Citizen Payne was FSP’s ultimate creation in both a chronological and qualitative sense, as well as in a “oh God I can’t believe we did that on camera please don’t let this get on to Twitter” sense. It was also, hands down, the most fun I have ever had being not very funny with my friends.
Summer 1992 was, for most of my friends and I, our first summer “home” after freshman year of college, and most of us knew that it was likely to be our last time together as a group before we gradually went our separate ways for good. With that added poignancy and urgency to spend our remaining time together in a meaningful way, we then proceeded to dick around and waste most of the summer.
Because the FSP crew were film nerds, we all had greater or lesser fascinations with Orson Welles’s 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane. As a result, we planned to use the summer to make our own epic – and storyboarded an absurdly ambitious plot that touched on Kane, Superman, Saturday Night Fever, Charlie’s Angels and everything in between. Had we actually finished it all, it would have easily run an hour long.
Neil Binkley’s house became the locus of our scattered filming efforts that took place whenever we could coordinate our schedules (in and around our summer jobs), but progress was never adequate to meet our ambitious storyline. By late July it had become clear we would never finish it in time before the end of summer. I went home one night determined to salvage the project and holed up in my parents’ basement with a six-pack of Mountain Dew and my trusty Sears typewriter.
N.B. to our younger readers: a typewriter was like a computer running a very, very old version of Google Docs that had no screen, only one font, required applying viscous fluids to delete words once typed, and couldn’t copy, paste, add images, markup text, change layout, use emojis, save versions, reply, forward or retweet. It basically represented the midpoint in human communications capabilities between cave paintings and WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS.
N.N.B. to our younger readers: DOS was ostensibly an operating system for computers in the sense that it would let you play very blocky pirated versions of SimCity if you entered the proper commands. Sears was like Amazon if Amazon sent you a 400-page book three times a year to order from; also you could drive there and be bored while your mom shopped for clothes. WordPerfect was neither a word, nor perfect; discuss.
At any rate, I emerged with a revised script where we would basically make the show an extended promo for the real Citizen Payne, showing off the bits of the original story we had filmed and adding some new “behind the scenes” features, combined with a few clips from older FSP productions, in order to flesh out our requisite 30 minute slot. We even went so far as to make a trailer for Citizen Payne that ran on Suburban cable that summer – a teaser for a show which was itself a teaser for a longer, nonexistent show. Such meta. So wow.
Click the image or the link below to view the trailer for Citizen Payne:
Just as before, our cast was made up of our friends who would work for tacos, and our prop budget was severely impacted by the overhead costs of malt liquor acquisition. The looking-at-it-30-years-later cringe factor has reached apocalyptic levels, especially due to our taking full (figurative) advantage of our attractive female friends who were willing to run around in bikinis on camera.
Some of the skits are pretty broad parody of common tropes popular in TV or movies at the time. Other parts of it make almost no sense if you aren’t familiar with Citizen Kane or the parodied source material, but pop culture solipsism is a time-honored tradition for teenagers. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a big influence of mine at the time and a lot of the self-referential humor is cribbed from there.
We once again had the run of the Suburban Cable community access video equipment for filming and editing. The closing credits sequence took a disproportionately long time but it was assembled from clips of all the FSP films (including the “lost” Tristan and Iseult) and plenty of outtakes so it functions as a three-minute FSP “greatest hits” themed to the Beastie Boys. The version I put online is a digital transfer from a VHS copy that was recorded direct from the 3/4″ tape deck, so today you’re able to view it in something approximating the interlaced 30 fps Standard Definition glory that it once appeared in to residents of Southeast Pennsylvania (and later Richmond Virginia).
All in all, Citizen Payne was a wonderful experience and a great way to ride off into the sunset for Fearsome Symbolism Productions. By finally making it available online, I hope to introduce a whole new generation of people from all over the world to not care about it or watch it, and probably live happier, more fulfilling lives as a result.
Click the image or link below to watch Citizen Payne:
Andrew “Conan” Marcus
Written and directed by Jeffrey Carl and Neil Binkley
Director of photography: Neil Binkley
Chief lackey: Brian Kehs
Edited by Neil Binkley with Jeffrey Carl