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Jesse Isabell, 16, left, and Tyler Alford, 16, film a Kung fu movie in Central Point Saturday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

The spoof is out there

What started as a way to beat boredom has turned into an obsession for Crater High students who have shot 41 short videos now playing at a YouTube near you.

Inspired by everything from Charlie Chaplin to the cult film "Shawn of the Dead," 17 teenagers around the Forest Glen Drive neighborhood get together to bounce ideas off each other, act, film and edit before they post their creations on the video site.

"We try to get the kids around the neighborhood involved," said 16-year-old Gabe Lunte. "If everyone's bored, we just try to do something."

One of their recent productions is "Neighborhood Watch — Jim Palpermann... a new hope?" It is a Chaplinesque spoof of a character who roams the streets passing out flyers warning people to keep an eye out for criminal activity.

The character falls prey to some local hooligans in Central Point, but turns the tables with his martial arts skills.

Another short, "I Can Hear...Things," features a couple of teenagers who respond to questions by singing a rock song.

Forest Glen Productions, their production company, is working on a new video, titled "Kung Fu Snafu," a martial arts spoof. Lunte and his friend Tyler Alford, also 16, began messing around with a video camera that belonged to one of their parents four years ago.

"We were just kind of dinking around," he said. They liked drawing and using their imagination, so they figured why not put their energies into film.

When YouTube started in 2005 teenagers discovered a venue for their productions, which generally have a comic twist to them and feature streets and walkways that might be recognizable to many Central Point residents.

"We're pretty low budget," said Gabe. "Our budgets only allow for comedies."

When their first camera broke, the teenage boys scrimped and saved for about two months so they could get a replacement.

So far, Gabe said the short videos have been viewed 71,000 times, and they are the most popular in the Phillipines. People from about 100 countries have clicked on the short films, according to YouTube. "I have a pretty hard time believing it," said Gabe, referring to the statistics.

Most of the comments on YouTube have been favorable.

"Usually, people that take time out of their day don't say its terrible because they would feel stupid for having watched it," he said.

With so many people involved in the productions, shooting these shorts doesn't always go smoothly.

"We don't get along all of the time," said Gabe. "But, we manage, which is why sometimes some of us have to step up and take charge."

At school, they've gotten support from teachers and have also landed a few "A's" when they have completed an assignment by creating a video.

Their parents also support them, though it does put some limitation on their productions, which have to pass the "mom" test.

"We're not really profane," said Tyler. "We don't cuss or any stuff in any of our videos. I think a big part of it is a lot of mothers are just obsessed with the things we make."

He'd like to add a bit more violence to the production, but generally in a funny way like Shawn of the Dead.

"I don't want to keep doing comedy," said Tyler. "I'd like to break out into doing action stuff."

With a lot of ideas percolating right now, Tyler said he wants to make film number 42 as perfect as possible. He said "42" is a reference to the importance placed on that number by writer Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Jesse Isabell, who starred in the "Neighborhood Watch," said he's seen Chaplin movies but didn't intentionally pattern his character after the famous film star.

"We find our characters by just dressing for the part," he said.

While much of the dialogue is improvised, Isabell said he expects actual scripts will be developed in the future.

With a taste for film in their bloods, Isabell said those who have been involved in Forest Glen Productions are thinking about a future in cinema.

He said he wouldn't mind being an actor, work on editing films or open a professional production facility.

Isabell said he's surprised how long he and his friends have stayed interested, particularly for something that started because they were bored.

"It's just a fun thing to do," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

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