‘Fanboy’ Thriller Shows San Diego Music Scene

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‘Fanboy’ Thriller Shows San Diego Music Scene

Listen to an interview with filmmaker Ben Johnson on the new movie “Fanboy”.

“Fanboy” is a new film from San Diego musician, writer and filmmaker Ben Johnson. It revolves around a fictional band, Xenos, and Freddie, the lopsided “fanboy” and talented drummer. The film, which premiered Jan. 14 as part of an evening of four screenings (mostly sold-out), has been shot at various concert halls in San Diego and is a welcome love letter but bittersweet to the music. scene that is currently on hiatus during the pandemic.

The project has been in the making for four and a half years. It all started after Johnson, who is the bar manager at the Casbah, worked on a few short films with Grant Reinero, Demetrius Antuna and Brian Desjean. They all wanted to make a feature film, and given that they are all involved in the music scene, it seemed appropriate to situate the story in the world of underground music. Johnson began writing in the spring of 2016.

“What I meant was what people would do for any slice of fame,” Johnson said. The group, Xenos, are struggling with the first gigs of their tour. Duane, the drummer, makes mistakes and cannot carry the band on stage. Meanwhile, Freddie – the “fanboy” – befriends the rest of the group and sneaks into their inner circle.

A side plot unfolds as we watch a rookie detective take on a homicide case on day one of his new assignment.

“That’s about how far we’d go to grab fame, sort of their last take. mainstream culture via crime drama, ”Johnson said.

Thomas Kitsos is Duane, the original drummer for Xenos, and Ben Johnson is Freddie, a deranged fanboy, in the movie “Fanboy”.

The story quickly delves into themes of aggression, violence, and male toxicity, especially when veiled by chivalry. “Freddie thinks he’s doing the right thing,” Johnson said. From the opening scene, we see Freddie enduring a series of acts of violence in a perceived form of self-defense justice.

“There is certainly a trigger for everyone, and the trigger is that their heart is in the right place, but how they trigger it and what they do to deal with the situation is obviously way beyond the way. that somebody really should deal with these certain situations If you see an injustice, you’re not trying to immediately annihilate the person who commits these little injustices, ”Johnson said. “He’s out of balance, but to him that makes sense. And he doesn’t see himself as a toxic man; he sees the world as so out of balance that he has to correct the behaviors of others.”

An early conversation between the group and a bartender reveals that Freddie also derailed his own success in groups through violence. “He’s a guy who almost got it too,” Johnson said.

Xenos, the fictional group, are made up of people Johnson has played with in the past. Xenos features Brenda (Alia Jyawook), Gilberto (John Cota), Sally (Arabella Harrison) and original drummer, Duane (Thomas Kitsos). Jyawook and Harrison are music teachers and helped Johnson write the original songs the group performs throughout the film.

Even beyond the group, the film is a who’s who of San Diego music but never feels free – not even Pall Jenkins’ somewhat absurd cameo as a bug. The choice to recruit local musicians or spectators was partly out of necessity (“I don’t really know any actors,” Johnson admitted) and partly to build an authentic group.

Freddie chillingly shakes Duane’s already waning confidence in his drumming skills, as well as the group’s confidence in Duane, and the two actors lead a compelling and unsettling rivalry. And when Duane abruptly leaves the group, it’s Freddie’s great chance to become famous. It may also be Xenos’s luck.

The performance scenes are visceral – filled with the double awkwardness and energy of performing in small venues.

Fictional band Xenos stars in the Whistle Stop in Ben Johnson's feature film,

The fictional group Xenos stars in the Whistle Stop in Ben Johnson’s feature film “Fanboy”.

Grant Reinero, the cinematographer, said the lack of production budget was a silver lining – especially with sets in smaller clubs. While many are tagged as being in fictional towns as the band continues their tour, they are undoubtedly our local concert venues like Soda Bar, The Casbah, The Whistle Stop, Bar Pink and more.

“The windowless simplicity of these places made it easier to control the light and allowed us to achieve continuity throughout the shoot. The minimalist interiors contributed to the composing style of the film’s comic book and cut down on time. and the effort typically required for the set design, ”said Reinero.

Although fictional, Xenos recorded original songs for the film in the studio with Demetrius Antuna, who worked on the original score for the film. In addition to the fictional group’s performances, Antuna’s soundscape plays a more insidious and disturbing role – and intensifies the darkness.

Antuna began to associate each character with a particular instrument or sound that would add thematic influence when that character was the center of a scene – for example, whenever Freddie joins a conversation, Antuna used a singing bowl. Tibetan to add an underlying wind current.

“And every time Freddie starts acting like a psychotic you hear Tuvan’s throat singing swelling in the background. That throat singing gets very intense when he gets angry and takes over everything,” he said. said Antuna. And the scenes involving the detectives were accompanied by double bass and vibraphone.

“The idea was to make the viewer feel like they are experiencing something strange, something nasty, something that is not of this world, not of their own mind or reality,” Antuna said, citing broad multidisciplinary influences on the score such as Ray Bradbury, David Lynch and vintage noir jazz.

The late Alberto Jurado is Ronnie, the likeable commodity dealer, in the film "Fanboy."

The late Alberto Jurado is Ronnie, the sympathetic merchist, in the movie “Fanboy”.

As the film is finally released to the public, there is much to mourn: the lack of live music or nightlife during the pandemic, the loss of income and livelihoods of many members of the music community involved in the production and the lack of an evening out and performance.

It has also been almost exactly a year since Death Eyes musician Alberto Jurado passed away in January 2020. Jurado, who was adored by many in San Diego, delightfully portrayed the role of the group’s salesman in the film.

“He controlled the camera just like he controlled the scene,” Johnson said. For him, remembering Jurado shows him what’s important: not the relentless pursuit of fame, but caring for loved ones and the community, and he hopes this film is part of Jurado’s legacy.

“I think there will be tears of joy when people see Alberto on the big screen, almost a year from the date of his loss,” said Antuna.

“Fanboy” premieres at South Bay Drive-In in four screenings on Thursday, January 14. Future festival screenings remain to be determined.



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