Friday, April 30, 2010

An Impromptu Audience With a Short Man

Aundre Johnson with joystick at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by Elisabeth Trydal Andersen.

I think director Aundre Johnson might be a little miffed if I were to reveal the mystery star in "The Third Rule," his short about two unemployed slacker dudes Don (Jason Biggs) and Peter (Joel Moore) who have two days to pay rent - or hit the road Jacks.

Besides The Daily, the rag that is reporting about doings at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, has already outed him on the front page. One outing per festival is enough.

I'm sure that this veteran director of short films who has a day job as a producer of original content for Twentieth Century Fox Television and who runs the film production company, Posh Films, wouldn't mind if I dropped a few hints about the Star Who Won't Be Named. For instance, the actor has a title, an Oscar, a foreign accent and he and the Los Angeleno have been friends for 10 years.

"We met at a party, and he came up to me and introduced himself," AJ said with just a tad bit too much insouciance during an informal chat in the Tribeca press center. He is chill about this association, but not every semi-unknown auteur is getting a casual phone call from this acting behemoth during which he asks for a part in his latest work, even if he did study film production at Chapman University and continued his higher education at The Richmond American International University in London and Coll├Ęge International de Cannes.

"The Third Rule," which has one last showing Sunday on a bill with other shorts, is generating quite a bit of buzz at Tribeca in its own right. According to the scuttlebutt, it is fresh and funny. Fans, however, should thank AJ's peeps for getting it in front of them. "It was a contact at Shorts International that sent my film to Tribeca," he said of the outfit that distributes his work. "I wanted this film to be in Tribeca but didn't submit until after they saw the film and asked me to send it in for consideration."

Imagine those odds. “The Third Rule,” for which AJ has feature-length aspirations, was one of 47 shorts selected from more than 2,000 submissions. And it was nominated in the Best Narrative Short category. "I knew it was going to be my film or one or two others. And one of them won,” he said referring to “Father Christmas Doesn't Come Here.” (More on that film and its director shortly).

Not bad for this quick-and-dirty affair. "I had four days to prep it," meaning the process of scouting locations, locking down props and a crew and all the other tedious business that must first happen before a frame of film can be shot.

This wasn't quite what he had in mind "but that is when the actor was available" and so went this bit of guerrilla filmmaking. AJ didn't even have a script; he wrote it as he went. When The Star entered the picture he felt a mild urgency to get a few more words on his blank pages. "When filmmakers talk about it taking two years to write a script, I'm like 'what have you been doing'" because clearly one can get a short done in four days. After all, it's not like anybody is building Rome.

“The Third Rule” will have a screening on the bill, "Shorts: Between the Lines," at 6 p.m. Sunday at Tribeca Cinemas. Visit for all Tribeca Film Festival information and venues.

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