The Short Film Career of Bill Johns – By Duane L. Martin

 The Illegitimate Son of Dr. Jekyl – This short was made to look like an old silent film. The look of the film was great, and post editing effects gave it a genuinely old look. The film is a comedy in which Dr. Jekyl drinks his potion and turns into Groucho Marx. Then his hunchback assistant drinks it and turns into a beautiful girl. The doctor comes back, they fall in love and go into a secret room to make sweet love down by the fire. The only thing I would have changed in this one was some of the music. It really took away from the old fashioned feel of the film. Other than that it was great. Especially the laboratory set, which was nifty keen.

The Last Straw – This hot chick goes to a disco with her friends where she’s confronted by a guy she slept with the week before. She blows him off so he pushes her into the DJ stand. She didn’t like that one little bit and basically beats the snot out of him in front of everyone. Then at the end she hooks up with a much nicer guy. The look of the film was great. The background music levels dropped too low during the fight scenes though, and the movements during the fight could have been snappier and more action packed. All in all it was a good little film that was originally produced for Miramax’s Project Greenlight competition. The version for the competition had to be cut down to three minutes, but this is the full six minute version.

Too Good to be True – Nice little vampire flick where a beautiful vampire leads a guy up to her loft and has sex with him before finally biting him on the neck and killing him. Nothing overly different or special with regards to the story, but the look of the film was great and there’s a really nice effect where her fangs grow out. Soft lighting and slight overcontrasting are used very effectively to accentuate the look and feel of the environment.

Left for Dead – A young girl’s father lays dying of cancer, and as she stuggles to deal with the reality of his impending death, she begins to contemplate bringing about her own death. The acting isn’t very good in this one and the dialogue for the kids is totally unbelievable as kids just don’t talk like that. Actually, I take that back. The acting was decent, it was the line delivery that was bad. Add that to the unrealistic dialogue and it was a bad mix. The story is depressing and was inspired by true events, but some more work on the quality of the line delivery and the dialogue itself would have done wonders for this film. On a technical level it looks absolutely great with good lighting, well set up shots and great sound. The editing was also well done and moved the story along nicely. The make-up was quite well done as well. The father with cancer really looked horrible. There was only one scene where it looked unrealistic because the make-up was caked on too thick, but otherwise it all looked very real.

We Have Your Daughter – A rich girl is kidnapped by two men who deman a randsom from her father for her safe return. During the ordeal, she develops a relationship with one of the men. Basically it’s a typical kidnap story. Again, like in Left for Dead, the physical acting was decent but the line delivery and the dialogue were out of place and unbelievable. There’s also a section of dialogue in the middle that totally telegraphs the ending. It might as well have been a singing telegram it was so obvious. On a technical level, like all the other films in this compilation, it looked great. The story moved along well, the editing was tight and very well done, the lighting was good and all the shots were set up nicely. The only real technical problem with this film was that there were spots where the dialogue became almost inaudible. There weren’t many spots like that, but there were a few. Again, on a technical level, a great film. On a story level, it could have used some more work. This film did however win for Best Action Short at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival and a feature length version of it was also written called "The Reunion".

Psyclone – A Twisted Tale – This was a production being shot on 35mm film that was supposed to have financing, but the project stalled before the financing could be secured and they were only able to shoot two days worth of footage. These are nothing more than a few scattered scenes from various parts of the movie, but again show what a great filmmaker Bill Johns is. The whole look and style of the footage is equal to the quality you’d see in any big budget hollywood production. I can’t comment much on the story, but it’s basically about a scientist who’s been doing cloning experiments, and I assume that as some point in the movie he was going to try it on a human. This film had higher quality actors, but there were still a couple that had poor line delivery, which can throw off the whole balance of a film. The majority seemed like very competent actors though and it would be great to see this film turned into a full length feature.

Bill Johns has a lot of talent as a filmmaker. The writing and story development end of things could use some work, but as a filmmaker he’s really very good. This is a great collection of short films that show just how stylized and high quality low budget films can be nowadays and the collection as a whole is a nice introduction to his work. Bill is currently working on a feature length film called Madness about a crazed teenage killer in a house full of hot young girls. Madness is set for release in Spring 2006. If you’d like find out more about Bill’s work and check out the trailer for Madness, you can visit his website at http://cinevidproductions.com. Also, you can also pick up your own copy of The Short Film Career of Bill Johns for just $10, which also includes the Madness trailer and some special features for a couple of the films.