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Film Festival: <i>Deacon's Mondays</i>
San Diego filmmakers tell a simple but compelling tale

SAN DIEGO IS only a two-hour drive from L.A., but sometimes it can seem like a galaxy away.

Less trendy and fairly conservative (by west coast standards, anyway), San Diegans generally prefer riding a bike to driving a convertible, and tend to get more excited about a great day for windsurfing than gawking at celebrities.

Lowell Frank and Destin Cretton, two film students at San Diego State University who work together as Flagpop Productions, exemplify this plainspoken sentiment in their student competition film. Deacon’s Mondays was a regional finalist in the Student Academy Awards and follows on the heels of the team’s recent successful HBO Family doc Drakmar: A Vassal’s Journey.

We spoke to Lowell Frank last week.

What’s Deacon’s Mondays about?

Lowell Frank: It’s a short film about a lonely landscaper who accidentally kills a bird and experiences incredible guilt about it. He eventually comes to terms with it through a relationship with this elderly woman. It’s sort of a weird, quirky comedy/drama. He’s dealing with his own guilt by himself and his inner turmoil, but it’s externalized through a series of events. He tries to fix this guilt by himself but in trying to do so comes to terms with realizing he’s on his own.

This is a pretty simple, personal narrative. Is this typical of your films?

Lowell Frank: Our stories don’t have glitz and glamour. We’re not trying to look slick and we don’t deal with special effects. This is on a simpler plane, a story about an individual and his journey. We don’t do poop-joke type of films. Our main purpose is trying to tell solid stories.

So we won’t see a lot of CGI.

Lowell Frank: Well, that has its purpose. I’ve always been more a fan of real stories. Let’s say you’re watching a monster movie; I’m more intrigued by the monster either if you don’t see it or just see a little of it. A lot of times the scare factor goes away with the CGI version. I just really enjoy a more simply-told movie.

Your film’s 18 minutes long. Some filmmakers tell me a short is easier to shoot for the obvious reasons, but some say it’s more difficult because you have to fit so much in such a compressed timeframe.

Lowell Frank: Well, logistically it’s easier to shoot a short movie. You’re only filming for 4-6 days. For example, Deacon’s Mondays originally came in at 28 minutes but we had to cut ten minutes out. We just kept whittling down to a tight cohesive story.

I still think features are harder. I’ve been writing a couple of features for a long time. As opposed to dealing with 100 scenes you’re dealing with three times that many scenes. The girth is heavier. A good short story is sometimes harder in that you don’t have time to develop characters. Basically as a filmmaker you learn how to cut corners without cheating.

Tell us about the success of your award-winning Drakmar documentary.

Lowell Frank: We worked for six years on Drakmar: a Vassal’s Journey, which is about a 14-year-old kid in San Diego who follows around this world of medieval reenactment. He becomes very involved in it. The film also features his older brother. While filming we helped them track down their real father, who they hadn’t seen in ten years. Our main character had actually never met his father. In the film we sort of reunite the family.

It debuted on Fathers Day this year on HBO Family. I guess they played it five to eight times in June, and it’ll be back on HBO Family this fall.

Deacon’s Mondays screens Fri. Nov 2 at 11:30 a.m. at the Trustees Theatre.