Tolkien’s “Masquerade”

Posted By Horizon Staff April 30th, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment : 0 COMMENTS

Allison Cole

Staff Writer

What do you think of when you hear the name “Tolkien?” Chances are you think of hobbits and Middle Earth adventures.  What you might not know is that the name Tolkien has been floating around Santa Barbara over the last few years for reasons other than a hobbit and a ring.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s great-grandson, Nicholas Tolkien, is a director in our beautiful, beachside city, and his most recent film, “Masquerade,” will be shown at a series of screenings over the next month.  This film also includes the one and only Johnny Depp!

Tolkien, a friend of Depp’s, graduated from Westmont as a Theatre major and wasted no time in jumping head-first into the film industry.

“You don’t need to work in the film industry for 10 years to write interesting films,” explained Tolkien, a former child actor who played a small role in the first Harry Potter movie as a 9-year-old boy. “‘Masquerade’ was made for very little money, in very little time—anybody can make a film if they have a story to tell.”

Tolkien, a self-proclaimed writer/director/producer, also runs a local production company called Santa Barbra Productions, which he started while he was still at Westmont. Having moved to Santa Barbara from England when he was 17, Tolkien has never looked back.  “When you live in Santa Barbara, it’s hard to miss any other part of the world,” marveled Tolkien.

In order to promote his new film, which will be screened all month at the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Tolkien will be traveling back to his homeland in the United Kingdom. There have already been two screenings of “Masquerade,” which has been cut down from 140 minutes to 80 minutes, and there are plenty more to come, so be sure to visit for showing times. Although originally entered into the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the last possible second “as a joke,” the movie was enjoyed by people from near and far at its Arlington Theatre screening during the festival.

How did Tolkien get to this point of making widely enjoyed movies with Johnny Depp?  Tolkien started his involvement in the film industry at a young age.  The unhealthy pressure to perform that Tolkien felt as a childhood actor pushed him out of the limelight and behind the camera at around age 10. Tolkien started making small home movies and eventually developed his passion to the point where he has now made three feature films in two years, which is quite an impressive feat given the amount of time it takes to film, let alone edit, a movie. Tolkien noted that it takes him generally a month to put together a movie and then about a year to edit the movie.

But Tolkien would not have taken back one second of this process- a process filled with unusual escapades. One time his whole family stayed in a tree house for seven days in order to film a movie; for a different film, he covered a camera in a box and took it to the Channel Islands, claiming it was his grandmother’s remains, just so that he would be able to secretly shoot a few key scenes. Tolkien even shot a few scenes for his film “Anacapa” at Westmont.

“If you want to make a film, you’ve got to kind of live the experience,” stated Tolkien. And live it he has- through its highs, lows, successes and failures.  Gaining his inspiration from Woody Allen and Scorsese, Tolkien describes making movies as an artistic, and oftentimes scary, process: “It’s like art. I build it, and I don’t know where it’s going,” explained Tolkien. “It’s the same in life – you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.  It’s scary when you don’t know what’s going to happen in the course of the film.”  But that is the nature of the artistic experience: taking a completely “out-of-thin-air” idea and melding it into something beautiful for others to enjoy and cherish.

One of Tolkien’s goals is to bring back visual cinema.  He said, “Today, there are too many special affects. We’ve got to save the cinemas.” So as you inevitably draw nearer and nearer to that special day when you are able to clutch that Westmont diploma in your hand, remember that there is a local production company out there just waiting for Westmont students to become more heavily involved. Tolkien loves Westmont and is eager to share his wealth of knowledge to all those interested.  He will most likely be present at his “Masquerade” screenings, so try stopping by to see People magazine’s “Sexiest man alive”…I mean, to help Tolkien in his quest to save the cinema! Whatever your motivation may be, the feature film will not disappoint.

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