The “Campus Radio” movie tour bus is in the background at a recent unicycle football game. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
The movie “Campus Radio,” a rock ‘n roll romantic comedy set mostly in San Marcos, had a successful world premier at the Starplex last Friday.
The film is slated to play until at least Feb. 17 while it gains the momentum needed to be shown in multiple small Texas cities at once.
The movie sold out for its premier and ranked third in weekend ticket sales at the Starplex behind wide-release films “Roommate” and “No Strings Attached.” For the moment, the film is only available for viewing in San Marcos. Further sales figures and negotiations will determine where the film is shown next.
“I think the (film’s) message is wonderful,” said San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero, who attended the film’s premier. “The characters really resonate with the audience, and there’s moments that were just really touching. I think, overall, it’s a great film, and I think people will be excited to see different landmarks, businesses, and things that they’re familiar with seeing in their daily lives in San Marcos.”
Guerrero said shooting films in San Marcos is not new, though he said Campus Radio is the first film where San Marcos appears as the setting.
The film’s director, Aaron James Sorensen, said the film cost well less than $1 million to shoot, “about the cost of a really nice house.”
San Marcos is mentioned by name in the film’s first line of dialogue. The movie’s first few minutes include a scene that would not surprise a San Marcian, as the story’s protagonist unicycles past familiar businesses around the courthouse square. Scenes were set at Tantra Coffeehouse and various spots on the Texas State campus, among other locations. Tantra and Wake the Dead Coffeehouse are mentioned in character dialogue, and a unicycle football game is featured in the movie.
According to “Campus Radio” director Aaron James Sorensen, the film was shot about equally in San Marcos and Austin, though most of the movie’s story takes place in San Marcos. Sorensen, who also wrote and produced the movie, said some scenes shot on the banks of the Colorado River in Austin are set in San Marcos for the purposes of the story. The San Marcos River does not appear in “Campus Radio,” though Sorensen said he intends to include the river in a future film.
Sorensen said he wants to show the movie in 96 small Texas cities before allowing it to run in the four large metropolitan areas in the state, though plans may change due to the fluidity of market conditions. Sorensen said he wants the film to have a final “homecoming” showing in San Marcos.
“Campus Radio” was never intended to be a valentine to San Marcos, though Sorensen said giving residents the opportunity to see their home on the big screen is important to him.
“(Campus Radio) is a rock ‘n roll comedy about love and forgiveness,” Sorensen said.
Much of the film features the travails of three Texas State students in their efforts to find romance. Xavier (Tom Belding), a unicycle-riding, rock ‘n roll DJ for KTSW-FM, is the film’s protagonist. Tommy (Lauren Walsh), the main object of Xavier’s desire for much of the film, is a beautiful, flirtatious female singer who recently joined the band Xavier manages. Jolene (Anne Griffin), a sweet, wholesome young woman who runs a KTSW-FM show called “Jesus Freaks,” is smitten with Xavier, though he at first perceives her to be too socially conservative and religious.
Xavier’s love for his band and desire for Tommy inspire him to make personal sacrifices on their behalf. The band members and Tommy seem to prove themselves unworthy of Xavier’s efforts and love. Xavier, in turn, seems to prove himself unworthy of Jolene’s advances. However, a central question raised by the film is whether ideas of worthiness and unworthiness should motivate acts of love and forgiveness.
In a memorable scene, Jolene astonishes Xavier with her ability to forgive. Xavier, emotionally exhausted by his ordeal and humbled by Jolene’s faith, asks her what remedy there is for a person who cannot find love.
“Love isn’t something you try and find,” Jolene says. “It’s something we give.”
Jolene’s grace awakens Xavier’s capacity to offer impartial love and forgiveness.
The film also prominently features yoga and a marriage administered by a Hindu, and Jolene questions the scriptural authority of much of the New Testament when she tells Xavier that many self-described Christians should instead call themselves “Paulians.”
At the question and answer session following the film’s premier, two audience members said they loved Jolene’s Christian/Paulian comment, and one person asked Sorensen what prompted him to include that idea.
In reply Sorensen described himself as “a bit of a Jesus freak,” and lauded the simplicity of Jesus’ admonition to love everyone. Sorensen said this ethic reminds him of why he moved to Central Texas.
“One of the things I like about you all here, and why I moved to Central Texas … is I like the way you freaks and squares kind of all find a way to get along together,” Sorensen said.
His comment was interrupted by general applause and whooping from the audience.Email | Print
To SMLN: A written article is the one place where you can tell the whole story. Delve into details. Whereas your articles are so much fluff, just like the TV gives you now-a-days. This article reads like it was written by a freshman in HS. Who is Aaron James Sorensen? Why did he choose San Marcos to film in? If this is a follow-up to an earlier article? There’s no harm in putting info from that story in here or referring readers to the earlier article.
It refers to his next film using the San Marcos River, which made it sound like all his films are set in Central Texas. IMDB on-line lists him as Canadian.
I don’t get onto Newstreamz, sorry SMLN often so I may have missed any earlier Campus Radio articles.
And yes, my wife and I saw the movie, which is why I read the article at all.
Ted, instead of taking the advice of most in the business and writing to suit the comprehension level of a child, maybe I mistakenly channeled a 16-year-old to do the writing. I suppose that’s what happens when you try to substitute the occult for journalism school. But seriously:
Sorensen, a Canadian, said he had the germ of an idea for a campus radio-themed movie while he was in Central Texas in 2008 to play a music gig in Austin. During that trip, he happened to travel to San Marcos, where he encountered a unicycle football game in progress in the empty parking lot next to Tantra. San Marcos is home to what is probably the first unicycle football league, and the sport has become part of the city’s identity.
“I saw these jackasses playing football on unicycles, and I thought, ‘This has to be in a movie,'” Sorensen said.
Sorensen in 2008 had moved to Los Angeles from Canada and was looking to buy a house in L.A. After the aforementioned music gig, Sorensen prolonged his trip to Central Texas. Sorensen said he discovered that he loved the area and he found prices for comparable homes more to his liking.
“We are committed that one in 100 texans see our movie,” Sorensen said before the film’s premier. “So our magic number is 251,455. We’re going on the road and wee’re not stopping until 251,455 Texans pay nine bucks to see this movie. If we accomplish that, we’ll do a great thing for this film. But that will also go a long way to start the bigger project, which is a new film studio production and distribution company based in Texas. Basically, we want to start like a small-scale Lion’s Gate in Texas. We would be proving the point that this is kind of in some ways a test-run, that we can do this and the market will respond and support it.”
As to who Sorensen is, he’s a writer, musician, director and film producer from Dixonville, Alberta. He wrote, directed, and produced the successful film Hank Williams First Nation (2005), and the miniseries based on the film. Sorensen told the audience at the Campus Radio after-picture Q&A that he used one of his first big checks from the Hank Williams First Nation miniseries to get a house in Austin instead of L.A.
When asked what films or directors inspire his film work, Sorensen replied that he is more inspired by music and musicians.
“All my heroes seem to have always been from Texas,” Sorensen said. “As a boy growing up and as a musician, I’ve been a total nut for Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Billy Joe Shaver is a god to me. And many others. As a kid growing up in northern Canada, I’ve always had this odd association with Texas music. And now I’m here making music and making movies.”
Sorensen said the role of Xavier’s grandfather in Campus Radio was written for Shaver. Shaver could not play the part for health-related reasons, and Sorensen said he was extremely lucky to find Royce Boswell to play the role instead.
Sorensen said his next film projects include 1) Cowboy Speedway, a film featuring dirt track stock car racing, 2) Broken Spokes, a film featuring Texas honky-tonk themes, 3) Big Kahunas, a film about surfers in Texas who ride waves created by tankers.
As the only Ted who posts on here, I wonder if you think you are replying to me. I certainly did not write that critique. Perhaps you saw my name next to the post that followed it, applauding the True Vineyard fundraiser.
Sorry, Ted, meant to write “Steve.” You have a glimpse of what my editor has to go through 🙂
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