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Screen and Screen Again:
Noe Valley Filmmaker Brings Craigslist to the Big Screen
By David O'Grady
The Internet may be the latest refuge for writers waiting out an episode of writer's block, but for filmmaker and Noe Valley resident Michael Ferris Gibson, it became the inspiration for his new documentary, 24 Hours on Craigslist. Screened at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival earlier this year, the movie will have its local theatrical debut at the Red Vic Movie House on Haight Street Oct. 7 to 17.
Gibson had bogged down writing a screenplay for another movie when as a diversion he went to Craigslist, the popular San Franciscobased web site, which serves as a community bulletin board for classified ads, personals, and other listings.
As he waded through Craigslist's sea of postings--which are largely uncensored--Gibson became intrigued by the extraordinary glimpse into people's lives that the site afforded. "It was part sociology, part anthropology, and entertaining as hell," he says. "That experience was everything a good movie should be."
From that spark, Gibson set out to capture some of the stories behind the postings, with a few guidelines set by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark to protect the site's users: Gibson could only use postings from a single day--which ended up being chosen at random--and only from posters who volunteered to be interviewed for the movie.
Even with those limits, Gibson wound up with 121 stories and nearly 200 hours of footage. For his 85-minute documentary, Gibson has assembled stories that are poignant, funny, pathetic, and downright funky, including an Ethel Merman impersonator looking for a new bass player and drummer, two drugged-out guys hosting a sex party where no one shows up, and a massage therapist who jokes that his porn star/producer/actor resume is a gay "cliché."
With so much material, Gibson is also putting together a DVD of 24 Hours on Craigslist with expanded and additional stories, which will be available sometime next year.
It took Gibson eight film crews to make 24 Hours on Craigslist. How does an independent filmmaker find the resources he needs to make a movie? By posting to Craigslist, of course. "Within two days," Gibson says, "my mailbox was filled with almost 300 people to be on the crew."
The documentary 24 Hours on Craigslist is playing Oct. 717 at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight Street. Director Michael Ferris Gibson will be at the 7:15 p.m. shows on Oct. 7, 8, and 10.