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Lord of the Discs

 by Shaina Levee  published on Thursday, September 1, 2005

/issues/arts/693639
On the cover
 
Theater senior Drew Mackey plays
Shaina Levee / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Theater senior Drew Mackey plays "Afro" in "LOTD," parodying "Frodo" from "Lord of the Rings."
 
<em>Photo courtsey of Jared Scott Mercier</em>/issues/arts/693639
Photo courtsey of Jared Scott Mercier
 
Mercier/issues/arts/693639
Mercier
 

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SWEET VENGEANCE

Revenge feels good, especially when directed at a group who has wronged you.

Just ask ASU business senior Jared Mercier and his alter-ego "Scott Ron." Mercier clearly understands the pitfalls of the Greek life system -- namely, animosity toward the fraternity that rejected you.

In a new parody film produced by ASU students, entitled "The Lord of the Discs" ("LOTD"), Ron takes it upon himself to retaliate against the Greek life system for his rejected bid, through by expositing scandalous fraternity actions on campus.

While Mercier, the director, writer and producer of the film, was not intentionally shaping the character after his own experiences, Ron wound up reflecting much more of his life than expected.

As a freshman, Mercier, like many other ASU students, decided to pledge a fraternity. When rush week neared an end, Mercier and his hopeful pledge class patiently awaited the week's results. As the names were slowly read off, his hope sunk to his feet and, after the final name was read, splattered on the ground.

He was the only one in his class who did not receive a bid.

"While I didn't resort to ridiculous revenge plots, I was sore about it for around a month," Mercier says.

Ron, played by Mercier, avenges his reputation through a porn scandal that is eerily similar to one experienced by ASU three years ago, when former ASASU vice president Brian Buck and his fraternity participated in a pornographic movie. However, in "LOTD," Ron actually phones someone in the pornography industry to set up Greek life.

Mercier decided to play Ron, because it was a small role that he says suited him.

"It wasn't until post-production that I realized just how autobiographical the movie was," Mercier says. "It was actually kind of creepy."

TIMES GONE BY

Mercier, now 21, started writing "LOTD" when he was 19, after reading the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While he received a lot of negative feedback about writing a parody based on the "Lord of the Rings," he never let it get him down. Mercier knew that with the right mentality and effort, his film would succeed.

Colin Redemer, interdisciplinary studies senior, actor and Mercier's longtime friend, plays "Randolf" in "LOTD." He says when Mercier told him he was going to turn the "LOTD" idea into a film, he simply laughed.

"Jared has always been a big ideas person, and I really thought that was all there was to it," Redemer says. "I didn't expect him to even deliver the whole script, let alone the whole finished film. In a big way this film has changed my view of Jared ... of the six directors I have worked with, he is the best."

Ron Newcomer, theater department faculty associate and Mercier's film advisor, says he initially had some reservations about "LOTD," because it was a direct parody. But he says he felt the twists Mercier put into the plot were screaming with possibilities, and that the film represented college life well.

"It's the strongest element of the film so far," Newcomer says.

Mercier says "LOTD" makes fun of student life while tipping its hat to one of the greates trilogies of all time.

Mercier says there is a prejudice against parodies amongst members of the film industry.

"Lots of people consider them uncreative, almost stealing," he says. "But I think our movie will overcome that. When you watch most student parodies, you have to have seen the work it's parodying or it won't hold up. Our movie is a story itself."

Despite the negative feedback, Mercier was determined and, over the course of two years, followed his idea through.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Most of the scenes were shot on ASU's Tempe campus, which had its ups and downs. Mercier says a scene shot using the bridge over the life sciences building was particularly challenging. Before the "LOTD" cast and crew could use the bridge, members of the life sciences department investigated the film, making sure Mercier and his crew were not members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in disguise.

"The week we wanted to shoot happened to be nature week," says Mercier. "I guess people try and raise hell in the life science buildings, destroying equipment and stuff during that time."

Roughly 60 people were involved in the making of "LOTD," but the film started out much smaller. Mercier and former ASU student Chad Ohnstad, cinematographer and co-producer of the film, posted flyers all over campus advertising auditions for the film, but on the first day of auditions, no one showed up.

"[Chad and I] were sitting around saying things like 'wouldn't it be funny if no one showed up?' at the end of the night when, indeed, nobody showed up, it was not funny," says Mercier.

The roles were eventually cast, but the problems didn't end there. On the first day of shooting, two actors didn't show up for the shoot. Mercier was forced to either wait it out another day, or cast two members of his crew. He decided on the latter and proceeded to cast interdisciplinary studies senior Josh Spiegel and former ASU student Chris Carney.

"I think they did a wonderful job, and am very happy with the way things worked out," Mercier says.

While most Hollywood films are created by a producer, "Lord of the Rings" and "LOTD" were created by the directors. If a producer is in charge of the completion of the film, she or he gets final say in everything -- including artistic control. When a director is in charge, she or he has full creative control over the film.

"Strong direction makes a strong movie," Ohnstad says and adds that Mercier is clearly a strong director.

Despite the film's initial troubles, the "LOTD" cast and crew pulled it off.

"I absolutely love my cast," Mercier says. "I was blessed with a wonderfully talented team. I know that this is said a lot, but I really mean it."

Mercier gives his cast credit where it's due.

"There are a lot of jokes in 'LOTD' that I cannot take credit for," he says. "The cast was always great at coming up with things on the spot. They were very respectful, too, and would always double check with me to see if it was something I wanted."

CREATIVE PROCESS

Mercier lives and breathes his film, but the film is not his only accomplishment.

When Mercier first arrived at the university he joined the Film and Video Career Club (FVCC), which was a student-run organization that collectively put out one film a year. The central focus was not what Mercier thought a film club should accomplish, so he co-founded the Independent Film Production Club (IFPC) with Ohnstad as a means to network ASU filmmakers. Through this larger network, students working on individual projects came together to help each other out.

While the IFPC and the FVCC were initially at odds with each other, Mercier proposed an alignment that wound up merging the two clubs into one, now entitled the ASU Filmmakers Association, which he runs as president.

"We are the first film club on campus that exists for the sole purpose of sharing resources and networking," Mercier says. "We are also the largest and most successful film club in ASU's history."

Mercier, along with other students, has also pushed endlessly for a film degree on ASU's campus, which was passed through the Arizona Board of Regents in August.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Mercier submitted "Lord of the Discs" to this year's Phoenix Film Festival, as well as iFilms, an interactive Web site featuring streams of movies, short films and music videos.

"LOTD," will premiere tonight in Murdock Hall, room 101 at 7 p.m. During the ending credits, Mercier asks viewers whether they would like to see "LOTD" turned into a trilogy. Currently, Mercier has plans for "The Two Computers" and "The Return of Greek Life," if people want to see them made.

The DVD for the "Lord of the Discs" will go on sale at Hoodlums in the Memorial Union starting Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Most of Mercier's friends and colleagues say he's an aggressive person who knows what he wants -- traits of a producer in the making. But Mercier says he actually wants to continue writing and directing.

"After school I'll head to L.A. and start climbing the ladder," he says. "I'll still do my own projects on the side. I am and will continue to be a filmmaker."

Reach the reporter at shaina.levee@asu.edu.



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