SIXTEEN STORIES (2000)
"Sixteen Stories" is an independent film Eric produced while a senior in high school. The last of the films he made while in high school, "Sixteen Stories" existed in rough cut form for two years, until 2002 when Eric finally completed the ambitious project. The original 2000 black and white version, and the 2002 cut are both available online. The film features a massive cast of characters, portrayed by amatuer and professional talent from the Portland, Maine area.
"Sixteen Stories" was mostly shot on VHS videotape and Digital 8 tape, utilizing a Panasonic professional grade camcorder and Sony Digital 8 camcorder. The Panasonic AG-456 SVHS model is Eric's best guess as to which specific camera model was used for his initial movemaking. Eric utilized the camera between 1998 and 2000, and it was the property of the Portland Arts & Technology High School in Portland, Maine.
"Sixteen Stories" was produced as an independent film, but with some resources from the Portland Arts & Technology High School, where Eric was enrolled in a video technology course. Ultimately it is considered to be a half student and half independent project.
The movie was shot in Portland, Maine and in Eric's hometown of Long Island, Maine. Some insert shots were filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. However, these shots only appear in the 2002 version. Previously, Eric had used a shot of downtown Portland as a placeholder for Vancouver. Upon attending film school in British Columbia, Eric picked up the shots with an 8mm video camcorder.
One insert shot in the 2002 version was shot with a Sony TRV-900, miniDV camcorder.
Clip: "Ending Sequence"
The elevator used as the primary set of the film was a working elevator at Back Bay Tower in downtown Portland. Because one of Eric's peers lived in the building at the time, they were able to get access. Some of the establishing shots of Portland were taken from the roof of the same building.
Eric's Personal Reflections:
I had pitched the project to my instructor, Mr. Beane in September of my senior year of high school. I told him my intention was to make a film that I could submit to Sundance, and that it would probably take me all year. In fact it took me longer, and I never got it into any kind of film festival. I actually got an A in my first term in video tech, and a B the year I produced this. I have no doubt the B is a result of my focus on this project, and less on the assignments. Regardless, Mr. Beane told me that I was his "first success story" after he found out that I had enrolled into film school.
The most enjoyment came from filming the stories within the film. "The Box Cottage", "When the Day's Done," stand out as good memories for me. "The Story of Charles", while I had fun, and some of the shots are lovely, didn't end up what it was supposed to be. Too many things didn't pan out. I guess "The Story of Charles" is in one way or another indicative of what filmmaking has become for me: one concession after another until the project has little or not meaning. "The Story of Charles" certainly has no meaning.
On the Two Versions:
I cut the first version, utilizing all the footage I had. Because I was cutting on a Media 100, which was inferior to Avid in every conceivable way, I decided to make all of the footage black and white. By doing this, I at least didn't have to deal with the lack of coloring that would otherwise be needed. This version was screened for some of the other teenagers in my hometown on several occassions, and once while I was in Vancouver.
When I got back from attending film school abroad, I shot my follow-up film, "Hero for a Day" and used that production as my ingress to acquire an Avid. After 'Hero' was completed, I reimported all of the raw footage for "Sixteen Stories" and re-cut it from scratch. This time I was able to do a better job adjusting the colors and playing with the widescreen mattes to give it more of a filmic look. In 2009 I utilized Final Cut Studio 2 to enhance the 2002 version by switching out and adding sound effects and ultimately remixing the entire soundtrack.
"Sixteen Stories" stars Greg Seymore, a regular of Eric's high school productions, Jen Roy, Steve Savage, Cade Brown and Tom MacVane. The film also featues a cameo from Project Greenlight winner Kyle Rankin, director of Reindeer Games, The Battle of Shaker Heights and Pennyweight. "Sixteen Stories" was a family affair in some ways. Eric's sister plays an important role in the project, and in the 2002 version his parents both provided voices for some of the characters.
"Sixteen Stories" can be broken down into five primary segments.
Part 1: The Elevator
The story is set in what was, at the time of production, the future. It is New Years Eve and 2005 is on its way. Three people, Brad Pierce, Ryan Plevyak and Lara, (Greg Seymore, Steve Savage and Jen Roy) get stuck in an elevator because a drunk driver (Brian Hinds) has taken out a power line. Our three main characters pass the time by telling stories, which Eric utilizes as a mechanism to exhibit three short films within the greater movie.
Part 2: Ezra & Wesley
Eric plays Ezra, and Cade Brown plays Wesley. These are two characters dispatched by Mr. Mackenzie, played by Kyle Rankin, to oversee the management of a building in Portland. Coincidentally, this is the same building where the elevator has gotten stuck.
Part 3: Ryan's Story | "The Story of Charles"
This is the first of the short films within the greater film, and is a relatively silent/comedic affair. The segment stars Branden Geistert and features an original music score by Jeff Cusack.
Part 4: Lara'sStory | "When the Day's Done"
This is the second of the short films, and the only part of the film that is an adaptation of piece of literature. Eric adapted this segment from a short story that Cade Brown wrote. This segement features Eric's sister, Melissa, Cade's sister Lauren and his brother Henry.
Part 5: Brad's Story | "The Box Cottage"
This is the third and final story. "The Box Cottage" features Buoy Whitener, who was previously featured in Eric's earlier film "The Chaste Prophecy." In this sequence, Buoy explores a deliapidated house, purported to be haunted. From the street, the way the windows and deck look, it seems as if the house is smiling at the observing. This is supposed to be one of Brad's memories of when he was younger. There is a moment when Buoy, as a younger Brad, gets taken away in an ambulance. The extras for this scene were members of the Long Island Volunteer Fire & Rescue, and agreed to participate in the project free of charge.