By CAITIE MCMEKIN
Photography editor Caitie McMekin got the chance to interview Erie-based independent filmmaker John C .Lyons over the phone about his film career, before his visit to Allegheny College on April 3, 2014. Lyons screened his new feature length film, “There are No Goodbyes,” and talked with production students about the process and breaking into the industry.
How did you start making films?
I started making films when I was in elementary school. I didn’t like to write papers so I’d always try and talk my teachers out of having me write them, and getting them to let me make a movie instead…which is probably more time involvement in the long run. But it was much more fun. For an English class, my friends and I shot all of Act 5 of MacBeth. We would do stuff like that, and that’s where it started.
Did you just happen to have a video camera?
I didn’t really have any experience, and neither did anyone in my family. My family had bought a VHS camcorder. It just kind of started with that, and I didn’t have a proper editor so I would just hook the camera up to the VCR and I would edit it that way, recording and pausing, recording and pausing… It was stupid. So the editing wasn’t very complex but I just kind of started there.
What did you go to college for?
I ended up going to college at Edinboro University for computer science and mathematics, because that’s totally related to the arts. And after I got my degree, nonlinear, digital editing became popular, so it kind of then started tying into computer stuff and I started getting back into it. So in 2004 I started my own company with my wife.
How much time are you able to dedicate to film?
I kind of have two lives. From 8-4:30 I work full time at Edinboro in the tech department. Evenings and weekends are pretty much dedicated to making movies. When I’m working on a feature film I’m seriously getting four to five hours of sleep a night for years until it’s done. That’s my passion. It drives me. I’m still able to do it and live. It’s a balancing act for sure.
Was it difficult switching from making short films to feature length films?
It’s difficult only because you always want to keep your audience in mind, so that’s where shorts kind of come in. You could obviously make an extremely boring short, but they’re very useful tools for trying something new or using a new editing technique or new equipment. I think I see shorts as kind of like practice and training and testing.
The timing with the first feature was… it was very personal. My father had Alzheimers, and I needed to write about it and the experiences he was having there and it just kind of came organically. It was a lot of just blood, sweat and tears through the whole production. It was difficult.
Would you ever want to go to film school?
I would love to go to film school like now. I think you guys [Allegheny production students] are a step ahead in that if you go on a real crew you guys know the logistics and how it all works and how people work together. It’s kind of beneficial both ways. Being [do it yourself], you don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. I’m more like, if I want to do something I’m gonna go out there and do it myself. So I think if you have both sides of that equation I think they’re gonna be a stand out.
When I got to the point of graduating high school it was a really tough choice for me…Did I want to go into the arts or go into the tech field? I kind of had the plan mapped out that if I go into the tech side I will probably be making a living and have money and hopefully make a movie. You know its tough. My way isn’t necessarily the right way but that’s how it worked out.
Where do you see your
It’s progressing well so far. I just keep working and hoping people see what me and my little army have been doing and just trying to build from there. You know a lot of this business is networking. It’s really just getting out there working with people, working hard and seeing where it gets you. Over the past few years I’ve been getting outside paid gigs which is great.
It’s a slow steady process but it’s definitely worth it. I love film. It’s my life. If I get to keep doing it…awesome.