Making Movie Magic In Humboldt – June 23, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sharon Letts

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – They say it’s who you know in the television and film industry, and relationships are paramount in getting projects made. Local filmmaker Suza Lambert Bowser’s indie film Flea has passed the halfway mark for filming in Humboldt County.

Her producer, Joshua Nelson, earned a B.A. in Film from Humboldt State University just last year, yet the lineup on this small production includes notable talent. What’s the secret? Nelson’s biggest asset on networking in the industry turned out to be his father, back home in Los Angeles.

John and Joshua Nelson.

“I’m a Verizon DSL Technician. My service area covers neighborhoods like Bel Air and Beverly Hills,” John Nelson said during a recent phone conversation.

Enter Josef Cannon, writer, producer, actor and co-owner of Cannon-Karst Productions with an intranet problem.

“Josef’s computer line was down and I went to his house to repair it. Normally after I fix the problem, being a proud father, I go to YouTube and bring up Pier 41 to test the line.”

Pier 41 is a short film the younger Nelson wrote, produced and directed as a student at Humboldt State University.

The film won him honors, and the attention of Bowser. Flea is their second project together.

“After we watched Josh’s film, Josef brought up the audition clip from his latest with Jean Claude Van Damme, The Eagle Path. Here I am in his home, this nice man – and I watched him completely change his personality for this character. It was unbelievable. That’s a good actor.”

The actor liked his son’s work enough to scribble his phone number on a napkin with a promise of one day helping him in the business.

Josef Cannon hails from the South side of Chicago. A tall, handsome, kind man. One would never suppose that young Josef grew up with a disability.

“I stuttered as a child. It was difficult to communicate, so my artistic desires turned into written work,” he said. “My father put an old television set in my room for me to watch, but it had no volume. I could watch, but it was silent. I had to create my own dialogue in my head.”

When Joshua made the call to Cannon he said he was surprised at how easy he was to talk to.

“One year after Cannon’s meeting with John Nelson, he agreed to come on as an actor without reading the script,” Joshua said.

Cannon said all he did was keep a promise.

“Because Josh made that call, took a leap of faith, everything happened,” Cannon said. “When I saw early drafts of the script, I knew it had ingredients to be something special. It’s a small budget and the story is paramount.”

Cannon’s character, Poet, is wise and mysterious. He’s a Shaman who lives in a tree and is said to wax poetic at odd moments.

Cannon was happy enough with the initial script to ask his neighbor to come on board. Enter actor Barry Williams, popularly and forever known as Greg Brady.

Barry Williams and Josef Cannon on the set of Flea. Photo by Sharon Letts

“He’s my neighbor. We get together and talk about actor stuff,” Williams said on location last week on the North Jetty. “

He said there may be something interesting for you here, and gave me the script. I’m not claiming to understand it all the time,” he laughed.

Williams said his people talked to Joshua’s people and now he is Marsh Man, a well-meaning albeit eccentric character who lives by the marsh and loosely adopts the young lead of the story, Flea.

“I’m an actor, I like to work – and I’m delighted to be working on this beautiful inlet on Humboldt Bay.”

Born, raised and still calling Los Angeles home, this is Williams’ first time on Humboldt soil.

“I’ve never seen a Redwood, but I have a driver and a car and I’m promised to be taken into the woods and given the full ‘Humboldt Experience.’”

Cannon is happy to work with his neighbor, happy to be involved in the project and hopeful for the future.

Elizabeth Carlson and Josef Cannon rapelling in the redwoods for a Flea scene.

“We’ve been fortunate, so far the film has been compared to Twilight, Lords of the Rings and Harry Potter – with aspects of The Matrix. You see, the boy in the story, Flea, is the chosen one but he doesn’t know it.”

As for Joshua Nelson, he’s looking toward the future. “I’m amazed to see how it has developed, and I’m excited to see the end product.”