I’ve never posted anything about this here on The Rock Father, but if you’ve known me or followed my writings online, you’ve probably seen mention of a film called 5-25-77 at some point over the past ten years. If you live in Lake County, Illinois, or you’ve fancied yourself a fan of independent cinema, or you consider yourself a STAR WARS fan, then it’s quite possible that you also know the film of which I’m speaking. Despite what trolls on sites like IMDb will tell you, 5-25-77 (later ’77 then back to 5-25-77 again) is a very real film – and one that was most certainly shot. It is not a hoax, an urban legend, or anything but a film that’s been hit with a ton of roadblocks over the years. Now that road has opened up once more.
I first heard about 5-25-77 back in 1999 or so, as a then-frequent visitor to certain websites from which I’d later move away. Chat rooms and message boards were abuzz about the screenplay by writer-director Patrick Read Johnson, a filmmaker whose SPACED INVADERS was an important part of my summer of ’91 (rented it on VHS about 10 times), and who made the also-fun ANGUS. What I didn’t really put together until a couple of years later was that Johnson and I were living about ten minutes apart.
Jumping ahead to 2002, and I got a call to help do some “test footage” for an investment trailer for the film. I did some ground-level street shots as an Assistant Cameraman in front of the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois for what would double as the day that STAR WARS was first released – May 25, 1977. It would be another two years, but 5-25-77 eventually was filmed as a full-blown motion picture.
I’d pop in again as a background “High School Student,” loan the production some film stock, and pay frequent visits to the set just to visit some friends. In 2004-2005, it seemed that everyone I knew was working on 5-25-77 in some capacity. This little movie about a kid from Wadsworth, Illinois heading for Hollywood had become a reality – but not without problems.
Like so many indie films, money was an issue and eventually, there just wasn’t anymore. The film was cut and recut and screened in various incarnations over the years. I don’t know all the sordid details about the who, what, and why of all the years that have passed, but 5-25-77 has been slowly moving toward completion. One thing I’d considered is that no film with Lake County ties could be completed without disaster. Having gone through my own debacle with DEATH WALKS THE STREETS, then seeing a couple of other folks have filmic issues on other projects following the production of ’77, I thought that there was “something in the water,” and maybe there still is. A 2009 catch-up interview with Johnson that was written by yours truly appeared on the website for the late STARLOG magazine (read an archived version here) and indicated that things were in the works once more…
A lot has changed since 5-25-77 went in front of the cameras. Lead actor John Francis Daley has become quite the TV star and screenwriter. His on-screen nemesis and one of my closest real-life friends, Justin Mentell died in a car accident in 2010. Many of the locations used in the film are now a memory. It all feels so distant… as if it happened so long ago.
So here we are approaching the 35th Anniversary of the day that STAR WARS first hit screens… 5-25-12. Johnson and ’77 are about to take another journey…
One of the common misconceptions about 5-25-77 is that “it’s a movie about STAR WARS,” and that’s not really the case. It’s a coming-of-age tale that involves STAR WARS, but as more of a MacGuffin that happens to be based on a true story. It’s a movie for people that love movies – and while my love of cinema has faded tremendously in recent years, the films whose DNA have wound up in 5-25-77 will always be important. These are movies like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND… PLANET OF THE APES… JAWS… and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
The bottom line is that 5-25-77 needs about $500K in finishing funds, mostly for visual FX and soundtrack licensing. As Pat indicated via my own Facebook page today, distributors are interested – but only in a 100% finished film.
So now comes the “jumpstart.”
On 5-25-12, Pat will embark on a road trip followed by a 7-person crew headed by filmmaker James Gelet (his JAWS doc THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING arrives with the JAWS Blu-ray on August 14th!) to document the 30-day journey, as they visit important cinematic locations, screen the 5-25 rough cut for potential investors, and have a big adventure on the way to deliver the film to “three very important people that inspired it.”
They’re looking for $30K to jumpstart the $500K Kickstarter. Patrick and the crew are nearing the $2K mark as I type this, and you can help them financially right here:
That page also contains the full statement on what is going on, and it’s very important to get the scoop directly from Johnson himself. It’s all there.
What would be cool is if someone with deep pockets just said “F-it, here’s the money” and tossed down the $500K like a true player. A lot of people have put in a bunch of money – a ton of work – and a ton of time when it comes to this film, and I believe it will find an audience.
Since I have another new baby due in less than a month, my wife WILL KILL ME if I toss any cash at this. But if you have it to give? Please do, and help bring this saga to a triumphant close.
Curious to learn even more? Follow Patrick Read Johnson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/moonwatcher1