“You can walk home with me,” he said, with his 6-foot-seven-inch shadow casting along the warm Los Angeles sidewalk as he made his way home. Phone in hand, he made wide strides with his genuine and quirky smile on his face.
His witty offer travelled the distance of satellites to the other end of the conversation, and to the other end of the country, in Rochester, Mich. — his childhood home, and his soon to be destination.
Oakland University alumnus and current student of cinematic art at Southern California University, Jerry White, Jr., is the co-creator and producer of “30 Minutes of Madness”— an Oakland County public access television show from the 1990s.
After over a decade of falling out between members and a country-wide split of lifestyles, White is calling all his past collaborators back to the mitten for another episode.
It all began in 1990 when White was 14-years-old.
“We were just making silly skits in the streets with one of our dads video cameras,” he said.
And so began “30 Minutes of Madness” — an MTV-generation skit show full of wild comedy, amateur editing and effects, and a charming sense of originality and resourcefulness.
“Meeting Jerry was exactly what being around Jerry (is) like — it was exciting and weird,” Molly Brodak, OU alum, author and returning actor said. “(He) is a dreamer, but also has enough energy and excitement to get others caught up in his vision.”
Before becoming a regular face on the camera, Brodak would pass out fliers for the show at her school. She looked up to White and the others for their passion at such a young age.
“His show was inspiring because I saw that it was just these local kids making art out of nothing — just having the creativity and discipline to make things they believed in,” she said. “I honestly don’t know if I would have grown into centering my life around creativity if I hadn’t had these friends who valued making art over other things teenagers were doing, like drinking.”
Brodak will also return to Michigan for the new episode.
Finding his inner filmmaker
White majored in German language and literature while at OU. It was then that his passion for film returned.
“The great thing about those language majors is that your final project can be just about anything,” White said.
He began creating his own German language films. While working in the labs in the basement of Wilson Hall, and even sleeping in the halls when he put in late hours, he met Andrea Eis, associate professor of art and chair of the art and art history department.
“His projects were expansive and complex and he never wanted to simplify or scale back. He would work to the level he needed and beyond,” Eis said. “It was more than work ethic — it was a passion for the work, for the vision that he wanted to realize.”
White refers to Eis as his mentor, and thanks her for the motivation to apply to graduate school.
“The inspiration went in both ways as well,” Eis said. “But the end of Jerry’s time at OU, I has started reviving my own film work, which had been dormant for several years. It was definitely because I was inspired by his creativity, innovative approaches and intense dedication.”
“30 Minutes of Madness” came to a halt when White and co-creator Joe Hornacek began to split apart. Creative differences and wavering priorities forced them to change directions in life.
“In the beginning it was fun because it started in high school and we could go to school the next day and talk about it with our friends,” Hornacek said. “But after we graduated we had to take care of ourselves and the fact that we were all trying to go to college, live in the same house and hold (down) jobs was a bit of a headache for us.”
Financing the project became an issue as well. Trying to financially support a creative project of such size, and trying to land on their feet as adults was difficult to do simultaneously.
“When you get to that point in your life, you get gratification from working hard and (you’re) proud of the integrity that you have for taking care of the bills, so you do not have the mind set for (pressing) the record button and acting funny for the camera,” Hornacek said.
‘20 Years of Madness’
“30 Minutes of Madness” spans 15 episodes. The new episode, which will be shot in Rochester this summer, will mark the 20-year anniversary.
To mark the achievement and to grasp the drama that envelopes the relationships of those involved, a documentary will be made of the final episode — “20 Years of Madness.”
Directed by Jeremy Royce, the documentary will focus simultaneously on the history of the show and on the difficulties and challenges presented by the creation of a new episode — whether or not those involved will overcome them.
Royce cites the shows charm on its, “quirky, rough around the edges,” style.
The show sparks enthusiasm because it is easily relatable for those who grew up with the arts and their parent’s video camera, but it weighs heavier because they (“30 Minutes of Madness”) had the courage to present their work to the world while they were still learning, Royce said.
“I tell myself I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have hope for them to reconcile and start making artwork together again,” he said. “But a piece of me wonders if they’ll face the same challenges and whether or not they’ll choose to work together, or split up.”
Finding the means
White plans on returning to Michigan in mid-June to July. As of now, Royce and himself are trying to collect enough money to fund the trip East.
Whatever money they can raise will go towards renting a house for the crew to stay in during filming. Currently they have raised roughly $2,500 of their $12,000 goal with thanks to their page on Kickstarter http://kck.st/op30MOM
“I know most of us will probably be approaching this with some suspicion and doubts,” Brodak said. “ But I think it will be good for all of us.”
Contact Life Editor Clare La Torre via email at firstname.lastname@example.org