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Spotlight on October TGIM celebrity judge John Scoular


Thank God for Indie Mondays resumes October 1. Among the celebrity judges who will get the discussion going after each screening is John Scoular.

Whether your interest in indie films is casual or serious, Scoular is the type of guy who can provide you with mind-blowing technical analysis and thematic insights – which is precisely what attendees of previous film festivals and TGIMs have discovered to their pleasure, amazement and aggrandizement. His documentary, Marcus Jansen: Examine & Report, opened the Sixth Annual Film Festival in 2016. In 2017, Paradise Reef astounded everyone. He’s Scoular Opines 06refreshingly accessible and happy to chat one-on-one, but even in the context of a post-screening Q&A or a T.G.I.M., he’s introspective, engaging, genuine and disarmingly hilarious. But when the laughter subsides, you suddenly realize that you know a lot more about the attributes that make an indie film good and worthwhile than you ever expected to learn.

Jansen VIMEO 2Marcus Jansen: Examine & Report was released in August of 2017 on VIMEO, but even before that, Scoular was attracting a worldwide audience because Jansen screens the documentary at every stop along his two-year worldwide museum and DECADE book tour (which began in Milan, Italy in 2016). The film explores Jansen’s motives for painting and supplies historic insight into his politically-charged works, which have roots in Graffiti, Street Art and German and American Expressionism. But the documentary also serves as an introduction to the uninitiated into the larger world of contemporary art, a feat that Scoular achieves by means of a series of interviews that he and his wife and partner, Madeline Smith Jansen VIMEO 1Scoular, conducted with such art world luminaries as Steve Lazarides (who was street artist BANKSY’s first agent), Lawrence Voytek (who was Robert Rauschenberg protégé and decades-long gallery director), West Rubinstein, Noah Becker, Dieter Rampl and Brooke Lynn McGowan (an art historian, curator and writer who is recognized worldwide as the leading expert on Jansen’s works). Not surprisingly, Examine & Report received honors at the Sixth Annual Fort Myers Film Festival as Best Local Documentary.

Although Examine & Report has enjoyed both critical acclaim and considerable exposure, it was Paradise Reef that snagged Scoular an Emmy. Three years Paradise Reef 06in the making, the documentary follows a visionary’s quest to secure BP disaster funds, rally community support, and deploy 18,000 tons of concrete to create 36 artificial reefs along Florida’s Paradise Coast. Through captivating aerial footage and in-depth interviews, the film also highlights the symbiotic relationship between the Florida Everglades, the Ten Thousand Islands, the Gulf of Mexico and Collier County, Florida.

Paradise Reef aired June 30, 2016 on PBS. It was the WGCU affiliate’s most watched online video in 2016 and has been viewed in over 1195 cities and more than 29 countries around the world. It received a Regional Emmy in the Topical Documentary category from the Suncoast Chapter of Paradise Reef 08The National Academy of Television Art & Sciences in December of 2016. (The Suncoast Chapter is comprised of the entire state of Florida, along with Mobile, Alabama, Thomasville, Georgia, the cities of Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana and the island of Puerto Rico.)

Even before Paradise Reef, John was an award-winning filmmaker, director, producer and cinematographer. He and Madeline own and operate Manta Films, a production company focused on making films about the human condition and their impact on humanity and the environment. The company’s first project is a documentary film about Type 1 diabetes. For the last four years, the Scoulars have been dealing with the disease up close and personal. Their 10-year-old son has been battling the disease for the past five years, often needing as many as seven insulin injections a day. But overcoming this and related adversity, he still swims competitively. And this will be the point of the new documentary – to inform audiences that life can be full and fun for children with Type 1 diabetes and let parents know that with good management, their child can still do anything that normal children do.

Scoular No. 3It all started when John attended the University of Texas El Paso, where he studied communications and drama. Inspired by Joe Namath and Steve McQueen, he was on full scholarship as UTEP’s quarterback. But the NFL was not in John’s future, so after college, he moved to New York, where he studied at H.B. Studios before relocating (after a brief respite working at South Seas Plantation (now South Seas Scoular No. 6Island Resort) in Fort Myers) to Los Angeles to continue theater studies at The Beverly Hills Playhouse. “Playing in front of 50,000 at the Sun Bowl or 50 at the Santa Monica Playhouse was pretty much the same,” John relates matter-of-factly.

Acting in small theaters across L.A., Scoular began writing and Scoular No. 1directing both stage plays and short films, paying the rent by working for some fantastic commercial and music video directors. “Getting paid to learn the film industry was priceless,” says John of the experience. Not satisfied with his lighting and camera skills, John enrolled at The Los Angeles Film School, where he majored in Directing, Cinematography & Screenwriting.

Scoular 10Upon graduating with honors John directed his first feature film from his original screenplay, Lunatics, Lovers & Poets. Produced by Madeline and Jeremy Robinson of Brickyard Films, the indie film won six awards at film festivals across the country, including Best Screenplay (Methodfest), Best Feature (Fort Myers Film Festival), and Best Director. And without any studio backing, it was released in 15 states through Carmike Cinemas, the fourth largest chain in the country. The film is available on DVD and VOD from Amazon.

After landing in Naples and adding a third child to their family (they now have four), John and Madeline began work on a feature film called Saltwater Cowboys and Paradise Reef: The World is Watching and Marcus Jansen: Examine & Report.

Scoular 03“I feel fortunate,” John told Sanibel Captiva Coast’s John Sprecher in an interview in 2016. “It took 20 years and a lot of twists and turns. Like in football, sometimes you’re in the zone and sometimes you’re not, and for whatever reason, [I was in the zone in 2016].”

But what Scoular leaves out of this formulation is his own vision and resourcefulness. Recognizing almost immediately that film projects are not as abundant in Southwest Florida as they are in Los Angeles, John decided to create a niche for himself and his companies soon after his arrival in Naples. “I decided I was gonna be the water guy. So pretty much I shoot on water, whether it’s in the swamp, on a chase boat or in a chopper.”

Scoular Opines 08But he is quick to give credit in that endeavor to Lance and Harry Julian, who founded their own water-based company when they relocated to Florida several years ago. At one time, the father-son tandem were among  Hollywood’s leading marine production companies for film and television, and while their concern, Pure Florida, is primarily a boat tour and rental company, it also serves as a platform for on the water, above the water and underwater film project like Paradise Reef.

While October 1’s T.G.I.M. audience is likely to hear about John’s past projects, there’s a good chance they’ll hear about what he is working Scoular Opines 10on now and has in the pipeline for the future. So this is definitely going to be one T.G.I.M. you don’t want to miss.

September 23, 2018.


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