipated for, and that evening, I would watch it on a big screen with other filmmakers in the same room. I was alone, nervous, but excited. In the room with me were the Laslo Boys, and we sat at our seats as the lights went down. The film played, and the room was filled with laughter at many of the scenes. It got to the point where I finally felt relaxed enough to laugh at the film myself. It was a highly positive reception. I was happy that I found my audience. After having a good time watching Jeremiah's Woods with the Laslo Boys, we went into the hotel's restaurant where we had drinks and talked about our films.

The following evening was the night of awards, and pretty much, we already know what happened...

That night inspired and encouraged me to make films again. Of course, the best idea of what to make didn't hit me until Halloween 2019 when I decided to make my first sequel.

To be continued next week!

Click on this link to watch Reaper Island: Redux.


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