Diversions :: Fruit Bats on Film Favorites

(Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.)

For fans, Fruit Bats re-entry this year, both touring and on record, was something to behold (be sure to track down that tour EP they were hawking from earlier in the year). Today's Diversions catches up with Fruit Bats' Eric Johnson as digs in to the genesis of his love of film and then runs down some of his favorites from the '20s - '00s. The band is presently gearing up for a European tour later this month with the Vetiver gang.   Catch them live if you're overseas.

I was big into movies, even way back when. I had a subscription to Premiere magazine when I was in sixth and seventh grade. I used to put together my own year-end best-of lists - I specifically remember that Goodfellas and Die Hard tied for Best Picture in 1990. From third grade through ninth I wrote a number of detailed and unintentionally hilarious screenplay treatments. One was a Meatballs style sex romp about a hospital in Antarctica. Another was about a kid who’s family buys a piano inhabited by the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, and the child’s subsequent relationship with the dead president. In ninth grade, I attempted two extremely ambitious projects. The first was an epic biography of a fictional guy who went from privileged banana plantation owner to Central American freedom fighter. The next was based on the Vinland sagas, the purported historical story about Nordic exploration of the new world in the 11th century. I’m completely serious here.

My sophomore year, an actual film class was offered in my high school. I took it, and at age fifteen was introduced to Bergman, Fellini, French New Wave, ancient silent films, and my favorite, the 1970’s American mavericks. There was a mind-blowing moment in that class when I saw a jock tormentor of mine moved to tears over the ending of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Our final project was to make a movie on 8mm, edit it ourselves and present it to the class. My new obsession with Scorsese made it a simple choice for me, genre-wise. My ten minute short was about some low-level mobsters dumping a body in the forest preserve. Post-production tragedy struck when the Jewel-Osco photo developers lost my reel and gave me the wrong film - some kid’s soccer game. We never found the movie, and I’m pretty sure the teacher never believed my story, even when my mom called him to corroborate. My tenth grade opus is out there somewhere, I’d like to believe. At some soccer playing kid’s house.

At eighteen, I actually made an attempt at applying to film school.   But, the combination of no money and seriously bad high school grades meant that I couldn’t get in anywhere. I got eleven rejection letters. But luckily there is Columbia College in Chicago, an open admissions arts and engineering school that feels like a cross between the movie Fame and a community college. I went to sign up for class on the first day. This was in the waning days of pre-digital enrollment. You actually had to stand in line and put your name on paper. Needless to say, I didn’t get into one film class. I took four random classes, then bailed on college forever. Shortly thereafter I discovered 4-tracking, started to play in bands, started to tour. My film career was put on indefinite hiatus.

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