Erstwhile LEO film reviewer and upstart filmmaker Archie Borders left the old downtown offices eight or so years ago to concentrate full time on a new marriage and his serious passion for making movies. It just so happened that his next project focused on the workings of an alternative/arts weekly newspaper in Louisville. He eventually got the film shot at various (mostly Highlands) locations. And then … what? Nothing has been heard from the Borders camp until now.
So, what happened?
“Well,” he says, “unless you have big-name actors or are a horror film, the market for character-driven, non-plot-driven movies is tough.
we were in production, low budget films could still get a decent deal without big names … Still, given that most independent films don’t get a distributor, we’re fortunate; we landed a DVD release and are finally getting to market.”
Did LEO play a role in the film’s mise-en-scene?
“LEO played a big mental part in the movie … then-editor Joseph Grove in particular … We had a looser deadline, more space to pontificate, more space to really review … you see that reflected in the movie where two of the leads are working for a Courier-type paper.” Tellingly, one character toils in the obituary section.
Making the film was a joy but not a picnic. “The worst part was never knowing whether we’d land the right deal,” Borders says. “So when people would come up and say, ‘Whatever happened to ‘Paper Cut’?’ It was difficult …” The actors made it worth everything, he says. “I just got an e-mail saying Justin Shilton (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Esteban Powell (“Dazed and Confused”) were coming in for the premiere.”
“Paper Cut” was shot in Louisville a few summers ago and has a charm that is hard to categorize. Sporting a trio of Gen-X actors (Powell as Chuck, Meghan Gallagher as Carly and Shilton as Morgan) attempting to start a local newspaper (it’s called “Gonzo” and sports a logo awfully similar to LEO’s) to compete with the large, well-established daily, it has the professional look and feel of “Singles” or “Garden State” with the local cache that can only come with the presence (in the background) of hometown heavy hitters like Jeff Goebel and c d kaplan. It takes a while to get going, though, and the character development could be better. The inevitable falling-out between the friends is handled with a light touch and surprising impact, largely because of good acting by Powell. The story is realistic (most important), and the film looks and sounds great, even if the emotional payoff at the end is not as powerful as it could be.
But there’s that elusive quality called charm. Part of the fun of “Paper Cut” is playing spot-the-reference. It’s enjoyable in the same way as listening to a derivative recording — say, a Ryan Adams album — is enjoyable: the comforting recognition of the familiar. First, there are the picturesque Marcel Cabrera-shot locations: Twig and Leaf, Better Days, Lynn’s Paradise Café.
Then, there are the characters. Chuck’s mom (Nora Dunn), for example, is the former editor of “the local daily.” Is that The C-J? Is she supposed to be a Bingham? Is Chuck supposed to be Chris Iovenko? Paul Curry? Darrell Ray Elmore? Who is the cartoonist/copy shop employee known as Ben? Is Chuck’s spin-off paper supposed to be Hard Times? Burt? Who is Ray Rizzo’s mindless (and hilarious) rock star character patterned after? Is the club owner Evelyn at the Mercury Paw (prominently featured) supposed to be Mia Frederick? It’s all very amusing for a Louisvillian, especially the excellent soundtrack filled with local rock (King Kong, Bodeco, Love Jones, Squirrel Bait, My Morning Jacket, etc.), but it all raises the question: Will it play in Los Angeles (let alone Peoria)?
Borders’ next film will be “Rocket Man,” a dramatization of an event (based on a story from public radio’s “This American Life”) wherein a cluster of indie rock bands attempt to recreate the Elton John classic. But Borders is still pretty high on the current film, as he should be. “Paper Cut” is funny and unpretentious in a classic Kentucky way. The question now is how the market will respond.
“If the DVD performs well,” Borders says, “it bodes well for future cable deals … We re-edited this movie three times to get the right version. It was a luxury filmmakers in the ’70s had but something that has really vanished now.”
One might argue that the luxury has not vanished, just the willingness to claim it.
“Paper Cut” premieres twice at the Baxter Avenue Theatres on Tuesday, April 24 (7:30 and 9:30 p.m.), featuring a Q&A after-party with Borders. Charity showings (with proceeds going to Drive Cancer Out) will take place the following night at Felt, the pool bar at Fourth Street Live, and possibly at other Fourth Street Live locations. “Paper Cut” will be released on DVD this summer. For more info, go to www.papercutthemovie.com or call 939-7516.