Originally created 01/25/02

Filmmaker explores exotic dancers' world



Augusta film director Tim Johnson's short feature Fantasies, which premieres Saturday at the Imperial Theatre, is a study in contradictions. The film is set in the world of exotic dancers, and yet little flesh is bared. And the men who frequent Fantasies, Mr. Johnson's mythical club, aren't searching for visceral thrills but for the more intangible attributes each dancer represents.

"I was at a club here in Augusta ... and I was at the bar looking at a dry-erase board with the names of the dancers on it," Mr. Johnson said. "They all had these names like Love and Hope and Faith. I thought that was very interesting and kind of symbolic. It occurred to me that a movie, set in a club and using names like that, would offer an interesting opportunity for metaphor."

The movie, filmed two years ago for $8,000, is a fractured noir fable about the need for love, hope and some sense of emotional security. Mr. Johnson said the secret ingredient in such a micro-budget film is successful casting.

"What was important to me was finding the best people I could possibly get in a short period of time who were also willing to volunteer," he said. "So we didn't have a lot of choices. We were lucky, though, because they all ended up being excellent."

Mr. Johnson said his other coup was attracting the atmospheric Atlanta band Ph Balance to provide the film's moody soundtrack.

"That was always a fantasy of mine," he said. "When I was fooling around with this movie in my mind, that was the music I heard. What I really liked about them was the sort of bittersweet quality they have. Musically, it's kind of somber, but topped with this angelic voice. It has a deepness that I really wanted for this movie."

As an art form, filmmaking is expensive, time-consuming and difficult. But Mr. Johnson said that it seemed the perfect match for his particular talents and creative desires.

"I can't sing, I can't draw and I can't play an instrument," he said with a laugh. "For a while I thought about acting, but I discovered I was much better behind a camera. I'm not a very good actor, either. My real talent, it seems, is bringing people together."

Although the film was completed in early 2000, Mr. Johnson has struggled with its premiere. At first, he tried to determine a low-cost way of showing his movie locally but decided in the end to bite the bullet and give the movie a lavish opening at the Imperial. The event will feature Fantasies, a screening of the Russ Meyers cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a performance by Ph Balance and a grab bag of other cinematic treats.

"I did it this way for a lot of reasons," Mr. Johnson said. "One was I really wanted to honor the people that worked on the film. There have been a lot of amazing people behind me. My friend Ooollee in particular has been a big help, kind of a mother figure. She has kept pushing me and watching my back and letting me know that all this work was worthwhile."

NOW SHOWING

WHAT: Fantasies, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a performance by Ph Balance.

WHEN: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 749 Broad St.

ADMISSION: $7, available at www.tixonline.com

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com