- Eric Shiveley with a peanut-gallery member.
*Everyone But You (NR)
Kimball's Twin Peak, Friday, April 25, 8 p.m.
On the DVD that Eric Shiveley sends to reviewers, he notes Everyone But You was "written, filmed and edited by Eric Shiveley and made mostly with a cheap camcorder, no director of photography, no producer, no filmmaking experience and no money."
Yet somehow, guided by good instincts and a way with words, Shiveley has created a spare and beautiful story about the difficulties of doing what you love.
In 2005, at the age of 36, Shiveley left his high-tech day job, sold his Denver home and moved into a tiny trailer at the foot of the San Juan Mountains near Alamosa, where land is fairly affordable. He'd released a few self-recorded albums and performed along the Front Range before, but now he planned to build a small house/recording studio and pursue his dream of making music full-time.
At 4 in the morning before breaking ground, he bought a cheap camcorder at Wal-Mart on something of a whim, and started filming all that was happening around him. Over the two years that followed, he captured a complex inner journey with all its insecurities, frustrations and setbacks as he struggled to succeed.
In the footage, fused into a feature-length film, Shiveley doesn't spare a single vulnerable moment, even sharing a little TMI about his bathroom habits (though to be fair, this bit has a payoff). He peppers the film with his quirky humor, wise observations, a pack of back-talking Chihuahuas, video game outtakes, one gratuitous explosion and even a little romance, as he falls for a coffee-shop companion named Jenna.
Though much of the story revolves around the construction of his house, that becomes something of a metaphor for all the musician is trying to build. The San Luis Valley's desert terrain, the little box-shaped home that rises from it, and the wide-open sky that surrounds it all reflect the stark road he takes.
Shiveley's cast offers a similar unadorned charm. Though he's clearly the star, he turns the camera on a handful of aspiring artists, independent musicians and friends working to answer their callings. They are the story's heroes, and the people whose songs, along with Shiveley's, make up the film's alt-rock, country-tinged soundtrack.
Everyone But You even has a few (unseen) villains: uninformed music critics, "elitist" DJs and other dispensers of unwelcome "advice." To represent them, Shiveley brings home a collection of thrift-store toys, and the "paybacks" he delivers to these simulated voodoo dolls give the film some of its funniest moments (along with any scene featuring the Chihuahuas). Yet in the end, it's his serious side and his thoughts about living a creative life that will echo in your head long after the screen goes dark.
In Hollywood, a story like this might have devolved into clich, ending with that arms-in-the-air moment. Shiveley's ending is more complex, though satisfying, and you'll need to watch through the final credits to learn how it all turns out.
The film isn't perfect. Occasionally its pace, like small-town life, grows a little too leisurely. But for a first film no, any film it's pretty darn close. You'll be amazed at what one person can create on a $1,000 budget. So kudos to Shiveley. Here's to hoping he continues filming ... and dreaming.
Watch the trailer at youtube.com/watch?v=V04bYUmslHk.