Teaching Cinema

The first time I met Beau Kaelin I was dressed as a pirate. The second time I had a fake chainsaw duct-taped to my arm. Both of these encounters were for costume contests at midnight showings that Beau was hosting at Baxter Avenue Theaters. I ended up winning both the contests and in the next few weeks after a string of e-mails regarding my prizes, we became what some might consider acquaintances. I didn’t know much about him but each time I would see him at Baxter after that, I would wave or say hi.

Over the course of the next couple years we eventually became the friends we are now, mostly due to our shared love of movies. While I enjoy them for their entertainment value, Beau appreciates the process of filmmaking, from concept to creation. Along with being a movie theater manager and teaching high school Biology, he’s also a local filmmaker.

While Beau doesn’t like the title of “local filmmaker,” he’s written, directed and acted in a new feature-length film every year for the past four years, each time outdoing the last.

Though not his first feature-length film, the first one I saw was “Callus’ Birthday Party” which was best described as a “fever dream” by the filmmaker. After sitting through the 2-hour, scriptless film I was a bit confused about what I had just seen. Luckily I wasn’t the only one since Beau considers this movie to be the “special child of the bunch.”

His second film, “Dick For Hire,” was much more cohesive. Kaelin describes it as “sort of an homage to film noir films. It’s about a detective who’s essentially taking on the Chicago syndicate and trying to figure out not only how to defeat them but he realizes there’s something more going on…”

Beau’s third movie, “Balloons Own The Police,” was a bit different for me since I had a small role in the film; two lines and speaking in Russian at that. “Balloons” is about “a trio of stoners who get some really potent weed that shortly thereafter, they start hearing alien conversations about taking over the world. After that it’s sort of a guessing game as to whether all of this really is happening or whether it’s all in their heads.”

His newest film, showing Oct. 13 at the Village 8 Theatres, is titled “Symbiosis.”

“I always wanted to do a serious horror film but that’s such a cliche to do for your first movie, or such a cliche in general for people who are doing low-budget local movies to do” Kaelin explained. “I’ve been watching horror movies since I was six and I love them to death. It’s my favorite genre, and that’s what’s sort of funny, I waited five movies to make something that’s my favorite type of film … I wanted to make something I feel like nobody’s seen before. And so I came up with this idea that’s an homage to the old 1960s ‘Outer Limits’ episodes, but the storytelling format is something more akin to what you’ve seen in the modern trend of things like ‘Magnolia’ or ‘Crash,’ where you have multiple stories that are converging on a single point … the idea of showing the exact same supernatural event from five completely different points of view in such a way where it feels like five completely different short films. I felt like (it) hadn’t been done before and that’s what I wanted to do with this.”

Beau Kaelin’s interest in cinema began at a young age, when he would spend his Saturday mornings watching old horror films. “I actually got into watching movies when I was six. There was a local horror host show called ‘Memories of Monsters,’ it was just a local guy who would go on and host the old Universal classics, like ‘Creature (from) the Black Lagoon’ and things like that. The next morning on TBS, at 10 a.m., Grandpa Munster from ‘The Munsters’ would host ‘Super Scary Saturday,’ so my mom would set the VCR to record (on Friday) and the next morning I would wake up and while all the other kids were watching cartoons … I would wake up and watch two monster movies in a row. And something about that just got me into movies,” Beau shared.

With his new appreciation for movies, Beau also became interested in the special effects that make up those movies. “It was just a hobby that I just sort of picked up. I’m a huge ‘Dick Tracy’ fan, so when I was in elementary school and saw the film and fell in love with it, I started reading books on make-up and by the time I graduated high school I just started playing around with it.

“With each one of my movies, not only is it an opportunity for me to test my limits on both storytelling as well as filmmaking, but also for special effects too. So this (Symbiosis) has the most special effects of any of mine, just because I had to design and create two actual monsters for it, which I’ve never done for anything else … I know where my limit is at so I try to shoot for just a little above it, just so I can see what I can push.” Beau continued, “when it comes to a horror film, I don’t think genuine horror is a lot of gore, I don’t think it’s a lot of jump-out-to-spook-you stuff, I’m not a huge fan of either of those. I think they can be employed but I think when they’re employed to excess you lose a whole lot. I think the best horror films are where they create an atmosphere of dread, that just sort of lingers long after the film is over and you can’t shake it. So that’s what I actually shoot for in this.”

When asked why he does what he does, Beau explained, “I try to encourage everyone to come to my movies just because I feel like we’re doing stuff for fun – I’m not making movies to make a profit, I’m not making movies to win awards or even to gain fame. I just like making movies as a hobby. For me, there’s no way to describe how cool it is to basically finish a film and realize, I’m watching my imagination. I came up with these characters in my head, I developed the way they look and basically I’m conveying that imagination to an audience of 100 or so people. That’s just a very, very cool thing to do. …If anything, what I like to get out of premieres is not all the recognition and I don’t want to get money or anything, even though I’m charging it’s just to balance out the cost of having to rent the theater. For me the only thing I like out of showing people my movies is when they watch it they say, ‘that looks like fun, would you be down if I played a role in a future one?’ That to me is the thing I care about – people watch them and more people wanting to be involved. For me it’s a community thing. When I do my movies the premieres are less of a premiere and more of a family reunion. I’ll see people that I haven’t seen in months – I’ve got a friend flying back from LA to see this, I’ve got several friends who are going to road trip up from Nashville, and several others from Cincinnati that I haven’t seen for a while … so it very much is a family reunion.”

When Beau isn’t at Baxter or filming his next project, he uses his bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Education from UofL to teach biology, AP biology and some chemistry and physics at a high school outside Louisville. “My interest in science began with terror, actually. Growing up, my family lived in a fairly modest home in Fairdale that was infested with brown recluses. It was very much like a 1970s animal attack film – the venomous spiders would often pop up between sheets, in toy bins, in kitchen drawers…you name it. We eventually had to flee the place for greener pastures, but that sparked a fascination in science, particularly biology, with me. I wanted to know more about the reason behind why my family fled in fear, and the more I learned about biology, the spookier the world around me became. Deep sea fishes, flesh-eating bacteria, venomous animals – the world around you is a spooky place if you get right down to it, and for a kid who was interested in horror flicks growing up, a passion for the subject was a no-brainer. One could then argue that a lot of my life has been culminating up to this film, because I try to take the natural world that most of us go day-to-day taking for granted and turn it on its head to show how it can often be a very frightening realm.”

‘Symbiosis’ is playing at Village 8 Theatres, 4014 Dutchman’s Lane, at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 13. Admission is $3 and includes a collectible button.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune