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August 23, 2004

Private screening of new feature film by UCSC alumnus set for Nickelodeon Theater

By Scott Rappaport

Paramount Classics and the Film and Digital Media Department have invited faculty and staff to attend a private screening of a new feature film, Mean Creek, written and directed by UCSC alumnus Jacob Aaron Estes. The event will take place on Tuesday, August 24, at the Nickelodeon Theater in downtown Santa Cruz. Mean Creek will be shown at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session with the director. The screening is free, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. (The film was reviewed on the New York Times web site on August 20; the review requires a log-in.)

Poster for Mean Creek. Courtesy of Paramount Classics

Jacob Aaron Estes, writer and director of Mean Creek. Photo by Sandra Johnson

Set in a small Oregon town, Mean Creek tells the story of a group of teenagers who set out down a river to celebrate the birthday of the youngest of their group, but soon find themselves at odds with one another. The film explores the moral dilemmas teens face and is ultimately a story about the balance between friendship and responsibility.

Mean Creek stars Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, and Carly Schroeder. Honored as an official selection at both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals, the movie has been compared to such classic films of modern adolescence as Deliverance, Stand By Me, and Lord of the Flies.

“Teenagers are so often underestimated and misrepresented in media as simpletons and know-nothings with no sense of responsibility to the world they live in,” Estes explained in Mean Creek's production notes.

“I wanted to explore a world inhabited by the kind of kids I remember from my teenage years--intelligent kids, troubled but sensitive beings, people who knew that their actions might count for something. I wanted to see how kids like these would behave under intensely difficult conditions--how their sense of duty, their relationships, and loyalties to one another could be tested in an extremely stressful, dramatic situation. I think these kinds of moral questions are something that teens, as well as parents, really want to see in stories right now.”

Estes graduated from UCSC in 1994 with a B.A. in media studies. He earned an M.A. in film directing at the American Film Institute (AFI), where he wrote and directed three short films including his thesis, Summoning, which premiered at the SXSW film festival and won the Best Actor Award and the Silver Medal for Best Film at Mexico's Expression En Corto festival. He also studied acting at the Young Conservatory theater at A.C.T. in San Francisco and improvisation at the Second City of Chicago.

Estes has been selected twice to develop his scripts at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference, and his script for Mean Creek was awarded the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting.

“Jacob is a really fabulous combination of artist and intellectual; he's a wonderful playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker,” noted classics professor Mary-Kay Gamel, who sponsored Estes's individual major and senior project in the early '90s when he was a student at UCSC. Gamel also directed a play by Estes, Leigh's Outrunning Her Mefa and Pefa Tonight, for the 1993 UCSC Chautauqua theater festival, which earned him the Dean's Award for the Arts. Over the years, Estes has stayed in touch with Gamel, and recently contacted her about the upcoming release of Mean Creek.

Mean Creek will begin a regular run at the Nickelodeon Theater beginning on September 3. For more information about the private screening on August 24, contact Sherry at (831) 459-3277.

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