Most little brothers have trouble saying no to their big sisters, and Jeff Holmes was no exception when sis Jules Bianchi called in June to ask him help with an outlandish idea. Did he want to help her make a movie?
Of course, Bianchi – who grew up in Clayton – is a well-established Oakland photographer now, and Holmes is a cinema arts student at Pacific Azuza University. So the request kind of made sense.
Like the dutiful little brother he is, Homes called in some of his buddies, who were eager to work on a “real” project, and to Bianchi’s surprise, she suddenly had a crew.
Thanks to that rag-tag team of collegiate film students, an agreeable family, some ex-boyfriends and a creative vision, Bianchi’s 10-minute short film “Apocolypso” was made – and is now a finalist in Academy Award-winner Ron Howard’s Canon’s Project Imaginat10n, with a shot at being one of the five films screened at the project’s prestigious short film festival.
The film is a poignant look at the power of love vs. fear set against the backdrop of a looming Y2K. But perhaps most poignant is the love that Bianchi and Holmes – and their entire family – put into the project.
“I’ve always watched Jules in her photography, and helped her out since I was 8,” says Holmes, who produced the film. “This is just an extension of that.”
Indeed, the two siblings were joined by Bianchi’s twin Joy, as well as her mother Leonora and stepfather Neil Holmes, who still live in Clayton.
“My mom helped feed the crew, and my step-dad drove everyone around,” Bianchi says. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
They also provided another major ingredient in the film: a location, as Bianchi was able to film some of the scenes at her parents’ house on Pine Road off of Marsh Creek Road.
Although most filmmakers enjoy staying close to the excitement of Los Angeles and Hollywood, permits and fees can break an already shoestring budget. And “Apocolypso” was definitely on a shoestring budget. So Bianchi and Holmes decided to bring their crew to northern California, and Bianchi used a grocery store and book shop in her Oakland neighborhood to round out the movie’s locales.
Besides her family, Bianchi called in favors from old friends to help with things like writing the screenplay, helping with the musical score and casting.
“Jules had, like two or three ex boyfriends helping her out on this, as well as her current boyfriend,” Holmes says. “It was wild.”
It took a frantic month of late-night shoots, re-shoots and “lots of laughs,” but “Apocolypso” was made. The siblings are waiting “on pins and needles” Bianchi says to hear if it made the final cut of five.
“We didn’t want the film to look like we shot it in our backyard,” she says.
“Which is ironic, because it was,” Holmes chimes in.
The way the contest works, Howards posts still pictures on a website, and filmmakers are asked to use them as inspiration for a short movie. Bianchi said a photo of basement full of canned goods n which her hero in the film stocks in case of a Y2k-inspired apocalypse – reminded her of her youth.
“We did have a basement like that, and it was filled with canned fruits and vegetables,” she says. “But that was just where we stored things.”
Bianchi, 41, says she doesn’t know if this is the start of a new career in filmmaking or just another fun project that “drew my eccentric and artistic family together.” Holmes, though, hopes to make filmmaking a career – and anyone who knows him knows that’s not far-fetched. He is well-known in and around Clayton for his elaborate lighting displays.
This project, he says, was “kooky, but wonderful,” in part because of the collaboration with his sister.
“You have to know your boundaries when you’re working with family,” Holmes says. “It can be a trying experience, but it can also be the best experience.”
To see “Apocolypso,” and other film festival finalists, visit the website at imagination.usa.canon.com.