Membership has its privileges, though they may be a while in coming. After five years as the American Film Institute’s membership and press coordinator, Curtis Prather will finally see one of his own productions on that exclusive silver screen. The Wave is an 80-minute hi-8 video production, and is scheduled as part of the Institute’s “Preview/Review” series. Prather concedes that “I have a hard time describing it,” though it took him one year to shoot and four more to edit.
Focusing on both D.C. and a quartet of twentysomethings, The Wave opens with television images of various leaders practicing their well-rehearsed waves at their subjects. Prather’s friends Myriam Tron, John Dimes, Rebecca Higbee, and Matt Langley co-opt this imperial gesture and become their own greeting committee. “Welcome to Washington. Explore and discover,” cries the personable Tron to startled, appreciative, and just-plain-uninterested passers-by. Part drive-by performance art, much time is spent in monumental Washington, though Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and the New U are also featured backgrounds.
The principals’ constant chatter resembles a graduate-school version of The Real World—which was in its first season when Prather’s production began. The resemblance is partly due to the fact that Prather had just purchased his camera. “Everyone was quite candid around me. Since then, people have seen what becomes of the stuff. Now I get a lot of ‘Put that camera away!’”
The most effective moments are musical: a spontaneous holiday dance to the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” at the Tron household, wandering the Mall to the strains of Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”—a song that never fails to brighten the mood. (Dammit, I’m serious!)
The years spent honing the tape were not without cost. “In the back of my mind I always wanted to show it at the Biograph,” says Prather. “I never got my act together in time before it closed.”
If the imminent loss of such a beloved venue wasn’t enough to spur completion, another looming landmark was. “I turn 30 in a month,” Prather admits. “It’s not a project I view a person in his 30s working on.”—Dave Nuttycombe
The Wave screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at the AFI Theater. For information call (202) 828-4090.