In 1985 I graduated from an elementary school in a suburban neighborhood of Orange County, CA. Being a sixth grader had been a wonderful experience because at my school that was the highest grade you could be in. I was a big shot even if I wasn't a big shot. Also, it seemed like I was close with everyone in my sixth grade class. There were no social boundaries. Everybody was equal and everybody was friends.
I knew something was different the morning I went to school for my seventh grade year. First of all, I was no longer going to the same elementary school but a middle school where I was going to be bussed into a different area. This was one of a few local middle schools and as such kids from many other elementary schools went there. A lot of kids. It was also known that this new school was different. It was much tougher (not in an academic sense) than the previous elementary school I went to and on the first day, as I walked through those halls and saw four times as many kids, graffiti on the walls and everything moving at a much quicker pace, I knew that I was out of my element.
It took me a long time to realize just how much things had changed. That many of my old friends, even some of my best ones, could be effected in very sad ways by this new environment. In addition to having to deal with a tougher more aggressive group of kids, it seemed like all of the friends in my "circle" were adapting to this new environment while I wasn't. This was cause for a lot of laughter on their part and as such, I spent the majority of that year trying to create a place for myself in this new world. In short, at the age of 12 I had my first introduction to the real world.
In 1997, I finally sat down and fashioned a screenplay out of this experience. It was originally called 1985-1987. The script was 400 pages and it also chronicled the aftermath of that year. Stupidly, I thought the script could be made at this length and I actually pitched it around to some production companies that way. Once they found out the size of the script making the movie wasn't even up for discussion. So I put it aside but I always thought about it.
Then, in 2003, I saw an ad for a drawing program in an issue of MacWorld. It seemed simple enough and for some reason I just casually emailed them to find out if they made an animation program where "I could draw characters and make them talk to one another." I was then referred to a company called Toon Boom Studios. After asking them a million questions I decided to buy the program. I realized if I worked really hard with it, I could make 1985-1987. In addition to this I could also make other films and I would no longer be restricted by my constant lack of funds. Animation would afford me the freedom to make any film I could imagine.
It would just take a lot of time.
So I spent a year working with the program. I rewrote the screenplay turning it into 1985-1986, and I taught myself a lot about editing, scoring music with programs like Garage Band and Soundtrack, and getting good sound when recording people's voices into my eMac. Then I drew the movie for 10 months, edited it for another 11 and in 2006 the film was completed.
After passing on some offers by distributors to put out the film, I decided to release 1985-1986 myself on July 17, 2007. I chose this day mainly because that's when one of my favorite '80s movies, Red Dawn, comes to DVD in a Special Edition. I have also made the first 10 minutes of this movie available on the site. Among other things, they chronicle that morning I mentioned previously when I realized just how different my new school was going to be.
I can't believe that 1985-1986 is coming out and I am finally done with it. Although, I don't know if you're ever really done with anything creatively, because it seems like the themes you care about keep popping up in the things you make.
Anyway, enjoy this opening segment of the film....
1985-1986 is a coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old boy named Erol who begins attending a new middle school in a rough neighborhood. His new environment is different from the safety of the suburbs he has always known. Erol ends up falling in with a bad crowd and is introduced to a world of smoking, alcohol, drugs and punk rock. Ultimately, Erol realizes that the best person he can be is himself.