Friday, August 13, 2010

The Man with No E-Mail

Since 51-year-old Wisconsin native Steven Sprague likes to focus his DIY filmmaking efforts on stories with a spy theme, the fact that he has chosen to bypass an e-mail address and other online tools conjures up the specter of off-the-grid subterfuge. But the reason for his exceedingly rare 21st century maneuver turns out to have nothing to do with either a cloak or a dagger.

"I got tired of all those spam emails asking me if I would like to increase the size of my penis," Sprague explains quite seriously during an interview with FilmStew. "I had a computer, but I got rid of it about three or four years ago. If I need to look up stuff on the Internet, I'll just go to the library."

Sprague may soon need to re-evaluate his messaging M.O., or at least consider enabling his cell phone with some sort of e-mail capability. Because on August 25th, at the oldest existing movie theater in the United States, his latest short film Man with a Scar is set to premiere in tandem with a 1949 classic, The Third Man, starring fellow Badger State native Orson Welles.

In business since 1915

"Making movies has become a hobby," confesses Sprague, whose short film credits now total 26. "I did try to get into it professionally at one time; in the late 80's and early 90's, I made quite a few trips to Los Angeles to pitch ideas and sell screenplays, and actually took a meeting with New World Entertainment."

The 17-minute Man with a Scar, the contemporary tale of a British secret agent who comes to the United States to investigate a death, was shot over three days in June. Sprague was referred to his 6'3" leading man Tim Towne by UW-Madison Mini Courses instructor Kevin Croak, who also co-stars. Although Sprague started out showing his films on public access TV in Madison and was once featured in a film festival, the August 25th screening at the Al. Ringling Theatre will mark a belated first.

"From time to time, I've shown my stuff at movie rooms at Rocky Rococo restaurants, basically just for the cast and crew," Sprague says. "But this is the first time I'm going to have an audience of strangers, so that's going to be kind of neat."

Leading man Tim Towne

"I approached Al. Ringling Theatre and said, 'I'm an amateur filmmaker from the area, and I have this short...'," he continues. "They basically had this idea to start pairing classic old movies like The Third Man with independent shorts, part of a move to start showing repertory fare."

As a result, Sprague, who began his moviemaking efforts in 1983 by directing himself in A Spy for All Times, is now finally after 27 years headed for his first official Q&A. Although this sincerely modest artist says he's not out to impress anybody and simply enjoys the freedom of doing his own thing, he is very open to the idea that the upcoming screening could present some sort of "turning point" for his sideline career.

[Al. Ringling Theatre]

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