Besides managing the Casbah, Ben Johnson has played in local bands (the Long and Short Of It, Hostile Combover, Grammatical B), and he’s authored a couple of books (A Shadow Cast In Dust and Blood Silver.) As if all that wasn’t enough, he dabbles in acting. In March of 2016, he was finishing up a short film with Grant Reinero (Focus Group, Stewardess). They were shooting at Cabrillo National Monument when Johnson pitched the idea to work on something with more girth than the short films they had been concocting.
Johnson said, “‘This is all cool and everything, but what do we have to do to make a feature-length film?’ And then Grant goes through this exhaustive list and I said ‘Okay, how about you guys just show up with your cameras and I will write the script, cast it, produce it, and I will do everything.’”
Johnson got to work and churned out the script for what would become Fanboy in a month. The story revolves around an all-star band (Xenos) made up of three local music scene veterans and a drummer that bankrolls the project. Once Xenos hits the road, they learn that their drummer is useless in the drumming department. Johnson’s character, Fred Proehl (AKA Fanboy), learns about their rhythm dilemma and tries to insert himself into the mix. That’s about all Johnson would reveal, but he said that it’s a crime-drama-thriller — so it’s safe to assume that the arrival of Fanboy solves one of the band’s problems while simultaneously creating new ones.
Concocting a story that revolved around musicians was no accident.
“I’m a real path-of-least-resistance sort of person,” Johnson explained. “We don’t have any money, so what are the things that we can use that would cost other people money but would not cost us any money? That’s musicians, musical instruments, and musical venues. All of that is totally free.”
Johnson worked his Rolodex and managed to secure free shoots at six local venues including the Ken Club, the Whistle Stop, and the Black Cat. A 16-hour-long shoot at the Soda Bar almost resulted in a mutiny early in the production. Johnson reconfigured the production schedule so that the actors (who were working for free) would continue to show up. “We’re going to go for four to six hours and then we’re gonna cut, and then we’re out,” he said. It was a successful tweak.
“It got to a point where we were showing up on a Sunday for two and a half hours and just nailing it,” he said.
It’s also of note that Xenos recorded four original songs for the film. Johnson said that there’s a chance that the band (which includes members of Scary Pierre and Hostile Combover) could play a live gig at some point. For now, Johnson is working to finish post-production by the end of this year, set-up a premier, and start the process of getting the film into festivals.