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Lights, camera and action at the Sentinel last week

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Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 3:32 pm

For four days last week, a movie crew recorded the sights, sounds and thoughts of the Lodi News-Sentinel.

They shot the Thursday morning press run. They followed a 10-year-old news carrier doing his route. They asked Lodi City Councilman Bob Johnson about the paper's role in Lodi. And they recorded hours of reflections about the newspaper business by the managers at the Sentinel.

“The movie will be about the state of modern journalism, specifically print journalism in small towns. I think (looking at the Sentinel is) a good way to look at a bigger problem,” said director Mike Weybret.

Yes, this film is the brainchild of my youngest son — and his boss. The project is not merely cinematic precociousness.

Mike has a degree in film and video production from San Diego State, and for the past year and a half he’s actually been paying Southern California rent with his work in the movie business.

The Sentinel documentary was hatched several months ago as he and producer Cameron Duddy were driving to a job, making small talk. Duddy asked questions about our family business. Mike talked about the problems — cutting the Monday edition; struggling to make money with — and Duddy started to see a story.

Mike calls Duddy his “boss” but “I’m probably equal parts apprentice and assistant,” he told me. Cameron has directed music videos for four years. This year the MTV cable channel gave Duddy's videos the awards for Best Choreography and best Male Video.

And he’s done documentaries, said Mike. “It’s a different process, a different method, but it’s all story-telling.”

So Mike, Cameron Duddy and Eric Bernard, executive producer at Boulevard Industries, put up a few thousand dollars to fund a week’s shooting at the Sentinel.

Mike was the director. He brought along three other movie people: Cameron’s brother Collin Duddy was field producer; Peter Mosiman was the director of photography and Landon Orsillo was the sound technician. They contributed to the project by reducing their compensation — their “day rates” — in return for a chance to continue on with this film.

So where’s this headed?

Mike says the next step is to edit the film and audio they have into a trailer and a “sizzle reel,” which they will show to investors. If the money comes in, they’ll be back in Lodi for another couple of weeks of shooting. Ideally everybody will get their full day rates.

Then the trick is to interest Netflix, a film festival or perhaps even a cable TV channel that there’s drama in the newspaper business.