Washington city planner Marcel Acosta fills his days with meetings and paperwork. He wears a tie with his pressed shirt and dress slacks. He can see the FBI building from his office window.
In some circles, however, the bespectacled 44-year-old may soon be better known as a budding filmmaker than a Washington bureaucrat.
Acosta and three of his friends went to Los Angeles in January to pursue their lifelong dream of being on The Price Is Right. With a cheap Canon camcorder purchased from Target, Acosta filmed the journey, including conversations with fellow audience members. The resulting 10-minute documentary—simply titled The Fabulous Price Is Right—will debut this fall at the second annual D.C. Shorts Film Festival.
“I remember watching the [game show’s] first episode, on Labor Day before sixth grade,” said Acosta, a District resident. “[More than] 30 years later, nothing about the show has changed. It’s almost like a time warp, except the products are updated.”
Audience members for the show seemed as enthusiastic as ever, even after hours of waiting outside to get in to the studio. Some wore hand-painted T-shirts professing their love for host Bob Barker, who still uses that skinny corded microphone. Others jumped and clapped upon regurgitating the memorized prices of potential featured wares. “Grandfather clock, $1,250; Ford Focus, between $17,000 and $19,000,” one woman boomed.
Acosta and his friends hoped to increase their chances of being called to “Contestant’s Row” by sporting their own customized attire. They spelled out different Price Is Right games in fabric letters on their matching yellow
T-shirts. Acosta’s read “Switcheroo.”
Given that his expertise is in city planning—and that the L.A. trip marked only his fifth time using a camcorder—it seems especially impressive that Acosta’s campy documentary made the D.C. Shorts cut. How did he know how to tidy up the footage and make it resonate?
“It’s not so hard. You have to ask yourself, ‘Do you have a story? Is there a beginning, middle, and end?’ Once you figure out your story, you edit it down from there,” Acosta says.
Acosta also had an in: He’s a friend of Jon Gann, the festival’s organizer. Gann, a local filmmaker, offered critical pointers to make the film work, Acosta concedes.
From the start, however, Gann thought that Acosta’s film had some great qualities.
“I think part of the appeal of the film is that it is kind of amateurish…and has a giddy sense of excitement about it,” Gann says. “The film has this universal truth. I think everyone secretly wants to be on a game show, and everyone in their 30s and 40s wants or wanted to be on The Price Is Right.” —Hope Cristol