The Mihigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, March 9, 1995- 5
'the four corners'
The little film that could
By Alexandra Twin
Daily Film Editor
Your brother's old girlfriend had
a cameo in the Blind Pig scene. The
guy down the hall was one of the
hippie guitarists in the Diag scene.
You stood outside Espresso Royale
that morning in the summer of 1993,
hoping to be an extra in one of the
rmany caf6 scenes. Whether you were
in it, knew someone in it or just saw
them filming it, "the four corners of
nowhere," a wholly locally -ade film,
has bolted through Ann Arbor,
swooped about the country and re-
emerged at its source, cut, assembled
and ready to be viewed by the people
it was made for.
"We're really excited. We feel like
we're coming home," said writer-di-
rector-producer Steve Chbosky at an
early morning breakfast at Amer's,
the only local cafd that will let the
wired young filmmaker smoke.
Chbosky -ablend of midwestern
friendliness and California-esque
good looks - was joined by his star
and co-producer, Mark Maclain Wil-
son, who plays Duncan, aphilosophi-
cal nomad and the film's core charac-
ter. (Wilson proceeded, inexplicably,
to hum "Girl, You'll be a Woman
Soon" sporadically throughout the
interview.) They were also joined by
Julia Thaxter-Gourlay, the actor who
plays the feminist Doreen, a support-
ing yet pivotal member of the group
of Ann Arborites whose lives the film
All three werejoined by one sleepy
reporter who attempted to both con-
sume a lot of caffeine very quickly
and begin to grasp the motivation and
struggle that drove on this unusual,
inventive first film, one that was re-
cently screened at the prestigious
Sundance film festival.
What happened was a young Uni-
versity of Southern California (USC)
film student (Chbosky) was sick of
seeing glossy versions of his so-called
life being portrayed by big Holly-
wood movies. He wanted to write
something more genuine, more sub-
stantial, but he wasn't sure how to
approach it. He took a road trip, dis-
covered America and the films of
independent maverick Hal Hartley,
and eventually found his way back to
Ann Arbor, his surrogate college ex-
perience and the residence of his best
pal from home (Pittsburgh), Univer-
sity theater student Mark Maclain Wil-
son, and his group of acting buddies.
Finally, in this environment,
Chbosky was able to write the script
that he'd always wanted to. "I finally
came of age and I said, you know
what? I'm sick of all these angst-
ridden things. I'mjust gonna have fun
and write characters that are happen-
ing now and just have a blast."
The script burst into existence and
the group teamed up, seeking money,
equipment and support whereverthey
could find it. 50 percent of the cast
and crew ended up coming from Ann
Arbor, 75 percent from Michigan.
Nobody was paid at the time.
"We're all friends and that's how
this got started. We're people who
have all chosen to have this life, to be
actors or filmmakers. There's just a
core there that's held us together...,"
said Chbosky, who wrote the script for
his struggling actor friends, if not di-
rectly about them. "I wanted to give
them an opportunity to celebrate a lot of
their spirit, not necessarily who they
were but where they're coming from."
Paramount and New Line Cin-
ema, two major production compa-
nies, were impressed enough with the
completed script that they were will-
ing to buy it from Chbosky, give it a
hot director and actors and market it
as the latest Generation X film. But
that was just the opposite of what he
was looking for.
"It's funny," said Chbosky,
"'Slacker' came out and everybody
heard about it and Hollywood went
'Oh shit. New target audience. Easy
marketing.' They create the myth, they
tell us 'This is what you are, by the way,
in case you didn't know.' Then, God
forbid, the films that they put out for us
don't make money, like "Singles" and
they go 'well, never mind about that
group They don't exist We'll put out
"The Mask" instead."'
"I think that people have been
frustrated with these (Gen-X) films
because they're all about our sup-
posed lack of direction, lack of drive"
said Wilson. "We're the psychology
generation. Everything's about find-
ing your inner sense of things and this
film is too, but a lot of that has to do with
timing. Most people I know are very
motivated. They'd like to do some-
thing. They're just not sure what yet."
So the guys decided to do some-
thing different and make it genuine.
The finished product is a humorous,
engaging, half-parody, half-heartfelt
narrative about a lost young drifter
who arrives in Ann Arbor, figures the
town out, helps its lost, kooky young
inhabitants gain a better understand-
ing of themselves, falls in love, and
then goes on his way, stronger for the
"We had never made a feature
film before," Wilson said.
"Our background was trial and
error," Chbosky said, "What really
helped was knowing that because of
the people cast, I could stumble
around, I could fall on my face as a
director but we'd still be able to pull
it off because of those people."
Despite this, the film still hacks a
distributor. What that means is that
even if they find out about it, most
people will not get a chance to see the
"We've had people tell us 'We
like your film but we don't have any
idea of how to market it,"' said Wil-
son. "We'd tell them, 'You don't have
to market it, just put it out there,
people will come, it'll win by word of
mouth.' But they really don't under-
stand that, so it's a matter of us going
out there and proving it to them."
Ultimately, they want to form a
production company called Ameri-
can Platypus, Ltd. that would enable
them to fund and help out with each
other's projects. Chbosky - whose
compositions and guitar work pepper
the film - likens the idea to "a band
situation where you work together,
then go off and do solo stuff so that
you can learn, then come back to-
gether. I can already think of at least
one film that I'd like to bring every-
body back for."
Although he admits to a penchant
for ensemble pieces, Chbosky has
recently completed a two-person ro-
mantic comedy about a librarian and
phone sex woman. He also wants to
make a documentary called "Rusty
the Anarchist" about "the most un-
likely revolutionary ever."
"Making a film," said Chbosky
"is like having a child."
But it's truly a labor of love "I
think that film, at its best, can almost
become its own religion...," he said,
"where the experience becomes tribal,
has that kind of resonance. Between
the Internet and modern technology,
everything is becoming smaller and
smaller and film almost becomes a
community for people."
The same has traditionally been
said of the independent cinema.
"But this felt like the year inde-
pendent movies died," said Chbosky.
"Granted, there's been something of
a surge in recent years, but it's almost
reached its peak. If people want more
independent cinema, if they're really
excited about it, they have to start
going to it."
Yet, getting people to check out a
small film that they don't know much
about is difficult. "We've worked on
this film for going on three years
now," said Chbosky, "and if we can
finally get an audience there that appre-
ciates things, not necessarily likes or
On the left we see Mark Maclain Wilson and Steve Chbosky in the center.
dislikes but Just takes the time to appre-
:i.e what we tried to do, then it was all
wort h it It's worth the trade. An hour
and 50 minutes for three years of our
lives I mean, I don't even know how
many 1ims are trying to do what we're
doing. All we ask is that if people really
love the il !at they spread the word."
It seems ihat they already have. In
a near-record Michiaan Theater turn-
out, tied for second only with the
premiere of "The Piano" in 1993, last
Saturday night's premiere of "the four
corners of nowhere" found people
being turned away at the door.
"the four corners of nowhere" will
be playing once more at the Michigan
Theater, this Friday night only, at
midnight. For more information, call
"-'. ~ - -
705 W. Cross
FN & SAte.
Sunglasses After Dark
*min. age 19 required*
The cast of the local film "the four corners of nowhere" waits for sex.
This is your chance to be part of the action, to get in the game. The Michigan Cheerleading Program will be holding open
tryouts for new persons interested in joining us on the sideline in the 1995-96 season. So, if you're athletic, crazy for Michigan
sports, like to travel, want a front row seat and are committed to being the best you can be - come on down and show your stuff
at the Michigan Cheerleading Tryouts. If you were a cheerleader in high school, if you were a gymnast or tumbler, even if
you've never cheered but are a good athlete - WE WANT TO SEE YOU! You could be great. Hey, you never know until you try!
Dig out those tennis shoes and sweats, bring a friend and we'll see you there.
MICHIGAN CHEERLEADING TRYOUT DATES - I.M. SPORTS BLDG.
Tuesday, March 7, 1995 7-9 pm Sunday, March 19, 1995 6-8 pm Saturday, March 25, 1995 4-7 pm
Sunday, March 12, 1995 6-8 pm Tuesday, March 21, 1995 7-9 pm Sunday, March 26, 1995
Tuesday, March 14, 1995 7-9 pm noon until we're done
Hail to the Victors....The Champions,of the West! GO BLUE!
For further info call. 313-525-1735 G
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UAT T r 1 D R DD V
;Il ~u. Ht 1," 1 -1 I- R~J~