One (Jacob David), a large man, 29, with a thing for loose black shirts that hang from his frame, with a moustache that curls up and away but is not quite handlebar material; more than a few people have remarked how much he reminds them (in appearance, anyway) of the porn superstar Ron Jeremy.
The other (Joel Washing), 29, in thick black eyeglass frames, with a vague resemblance to brainy singers of sensitive emo rock groups; he has a job delivering pizzas a couple of days a week; less physically obvious than David, he makes up for it with his cell-phone ring, which is Italian disco, sung in Spanish.
They're young filmmakers.
David graduated in 2001 from the film program at the University of Toledo, where he met Washing. ("I tell people I 'stopped going to school' in 2001," Washing said.) They are at an age where you want to show flash. You want to make a mark, something reminiscent of SAW, another Quentin Tarantino rip-off, or a film about the heartache of being 30. Lots of guns and a screenplay with a subject you know zilch about. It should be sexy, and absolutely redundant.
Not these two.
Two Toledos, their first major picture, debuts at 8 p.m. tomorrow on WGTE-TV, Channel 30; it's part of the PBS station's ongoing Toledo Stories series. It's quite good. But it's not sexy. It has subtitles. It's shot in Toledo, Ohio, and Toledo, Spain. Its focus is artists who live and work in both cities. Not controversial artists who suspend dead sharks in formaldehyde. Fine artists. Jazz singers (Toledo, Ohio's Ramona Collins, for instance). Artisans. It's patient and compassionate. The point is to foster cultural understanding between the Toledos, to spotlight the similarities, to celebrate the differences.
"We're of the opinion," Washing said, "that artists of a place are more in tune with things happening in their cities than most people, and they are better about articulating themselves."
Now the irony.
Two Toledos and the Association of Two Toledos have had a few communications issues themselves. Lee Murray, president of the 75-year-old nonprofit - created to foster understanding between the two cities (it's the oldest sister-cities program in the United States) - hasn't been thrilled with the film.
The issue goes to the root of taste. At an initial screening last spring, members of the association didn't like the picture. Some Spanish viewers didn't like it. They felt it didn't show off enough of the artwork, Ms. Murray said. She also thought it was too "philosophical." She expected something different. On the other hand, it's not the association's movie. David and Washing made it, a movie about artistic expression, no less. "I don't know what their expectations were," David said. "Nothing was promised them."
But the film was re-edited.
Ms. Murray saw the final version for the first time on Monday night. (She says she learned it was going to be on television only a couple of weeks ago. David said he thinks the filmmakers mentioned it to the association.) Yesterday morning, hours after the private screening, Ms. Murray said, "It was better than the movie I saw in Spain. It was still the artists expressing their views, and we expected to see more art. But it was clearer. That's how I felt."
Last spring was different.
Two Toledos begins with Toledo, Ohio, at dawn. Cars move along the Anthony Wayne Trail. Then it cuts to Toledo, Spain, at dawn; a castle watches over the few cars zooming about at the same hour. The early morning light grows brighter. Then David and Washing begin cutting back and forth between the artists of Toledo, Ohio, and the artists of Toledo, Spain. They talk about why they create. We see the end results put in the center of the frame and held on for a second, for us to appreciate. It's earnest and upbeat, thoughtful and well-observed - far from edgy.
They put $25,000 of their own money into the film; they raised another $24,000 through fund-raisers. (The final film cost around $49,000.) They say they don't expect a return. "We want to make it back," David said. "We also realize it's our first project and we have to prove ourselves."
Last May, the pair showed the film to Toledo, Spain, for the first time. Ms. Murray flew in for the occasion, which coincided with Toledo, Spain's 75th anniversary party for the Association of Two Toledos. "It was a fiasco," she said.
Despite starting in early 2005, and making four trips to Spain, David said the film wasn't ready yet. "We were almost tempted to cancel the screening because we weren't entirely happy with it." But with a screening scheduled, the picture was shown, and the response, the filmmakers say, was polite and positive - others in the crowd that night describe person after person giving hugs to the filmmakers, thanking them profusely, generally happy.
Then David and Washing began hearing things. Negative things. "Which surprised us because we thought they enjoyed it." Robert Garcia, a Toledo, Ohio, artist who appears in the film, said he heard some people didn't think there "was enough of the artists." Ms. Murray's initial reaction was more harsh: "Toledo, Spain, is a small town and they treated them like royalty but they didn't include enough of the art of the people they interviewed. I'm not angry. I was just disappointed."
She also mentioned the name of the association didn't appear up front enough in the film. She wanted a mention that the film was sponsored by the Association of Two Toledos. But the mention is in there, David said - along with a mention of the other big sponsor, Marco's Pizza (Washing's part-time employer).
The chain donated about $5,000. The association donated about $5,500; it also helped arrange the interviews that David and Washing conducted with artists in Spain. There was no contract between the association and the filmmakers, Ms. Murray said. And the filmmakers say the film was never intended to be a promotional film for the group.
Indeed, David and Washing approached the association with the idea, which came out of a post-college trip they made to Spain in 2001. They had taken a one-day excursion into Toledo. "We were with a tour group and decided to break off," Washing said. They walked around and got lost. "Being in this old city with these narrow streets, so narrow you pin yourself to the wall when the cars come by - it blew our mind."
Once back in Ohio, they spoke about their experiences with John Henry Fullen, executive director of Toledo Sister Cities International, who encouraged them to make a documentary. "They came back captivated by Spanish culture," he remembers. "They were in love with Spain and they wanted to continue that relationship. All I did was encourage their idea. I go to all the conferences and have never seen anything like a documentary about sister city programs."
In the meantime, they shot children's choirs and private receptions - as a videotaping service, basically - for the video chain Movie Gallery. They shot local political campaign commercials (for Councilman Phil Copeland and Toledo attorney Sam Nugent, among others). They also organized Toledo Filmmakers, a moviemaking advocacy group that meets once a month at the Original Sub Shop & Deli on Broadway (owned by Sargis David, Jacob's father); about a dozen or so members attend each meeting.
Indeed, the last film they finished before Two Toledos was a brief history of Toledo's Farm Labor Organizing Committee for the group's national convention. "They did a pretty decent job of putting a lot of archival footage and new footage together under a tight time limit," said Baldemar Velasquez, the group's leader. "Maybe one day they will be big movie producers and we can say we knew them when they were young pups and adventurous."
As for Two Toledos, Ms. Murray wanted David and Washing to show a new cut of the film to the delegation from Toledo, Spain, that came to Toledo, Ohio, in September. She said the pair never replied to her requests. David said the film was in pieces in their computer at that point.
Now that it's done, WGTE couldn't be happier with the results, or the filmmakers. (The station provided production assistance but no money.)
"I found them very professional," said Darren LaShelle, who oversees programming at the station and is credited as executive producer. "They approached us and were easy to work with. Which is surprising, because I've worked with filmmakers of more experience who were less professional. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but when we get people who come to us with their own equipment, their own editing, and they have trained themselves already - those are people to work with."
Contact Christopher Borrelli at: email@example.com