Starting next Wednesday, the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival will kick off with a new documentary of Steve Jobs and run through Sunday, May 31. It will feature 50 films, including 16 features over those five days. All films were completed in 2014 or 2015, and none have had a theatrical release. Festival passes cost $125, but give you 15 transferable movie passes. In other words, several friends can realistically go in on the same pass or passes.
This week, The Sheet had a chance to preview one of the festival’s documentary entries, entitled “Twenty Years of Madness.”
The film is about Jerry White Jr., the de facto leader of a cast of teens and 20-somethings who produced a cutting edge public access show called “Thirty Minutes of Madness” in the mid-1990s in suburban Detroit.
At the time, the “Madness” crew had aspirations of being discovered, having a show on MTV, going big-time.
Alas, they weren’t discovered, and in-fighting led to the group’s demise.
Twenty years later, White returns to Michigan to “get the band back together” for a reunion episode.
White co-produced the documentary with fellow USC Film School alum Jeremy Royce, who also directed the film.
As Jeremy explained, the two not only went to USC together, but also happened to be housemates. The more Jeremy learned about Jerry’s old crew, the more he became inspired to make a film about it.
Sheet: How does the original material hold up?
Jerry: Obviously, I’m biased … but there’s something charming about it, kids experimenting, finding their voice. And the material got better as we got older.
Jeremy: From the lens when it was made, it was pretty innovative.
While Jeremy used clips and montages of the old show in the documentary, both he and Jerry found that when they tried to insert a full skit, it messed with the film’s pacing, so they abandoned the idea. Old skits and episodes of “Madness” can be found at 30mom.com.
So as one can imagine, when we pick up the story 20 years later, much has happened. In short, life has kicked many of the cast members in the ass. And old grudges die hard. But Jerry has matured, and he finds ways to build bridges and reconnect with these old friends he loves so much, warts and all.
Sheet: Is there a market for geriatric MTV?
Sheet: It’s okay. I’m older than you.
Jerry: There are more niche audiences. More audiences looking for the arcane, the authentic. There are a lot of people who see the show and they say it reminds them of themselves, their friends … The key is to make a show for yourselves first. Make your friends laugh. If you’re honest and have a distinct voice, people will find you.
“If nothing else,” said Jerry as a parting piece of advice to young auteurs, “don’t cater to an audience you don’t know.”
The other piece of parting advice is not stated, but rather lived and depicted. Jerry didn’t go back to finish college until he was in his mid-20s, and didn’t enroll in Film School until he was well into his 30s.
There’s a real inspiration in watching a guy, the son of two career Ford employees, a person with no film industry pedigree or connections, keep pursuing his dream. Obviously, his friend Jeremy Royce was inspired enough to spend a few years of his life dedicated to this project.
In the absence of Siskel and Ebert, you’ll have to settle for Lunch’s thumb up.
This film will screen at 12 p.m. on May 30 at the USFS Auditorium.