STORY BY MICAH KARR, BUSINESS AND HEALTH REPORTER
Local filmmaker and Wright State University Alumni John Thomas Adkins opened up about the work he did for the award winning documentary Elephant in the Living Room.
Adkins graduated from Wright State in 1986 with a B.F.A. in motion picture production, and a local filmmaker. His company, Mainsail Productions, is based out of Miamisburg and works with documentaries, as well as some commercial work.
He transferred from University of Cincinnati after spending two years there. “After the first two years I had burned through most of the broadcasting program,” he explained.
“Wright State was very documentary and production oriented,” Adkins said, “it inspired me to love documentaries.” His first documentary was in a Wright State class. He and two others created a documentary called “It bleeds, it leads.”
This 14-minute documentary covered the reasoning behind why news stories about tragedies such as car accidents, drownings, and deaths are popular. The story was prompted by a story about a girl who drowned in Caesar’s Creek. “Her friends were running down the bank and crying and screaming,” Adkins explained, “and I thought, why is this news?”
While this was his first documentary, it certainly wasn’t his last. Adkins’ most popular documentary, which won six “Best Documentary” awards at six different film festivals, is called Elephant in the Living Room, which covers exotic pets and their owners from both the perspective of the pet owners and the police and other special forces that have to deal with these dangerous pets. However, Adkins explained, he worked “99 percent post-production.”
Although Adkins mostly works in post-production, editing footage, he does get to go out into the field sometimes. For example, he has been to Daybreak Dayton, a shelter for homeless teens. He interviews teens going through Daybreak’s program. Adkins does “All the interviews and all the editing,” he explained. One of his most fascinating experiences was meeting a teenage girl who had just arrived at the shelter the night before. “Her dad wasn’t getting support and just drove her over and dropped her off,” Adkins said. Years later, he got to film her graduation from Daybreak’s program.
The film industry, according to Adkins, is “changing so much.” In the past, he explained, it took “Expensive equipment and expensive film…you had to spend a lot of money,” he said. Now, Adkins explained, “You can shoot good-looking for free.” Adkins is a devout Apple user, so he also advised “[getting] a Macintosh” for film editing. “I edited from an armchair in my living room,” he explained. New technology “makes things accessible.”
However, he feels that having the technology does not instantly make someone a filmmaker. “It’s like owning Microsoft Word and saying you’re an author,” he said.
One of his concerns for film is distribution. “You can throw [a film] up on YouTube, but then it’s just out there,” he said. Mainsail Productions, he explained, used to distribute content on television or VHS, then later DVD. “We hardly ever do DVD now,” he said, “But it’s distributed somehow, hey, that’s what we do.”
THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM (2010)
MAIN SAIL PRODUCTIONS
ADDRESS: 521 Byers Rd #109, Miamisburg, OH 45342
PHONE #: (937) 866-7800