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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.  [February 19, 2002]




[]  A new student film targets corrupt politics -- but amazingly! -- its focus is on Al Gore and the Democrats!

That's the shocking tale told by San Pedro, a half hour USC student film written & directed by Jason A. Apuzzo, Ph.D., available for online viewing at

San Pedro tells the tale of a hard-boiled bounty hunter (actor John Barrett) who seeks a cursed Chinese statue that threatens to expose Gore's Chinagate connections during the 2000 presidential election. But an immigrant maid (actress Govindini Murty) stumbles upon that statue first. Murkily shot, blending the conspiratorial and the supernatural, San Pedro evokes All The President's Men shot through the prism of X-Files or David Lynch.

Despite the film's focus on Al Gore, filmmaker Apuzzo was primarily interested in a good story. "I made a film about the Chinagate scandal because it was great story material for a noir thriller. It's incredible to me that no one in Hollywood tried it before. This shows how fearful people in Hollywood are of being perceived as conservative.

"The film was intended to be enjoyable, in the same way that any other film might be. I don't think of it as being political or having a political agenda -- any more than The Manchurian Candidate has a specific political agenda. San Pedro is a thriller and a satire. It just happens to treat the Democratic Party as a kind of criminal Mafia.

"I was attracted to the Democratic Party for the same reason that Francis Ford Coppola was attracted to the Mafia: because corrupt people are more interesting. There's more room for them to grow. Democrats happen to be more open to corruption because they're far more idealistic about what government can do for people. When that idealism is shattered, they have a tendency to embrace the dark side.

"Of course, that doesn't mean that they have to stay there.

"I am a conservative. But I don't think conservatives make for very interesting subject matter for movies. The way that films teach moral lessons is chiefly through cautionary tales. The Godfather films are cautionary tales in which Michael Corleone slowly strips himself of his own humanity. The new Star Wars trilogy tells essentially the same story."

Considering Hollywood's Leftist reputation, how had Apuzzo's project faired at USC's famed film school?

Says Apuzzo: "The USC Cinema faculty is as hard-Left as they come, so San Pedro was made as an independent thesis project outside USC's usual production chain. At no point did anyone approach me and say, explicitly, 'You cannot make a movie critical of the Democratic Party.' They don't say that sort of thing because they don't need to. But I was made to know in a thousand different ways, some more subtle than others, that if I wanted to make a film critical of Gore or the Democratic Party, I would not be able to use USC's equipment or production resources, or even its production insurance.

"Shortly after I first submitted my script to the production faculty, I suddenly found myself on a pro-Gore/anti-Bush email list -- populated, coincidentally, by about half the faculty, and moderated by the person I'd submitted the script to.

"So one gets the message. I even had a guy drop out of producing the film, because his wife worked at DreamWorks and he was worried about the film's politics.

"The only reason I was able to make San Pedro was because Apple Computer has made digital video production affordable for students and independent filmmakers with tiny budgets. I was also helped out by fellowship grants from the libertarian Institute for Humane Studies. They liked the script and were very supportive."

San Pedro incorporates clips from Gore visiting the Buddhist temple. Apuzzo had difficulty obtaining the clips, but finally got them from the Republican National Committee.

Says Apuzzo:  "I'd tried getting [the clips] from ABC News Archives, CBS News Archives, CNN, etc. -- all because I didn't want to be accused of making a partisan film with the cooperation of the Republican Party.

"The problem was that every mainstream news archive I contacted 'couldn't find it,' had 'lost' the footage, didn't know what I was talking about, etc. I even discovered that this same footage had once been subpoenaed by the House of Representatives, but had mysteriously 'disappeared.'

"So finally, I called someone at the RNC (I'm not supposed to mention who) who was working on a high-profile project for the White House. She dug out the footage for me and took care of the rights. That was how the temple footage ended up in the film."


Vampire Nation


Over the past decade, film festivals have been the path to success (or at least, to distribution) for most independent films. But Apuzzo thinks those days are largely over. "The internet has made the festival circuit obsolete. More people saw the film in the first few days online than would ever see it on the festival circuit.

"Copies are being forwarded to George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and the Creative Artists Agency. I've had an offer from a competing website to take San Pedro from iFilm, and an offer to put it on public television. I've been invited to do show-and-tell on the making of San Pedro at L.A. Film School in April.

Apuzzo dedicates San Pedro to Rush Limbaugh, George Lucas, and Steve Jobs.  "All have been inspirational to me. 'Think differently' or 'Think different' is the Apple Computer motto -- and a very good one. All three of those guys achieved tremendous success by going against the grain in their professions. Limbaugh took on the liberal media monopoly and won. Lucas took on Hollywood and won. Jobs re-invented the personal computer -- while Bill Gates follows him around like a puppy dog, copying everything he does.

"San Pedro is part homage to Lucas's student film, THX11384EB: Electronic Labyrinth. Lucas took his student short and expanded it into the feature THX 1138. San Pedro is designed to set up Death in Los Angeles, which will be a feature. Death in Los Angeles will deal with the same undercover bounty agent, but will tell a larger story."

It controversial story aside, San Pedro demonstrates the progress of consumer production equipment.  It was shot on a mini-DV Canon XL-1, then edited, mixed and composited on an iMac using Final Cut Pro. The film's total cost was about $3000.

Apuzzo believes San Pedro's budget and equipment shock people even more than its message. "The irony is that I probably would have refused USC even if the school had allowed me use of its equipment. Film schools no longer have a monopoly on cutting-edge equipment. They're usually behind what you can get at Fry's or CompUSA.

Apuzzo belongs to a wave of libertarian and conservative artists using new technology to independently publish and produce art in a variety of media and genres: literary satire, horror, science fiction, and even heavy metal music.

Says Apuzzo: "Conservatives have ceded the arts and humanities -- which is to say, the culture -- to the Left over the last 35 years. Our college campuses are teeming with John Walker Lindhs who haven't had the temerity to actually take up arms against their country -- but who share Lindh's nihilism. They're the Columbine killers, fueled by the violence and despair of films like The Matrix --  a film Goebbels would've loved. The corrosion of the humanities by the Left has created these monsters, and there will be worse ones to come.

"President Bush, who is otherwise doing a marvelous job, doesn't seem aware that the culture war is equally important to the war on terror. The universities are almost totally lost, not to mention the wasteland that Hollywood's become.

"It will take a generation of work to remedy this problem, and it will involve conservatives engaging in the arts & humanities. It will need to involve the movies, which happen to be our major popular artform. I intend to play a role in this."

Copyright 2002 by


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