“Second House” filmmakers discuss filmmaking, Malden, and their next project shooting at Urban Media Arts

Tony Martinez (right) and Anders Johnson (left) on the set of To Err. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

By Jack Drees

Lights, camera, Malden! A new short film is set to begin production in Malden this weekend. The untitled “proof of concept” production for a proposed feature film — a psychological thriller — will take place at Urban Media Arts, and YOU have the opportunity be a part of it! The production invites people with varying levels of experience to fulfill some behind-the-scenes roles. It will also bring back two minds behind the award-winning science fiction short film To Err.

The two returning minds are Anthony Martinez and Anders Johnson. They are passionate about films and how they are made. Both have origin stories that relate to their craft and the setting for this upcoming film.

Now a Malden resident, Martinez was a TV reporter while still a student at the University of Missouri. Comfortable in front of and behind the camera, he took his newfound interest and pursued his Masters degree at the London Film Academy in England, where he worked with international students and collaborators. He describes it as an “incredible experience.” He finished his program at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, which he says is “the same experience, but 2.0.” This allowed Martinez to get involved in film and television-making in the United Kingdom. He eventually moved back to the states, finding himself a video-centric job at Massachusetts General Hospital to keep a steady paycheck coming while being able to pursue his passion projects.

Former Malden resident Anders Johnson was given a VHS camcorder in 1995. He fiddled with the camera as much as possible. Since then, he utilized his access to video equipment to create stories, stop motion movies, and shows on a webcam. He continued his passion by studying communications with a focus on film during his time at Gordon College in Wenham.

Martinez and Johnson are also involved with the production company, Second House Films, founded by Martinez, which offers media production services for a variety of clients. When Martinez is not busy at Mass General, he is the studio’s Director. Through Second House Films, Martinez and Johnson also created the short film To Err, as an entry to NASA’s CineSpace Short Film Festival in 2021. Some of the scenes were shot at Malden’s Urban Media Arts. The film went on to win the Best Live Action and the Audience Choice award for short film in the Sci-On! Film Festival. It has over 100,000 views on Dust.com, a community of sci-fi subscribers on YouTube, and has been screened in front of live audiences at various film festivals nationally and internationally.

The two are now making their new proof-of-concept film, and are returning to the UMA studio to make it happen. The film will, appropriately, be set in a community media center.

Urban Media Arts exterior. Photo by Jack Drees.

Martinez and Johnson look forward to setting up shop at Urban Media Arts on December 7 with a professional team of camera, sound and light operators and professional actors. Additionally, they want to get local community members involved. UMA has been promoting the film shoot and has offered positions as production assistants, behind-the-scenes photo/video documentation, and “shadowing” members of the film crew. Though many of these advertised positions have been filled, there are still last-minute opportunities for aspiring filmmakers to take part. All positions are volunteer and require some commitment of time on December 8th and 9th.

“Everybody, including us, is volunteering for this thing. So it’s like another low budget, no budget type of deal. And we would love to include the community in it,” Johnson says.

The current production schedule is laid out as follows…

  • December 7: Walkthrough, photographing set, discussing logistics, prepping set, moving and arranging props, bringing equipment and marking camera locations.
  • December 8 & 9: Full production day.
Martinez and Johnson working on To Err with Liz Bishop (Noelle). Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

There will also be an opportunity for the wider community to learn about filmmaking through a one-evening seminar with the filmmakers, entitled “Making the Cut,” to be offered at UMA this winter.

On the surface, the crew behind this project want to make something that people can be proud of, scare audiences, and deliver a great story. The ultimate goal, however, is to bring awareness to the community media industry. Martinez says community media is “still living and breathing. It’s operating. It’s trying to survive. It’s had to reduce its size and numbers over time, but it’s still here. And to be able to tell a story in that setting hopefully brings a lot of attention back to community media. We hope that there’s a resource collection built up from the success of this film. We hope that people want to volunteer or be tied into their community media.”

Johnson too has ties to community media, making him want to tell a story like this. He has memories of being able to utilize community media center equipment when he was out of college. Johnson says, “I was able to go and pay a five dollar membership to my local media center. I could pay five bucks, and they were able to provide me with whatever video equipment I needed. They were able to provide me with the technical support, the moral support. And they were on Team Anders to produce a story and broadcast it.”

One of the goals for this proof of concept is to secure a budget to the point where it becomes a feature. If that is done, Martinez and Johnson hope to collaborate with other local community media studios.

“What we want to do is shine a very bright light on community media, because of its setting, because of the involvement, the collaboration of resources and personnel that we would be looking for, as we are with a proof of concept currently, but we would also like to look for with the development of a feature as well,” Martinez says.

As the two aspire for a future of a highly collaborative production featuring many community media centers, they look forward to working once again with Urban Media Arts. As for Johnson, who came up with the idea of using the studio’s control room when shooting To Err, he has fond memories of stopping by the studio over his years of living and working in Malden.

Johnson says, “UMA really was very kind to us, and has always been a really good location for the community to come and realize anyone could make a film or tell a story. And that’s why I love it.”

To learn more about how Anthony Martinez and Anders Johnson made the film To Err, check out the podcast video shown above. To view their 10-minute, award-winning, short film To Err, click on this link.

If you are over 16, have some related skills in film production, and the desire to learn more about filmmaking, you can fill out an application to be part of this upcoming project at this link.

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