Sunday, May 5, 2013

Two guys who failed film school

Today, my friend Phil Borsos, would be 60. Phil was a totally filmmaker whose talents in filmmaking were above grade. Phil died way too early in 1995 of a type of leukemia in Vancouver. 

Phil and I met at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1872 when my then-wife Brenda and I went there to take classes in film and photography. The course was below my knowledge as I had worked in film for 3 years already. But the whole thing was to spend 4 months in the great Canadian Rockies. He's behind the white haired lady and I'm to his left, behind the blonde. Lots of hair going there!

The school rests between sharp mountain peaks in every direction, a great place to go to school. Phil and I hit it off right from the beginning, he had art experience and I had film experience and we both helped each other make the obligatory 15 minute film. However in the class of around 15 students, Phil and I were the only ones who failed.

The instructor even suggested we not try the movie business.

But we did, I moved to Vancouver and we started a small company called Rocky Mountain Films and managed to barely find work let alone money. Phil had always wanted to make a short film about a barrel factory in the city. It made whiskey barrels as well as other types.  Somehow we gathered the money and borrowed some, got free film from the film board and processed it at night at the local lab.

The film turned out great, winning the Canadian version of an oscar for a short film as well as awards in several other countries and even ending up as a finalist for the 1976 oscars.

We made another short film called Cadillac which again won awards.

But we still had no money. Our tiny office was running with funds from my job as a night film editor at one of the TV stations and Phil's job at the film lab. We got jobs anywhere we could but finally I got an offer to work as a producer and writer and I decided to take it. 

Phil had always talked about a local bandit circa 1900, an American named Billy Miner, who was probably the first person to rob a train in Canada.  We talked about it often and kept in touch as I worked in Saskatchewan and Alberta.  

We even met in Los Angeles in 1976 to get Cooperage to run in a local theater, which was necessary if you wanted to enter it into the Academy Awards. We found a theater in the Los Feliz area and dropped off the 35mm print with the projectionist.

He would run it after the feature film and when it ended, we took it back and went to a motel. We did this 5 times and it qualified.

After that we both went in different directions but always kept in touch and even made our debut feature films in the same year. His was far better than mine, of course, but he never mentioned that. Those hungry years made both of us appreciate any achievement. 

He made several big features and was about to make another until the disease struck him. He had a touch of it a few years earlier but this time it was not going away.

I stayed at his house along with his wife Beret and their two boys, Angus and Silas and helped out where I could, mostly being with the boys. After Phil passed away I stayed for a week or so to see what else I could do and finally returned to L.A.

I miss him. We had great arguments, he was a big guy and could shout louder than me, but we always got along and had that bond of starving artists. We were going to do a few of my screenplays, he even wanted to make Emperor of Mars but it never came to be.

Phil was one of those tremendously talented people and I like to think I may have scratched off a tiny bit

I miss you buddy.


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