On February 1st 2017 we attended opening night at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre. On the red carpet that night there were producers, directors, cinematographers, composers, and film fans around the world. There were people from “King of the Underdogs”, multiple people from the jury for the film festival, and all of the people behind the documentary charged. As we waited nervously for people to come out of their limos we prepared our questions and chatted with other student reporters from the Santa Barbara Middle School. They were just as excited as we were. The creators of King of the Underdogs arrived first. Derek Wayne Johnson(Director/Producer), Chris May(Producer), Emmett James(Producer), James Adamitis(Executive Producer), and Greg Sims(composer) stood in the entryway while Derek Wayne Johnson was being interviewed by a reporter. They slowly made their way up the red carpet stopping at all of the reporters.
We introduced ourselves and asked, “What were the greatest challenges of creating “King of the Underdogs”?” Derek responded with, “It took a very long time, it took three years from start to finish. So, I guess just keeping my investors happy because they invest money, and they want their money back. And also keeping the subject of our documentary, John G. Avildsen. John Avildsen won an oscar and made some of the greatest movies of all time. And now I’m making a movie about him. I have to keep him happy. And that was a challenge but I think it worked.” Then we asked him, “What was one of the most rewarding things about making this movie?” He said, “ One of the most rewarding things was accumulating the team that was brought together for this film. But also getting to be mentored by my hero John Avildsen, getting to work with Sylvester Stallone and Ralph Moncho and all of these great people. It was just so rewarding and I was so thankful.” When asked what his follow up project would be he replied, “We are currently doing a documentary after this one celebrating four decades of the known film “Rocky”. We are going to be working with Sylvester Stallone again, and we are going to do a film about Rocky, so ya I’m very excited. And we are also working with John Avildsen. Last we asked him, “Are you having fun?” He happily stated, “Yeah, as you can see I am the first person on this red carpet. Its great, it’s wonderful to be here in Santa Barbara. It’s a wonderful festival. Our teams excited and our movie premieres this Saturday, so that is very exciting.
Next came the musical composer for “King of the Underdogs”, Greg Sims. When asked what the challenges of composing a documentary was he replied with, “One of the challenges was using all these clips from different movies, some of them had music in them. So, I had to make sure to stay away and Derek the director wanted it to sound like a movie instead of a documentary. So, I put in dramatic music just like it would be in the movie.” Next we asked him if he enjoyed composing for King of the Underdogs. “Yes it was very fun, it’s always fun.” Last we asked him, “What is your next project?” He responded with, “Well the current project is a musical for broadway. We have written over 100 songs for the musical, and gone through so many rewrites.” He thanked us and walked away.
The next person to walk up the red carpet was a first time judge Jesus Lloveras for the film festival. The first question we asked him was what films are you looking forward to in the film festival. He said, “Being part of the Jury I have to watch a lot of Spanish films and a lot of Nordic films, so I am looking forward to watching them. There are so many awesome films that I will probably enjoy all of the eleven days of the film festival. When asked what he looks for in a film he responded, “I look for when they surprise me and that they kind of touch my heart, touch my soul. I like to enjoy them. What I look for in a film is when it makes me feel something and if that happens for me it is really special.” We also asked him if he was picky about films. “Yes, because I am a filmmaker, and I really like that people think a lot about making a film. I enjoy a lot of films, but there are only a few that I really love.”
Next came the cinematographer, Jennifer Jane, and Edgardo Garcia, the subject of the film of the documentary “Charged”. We interviewed Jennifer Jane first, then asked her, “What was one of the hardest things about producing a documentary?” She responded, “So, I was Edgardo”s girlfriend and I worked on a television show. Then Edgardo got injured. Basically we switched from filming for the t.v. show to filming the documentary. Honestly, the hardest thing was getting the phone call that he had been injured, and then still picking up the camera and trying to make something of the tragedy, then hopefully use this to motivate other people. For example when you watch the film during a really tough time you think oh okay just keep persevering.So, I think the toughest thing was the circumstances.” Then we asked her, “what were the most rewarding thing about the film?” She went on to say, “One of the most rewarding things was that Edgardo and I are exes now, but we are also really good friends. I think that is an awesome message. Just because you don’t necessarily want to spend your life with someone doesn’t mean they can’t be a significant part of your life. I think that’s a rewarding process to create something out of such tragedy and a incredibly bonded relationship out of that. They call it a trauma bond. So, I think that is the most rewarding thing is having that closest friendship. Next we asked her what was going on through her film. “Well I mean there are so many elements to this film I think there were some moments of being super super nervous…” At that point Edgardo Garcia, stepped in and asked if he could join the conversation. So, we asked him what was going in in his mind when he was watching the film. Edgardo responded, “Well there is a beautiful thing to journalism and documentary because it gives you an opportunity to take down the facts, which is usually through a moment that is really quite crazy, and then your focus is elsewhere. But once it’s been documented you can go back to that film, that story, and you can reread it, you can relive those emotions and those moments that you have forgotten. So it is a beautiful gift to be able to relive it and say wow look what we came from.” Jennifer added, “Also I think this is a personal story of ours and it has been a roller coaster of emotions and you think of extreme sadness and injury and those types of things now, and being very happy that we picked up the camera and started to film.”
Then we asked Edgardo if it was hard being himself in a documentary. “Honestly, it wasn’t hard to be myself in the documentary, it was the decision before the documentary saying; I am going to be myself. Once you have made the decision to be yourself and to leave the lies behind you and you say you know what I’m not going to hold anything back, it’s actually quite easy because there are no barriers or boundaries holding you back. You can just open it up.” Jennifer added, “And I think also it was in the hospital where I was filming and and he was on a bunch of medicines going in and out of operations so I don’t think anyone was really worried about what we looked like or anything like that. It was just a camera that was rolling, and we were just getting on with the main event, which we will be seeing in a couple of minutes. So anyway, it was kind of good that the circumstances were so severe . The last thing you think about is the camera rolling.” And with that, they wished us good luck with the write up and disappeared up the red carpet.