About more than just beer

Indy filmmaker comes to Juneau to talk about filmmaking and the dreams of a brewmaster

Posted: Thursday, August 24, 2000

No beer commercial is ever made in the movie called "The Beer Commercial."

Seattle filmmaker Roald Simonson will present his 35-minute comedy, "The Beer Commercial" at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Goldtown Nickelodeon Theater. He'll also answer questions and talk about writing and producing an independent film at the free presentation.

The comedy, shot in Spokane, Wash., looks at the owner of a small microbrewery who seizes on the idea to make a television commercial that will air during the Super Bowl. In an outpouring of enthusiasm he tells a video store clerk his dream, and the clerk decides he's the man to make the commercial. He decides, in fact, that it's his big break, and sees the commercial as the next great thing in the evolution of cinema as an art form.

"You might extrapolate it's about a guy who wants to make a movie and wants to make it great," said Simonson. "It's more about trying to do it, and learning. And something else gets done instead."

"The Beer Commercial" showed last month in Seattle at the Bellvue Art Museum's Film and Video Festival. Seattle Times columnist John Hartl described it as, "A very funny half-hour piece about a self-inflated director's dream of creating the best commercial in the history of the world."

Simonson has an extensive background in theater and opera production. He'll be in Juneau and Sitka for the next few weeks stage managing the Cross Sound Music Festival.

He grew up in the Pacific Northwest and studied art history at Harvard University. For the past decade he's worked as an artistic director part of the year, staging opera productions in Europe and New York, and in theater in Seattle part of the year - all the while thinking about filmmaking.

He said this project has been his focus the last three years, writing the script, shooting the 16 mm film and attending to all the post-production responsibilities.

"It's a long difficult process. The shooting of it was about two weeks for the principle shooting - that's what everyone thinks is making a movie. And that is like riding a bucking bronco in a hurricane on the top of a mountain. But compared to post production, the editing and sound mixing, I would look fondly back to the shooting as the easy part," Simonson said.

Recent technology helped cut some of the post-production expenses.

"These days you can pretty much do things at home that two years ago would've been impossible, that would have cost $2,000 a week in a studio," he said.

Simonson worked on several other films to get a sense of how to best approach his project. One thing he discovered was that much of the directing can take place in the script.

"I knew the best thing I could do for it was to write it really well, the best I could, so I could give the script to the actors, the crew, and they would understand it and know what to do with it. I also knew I was doing my directing on the page, and I wouldn't have to do it at the shoot," he said.

He thought giving the script to everyone involved in the project was important. He said a guy hauling electrical cables around the set doesn't necessarily need to know what the movie is about, but he thought it was better for morale, teamwork and production.

Paul Redford and Don Hamilton play the leads. Simonson said Redford is a successful writer and producer in Hollywood, currently working as the co-producer of the T.V. show "West Wing."

Simonson has financed the movie, and said he's put pretty much everything he had into it. He's committed to establishing a career in filmmaking and considered going to film school. He decided to invest in a hands-on education instead.

"I looked at film school and the cost of film school, and thought I could do this myself, and it will cost less," he said. "What I want to do is feature-length movies. I have written a screen play, and I have another feature-length movie that's a follow-up to this."

Roald's brother, Bruce Simonson of Juneau, said his brother will be happy to talk about film making after the screening at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Nickelodeon.

"I'm sure that Roald's creative style, his general approach to film, and his insights about low-budget strategies for post-production will be entertaining and informative," he said.

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