Auburn takes center stage in 'Juno' team's film: MEDIA LIFE

Local music festival expands; Timothy Leary was here; “Signs” in Houston debut
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
“Juno” opening credits creators Gareth Smith and Jenny Lee not only stopped by Auburn’s Old State Theater last week to share the magic of the creative process with film fans. The two also fanned out into the community last weekend to make a movie. Smith, who was raised in Auburn, and Lee, who works with him at Los Angeles’ Shadowplay studio, had scouted Auburn out and found several sites for on-location filming of “Claire,” a short subject film written by Lee and Maite Suarez-Rivas. On Sunday, Smith and Lee took over the dining area of Mary Belle’s Restaurant in Old Town for filming with “Claire” actors Fred Burks of Auburn and Lois Mills of Citrus Heights. The film, as Lee explained it, was quite a bit different than “Possum Death Spree,” the gory-but-funny Internet hit that Smith launched last year. “Claire” has more to do with relationships than fake plasma, with Burks – who most recently played Horace Vander Gelder in Roseville’s Magic Circle Theater production of “Hello Dolly” – cast as a senior who provides some inspiration for a widow. Mills is another Magic Circle Theater trouper. She played Miss Daisy in the recent production of “Driving Miss Daisy.” It’s the first film for both Mills and Burks. Other locations for Smith, Lee & Co. during a weekend of shooting included Winston Smith Books in Downtown Auburn, the State Theater, and Regional Park. Smith said the film is destined for future screenings on the film-festival circuit. JUNO SECRETS REVEALED Smith and Lee’s presentation on the making of the “Juno” credits was a revelation. Smith said that he was fortunate to initially link up with “Juno” director Jason Reitman during the production of 2005 movie “Thank You For Smoking.” They had bumped into each other first at the Sundance Film Festival during Smith’s showing of a short film he had made that had been chosen for the fest. While the “Thank You For Smoking” credits, which were also co-created by Lee, were made after the film was into post-production, Reitman brought Shadowplay into the mix early on. That allowed the design studio co-founded by Smith to create the credits and work with actress Ellen Page on a treadmill to come up with her unforgettable, scene-setting walk through an animated world. At eight frames a second, the credit sequence is primitive – or “lo-fi” as Smith explained it last Friday. Each photo of Page was run through a copier and then hand-painted in a scribbly style to provide extra movement. Then each of the pages of Page was hand-cut. Probably 1,200 individual photos were hand-colored and cut. Smith enlisted the help of his Auburn posse to make it possible in the time frame he was given. Parents Keith and Meridee Smith, aunt Beth Brooks of Loomis, plus local artist and longtime friend Paula Amerine were brought in to provide coloring support during a process that, all told, took seven months. Keith Smith described 12 hours of coloring some days and sleeping on his son’s floor at night in L.A. Lee hand-drew all the credit fonts and that style has already become a target for other movie-makers to copy. Check out the advertisements for the new flick “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” The success of the credits also provided an “in” for the small design studio, with a little pushing from Reitman. The music CD – all but the cover – was created by Lee, Smith and Shadowplay. The “Juno” credits style is also resulting in some new projects for the studio. Smith and Lee were back in the South State this week working on a “Juno” inspired advertisement for a bank. NO CAR FOR KARFLUKI FOUNDER Celtic-folk rockers Tempest are on an East Coast swing right now and Media Life caught up with leader-singer-lead-guitarist Lief Sorbye in the great state of Delaware this week as the band prepared to make the trek south for another one-nighter in Virginia Beach, Va. Sorbye, the founder of the band, revealed that while he’s comfortable on the road, you won’t find him behind the wheel between gigs. He never has had a driver’s license – and there’s a story there. “I tried one time and had a learner’s permit but a truck plowed into me.” he said. Sorbye survived the accident unscathed but all his musical equipment burned in the subsequent carbecue. “I took that as an omen,” he said. Tempest will return to Auburn – their home away from their Oakland home in the early spring – for the Karfluki Fest on May 3 and May 4. This is the third year the band has put on the eclectic music festival and will mark the first time, however, that it will extend to two days. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Tempest and former band members will be arriving from Florida, New York and Ireland to fill out four “classic” lineups from various stages of the group’s evolution. Fans are also coming in from all points, including a German folk music journalist. The Foothills Motel, Karfluki’s unofficial festival headquarters, is already sold out for the weekend, Sorbye said. All the vendor slots have already been sold out. “The little Celtic rock band from Oakland is putting Auburn on the map,” he said. Sorbye, ensconced in his favorite seat behind the driver while out on the road, said that Karfluki is adding a bonus for people buying advance tickets to the festival – a free DVD from the first year of the Auburn fest. The weekend will focus on the music, with Those Darn Accordians from Washington State, the Bay Area’s Tom Rigney & Flambeau, the French gypsy sounds of Fishtank Ensemble. Los Angeles Latin-World Music band Incendio and several other acts performing at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. Tickets are available at and the Live Music Center at (707) 448-1511. CONNECTION CORNER Things Media Life learned while looking up other things … Quintus in the Academy Award-winning film “Gladiator” was played by an actor born in Auburn. His name is Thomas Arana, he was born here on April 3, 1955, and left with his family soon afterward … 1960s rebel academic Timothy Leary taught in Auburn. Media Life tracked down the information in an old copy of the Journal. The small article talks about Leary, “formerly director of psychology research at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland,” putting on a series of lectures and seminars for DeWitt Hospital staff in February 1960 … “Sounds,” a locally made indie film that includes Auburn-area actors Sandy Stoltz and John Large, is debuting this week at the WorldFest International Film Festival in Houston, Texas. One of about 50 films selected, it was produced and directed by Grass Valley’s Ryan Humphries. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or (530) 852-0232.