Independent film to get WMC showing; Graduate made movie on a $26,000 budget


Jonathan Slade, a Western Maryland College graduate and independent filmmaker, had every intention of showing his first feature-length film, "Forest for the Trees," at the recent Sundance Film Festival, even though the work had been rejected by organizers.

Although he brought a projector along, he never got up the nerve to show his film at the prestigious festival in Utah. But he will show it at 7: 30 p.m. today at a Western Maryland College Honors Program lecture in Alumni Hall.

"Forest for the Trees" was produced on a $26,000 budget, financed by two of Slade's credit cards. Slade, 33, graduated from Western Maryland in 1988 with a communications degree and has a master's degree from the University of Southern California in cinema-television production.

His film is a drama about five adults and a toddler who embark on a five-day bicycle trip along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The story explores what works and what doesn't in relationships.

Slade got the idea for the film when a relationship was not heading in a direction he liked.

However, it is not an autobiographical tale, he said. As someone who hikes and bikes often, Slade wanted to write about working through the frustrations of relationships in an outdoor setting. He said he also wanted to deviate from the typical relationship film set in a bar.

The 16 mm film was shot entirely in Maryland, mostly along the C & O Canal, which runs from Washington to Cumberland. Scenes were shot in Westminster, Cumberland, Monkton and Brunswick. The cast and crew worked for free during the 18 months of production.

Slade said he feels honored to show his film at his alma mater. Graduates should return to their schools and share their knowledge, he said. He hopes that his talking about making the film will inspire another filmmaker.

In graduate school in Los Angeles, Slade worked with the 20th Century Fox studio as a production assistant on the television series "Doogie Howser, M.D." and as a writing trainee for the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" series.

After completing graduate school, he took a job with Maryland Public Television as an associate producer.

"I never wanted to live in Hollywood, I just wanted to learn as much as I could and bring it back with me," he said.

At MPT, Slade has written, produced, and directed "Vid Kid," an educational children's program. Two episodes earned him regional Emmy awards for outstanding children's special.

Slade has produced, written and edited several documentaries for MPT. In 1994, he won a Cine Golden Eagle Award for the documentary "Gone but not Forgotten," a look at Maryland's streetcars, amusement parks, movie theaters and other attractions from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Slade said he is not in the business for fame or money. He said he likes to tell good stories. He also wants to challenge himself, he said, and would like to work on more films with larger stories and bigger budgets.

Slade said no words can describe the feeling of seeing his name on a theater marquee. "Forest for the Trees" has been shown in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Slade is working on a script that he came up with while driving home from Sundance. He plans to teach a class at Western Maryland in the fall.

As for advice to potential filmmakers, Slade said, "You have to keep hacking away at success. There is no instant stardom."

"Forest for the Trees" will be shown March 27 at the Allen Theater in Annville, Pa., and at the Embassy Theater in Cumberland in May.

Pub Date: 2/09/99

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