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Plastic Man – The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

independent film, entertainment, film festival, film events, film reviews

By Ron Merk

It has been brought to my attention that I may have understated the contributions of some people to this film in my pre-screening story and my review of the film, which recently premiered at The Mill Valley Film Festival. I certainly didn’t mean to upset anyone by limiting my comments about their work on this film. It was really because I was writing to commend my good friend, William Farley, about his great work on this film.

I would like to focus a few comments on three individuals who brought so much talent and experience to the film that it really should be mentioned in this follow-up piece.
Janis Plotkin, the Producer: I’ve known Janis a really long time, ever since she was the Executive Director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. While we’ve never worked together on a project, I have the greatest respect for Janis work as a festival programmer, writer and of course, as a producer. Janis’ work on this film was essential to it’s being completed, and completed in the quality that we all saw at the first viewings of the film at Mill Valley.

A Producer’s role is a complicated and terribly important part of the process of making any film. In the case of “Plastic Man,” Janis, as the Producer, had the primary responsibility to raise production funds. Janis developed the fundraising plan, wrote the budgets, made the donor contacts, wrote the grants and produced the online crowd sourcing campaign for the film. Through personal contacts of Janis, two major contributions came to the project, without which the film may have taken much longer to complete. Producing a film is a very delicate balance of business and art, a balance that Janis clearly struck during the long gestation of this project.

Janis worked hand in hand with Bill Farley as the film began to take shape, bringing her many years of film production and exhibition experience to the project. Her sage advice was crucial to the shaping of the film, and to help in making it the film that was applauded loudly at the screenings at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Richard Levien, The Editor. I’ve known and worked with Richard as my editor for a number of years, and the one thing you can always count on with Richard is honesty, honesty with the director, the subject and the craft of editing. He is one of the finest editors working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His ability to shape the many hours of material into what appears to be a simply told story is a great talent. Richard makes it look seamless, as if it was shot in the order of the final film, but of course, that is the definition of the artist at work. We never see him ponder the material or sweat something not working. Bill Farley told me that working with Richard was always a joy, never hard work, and that he had magic in his hands as he worked to create a cohesive, compelling story about Jerry Barrish.

Beth Custer, The Music Composer, is someone who I don’t know, and haven’t worked with. But I’m looking forward at some point in the future of changing that unfortunate set of circumstances. Beth’s score for the film brought something to it that was essential, an amazing humanity and sense of humor. A long time ago, Bill Farley showed me the first 20 minutes of the film in a rough cut. It was brilliant, but I told Bill that I thought he needed to make the audience like Jerry more. I know Jerry, and while I know there’s a warm, kind guy inside, Jerry doesn’t wear that side of himself on his sleeve. Beth’s brilliant score (and of course the directorial choices by Bill Farley and the editing by Richard Levien) gave Jerry an amazing amount humanity and accessibility and warmth.

To all of the other people who worked on the film, I say, “bravo, great work.” Hope you don’t feel left out of my kudos.