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This story appeared on Page C1 of The Standard-Times
on November 9, 2004.

Lights, camera, Red Sox

In a year where the Red Sox finally made that final out to clinch the World Series, plenty are harkening back to the days of their youth, when that scene played out in heads and back yards over and over again.
Jay Burke may have dreamed it too. However, it's not all he had on his mind growing up.
"I literally directed a movie in my head when I was about 10 or 11 years old. It was pretty stupid ... sort of a horror thriller type thing," Burke said. "I had the thing shot-by-shot, located in the house I grew up in, all the way down to camera angles. I told a few different people, 'I'm going to make films,' and they told me I was crazy. So I sort of put it on the back shelf."
New Bedford-born and Dartmouth-educated, filmmaking is now out front for Burke.
With those very Red Sox on center stage.
Studying in the film division at Columbia University's School for the Arts, Burke's graduate thesis is "1918," a script he wrote several years ago about a pair of South Boston friends who stumble into a pair of tickets to Game 7 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Call it a buddy picture or a road movie, but the comedic story is one Burke, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1989, chose to make with the hearty encouragement of others.
"In film school, you sort of want to be taken seriously. I'd been in school for five years and had done mostly serious stuff," Burke said. "When it came time to do my thesis, I had a few other scripts I'd written and I sort of showed them to a bunch of people. Everybody's like, 'Do that one. Do that one. Do that one.'"
So he has, telling the story of friends Petey and Tim, who grew up witnesses to Bill Buckner in 1986 but remained diehards through the years.
Working at a gas station when Petey, the Costello to Tim's Abbott, presents a pair of the hottest tickets in town, the two end up losing the seats inside a car door, then have them stolen, then run out of gas on I-93 before they even reach the city limits.
The best part? It's all based on a true story.
"The whole tickets getting lost inside a car door? That happened to me in high school," Burke said. "They were Bruins playoff tickets, for the first round against Buffalo. I was driving and I put the tickets on the inside of the window … we had to bribe a guy at a gas station to take the door apart.
"When I wrote about this event, some people were like 'It's not believable.' Trust me, it's believable."
Anything could seem believable considering the road that's led Burke to today. Accepted to Notre Dame as a budding architect, stylistic disputes led him to become an economics and computer applications major.
He spent six years in consulting, working for what is now Accenture in Sydney, Australia, and Boston, before deciding finally to make the jump to film school. After having been turned down for entry into a film class at Notre Dame -- "Eh. You're reasons weren't good enough," they said -- Columbia's program offered him an academic scholarship.
"They made it hard for me to say no," Burke said.
He's glad he didn't, especially after this latest project. It just seems everything has come together at the right time, Burke said.
"I've gone from complete apprehension to complete excitement and enthusiasm. I sat for two years before making this film, worried about the finances. Finally, I just said, 'Look, I've come this far. I owe it to myself to follow through on this and to do it justice,'" Burke said. "I probably wouldn't be as excited about it as I am right now if I didn't have the cast that I had."
A cast that shares the local thread tying Burke, and fellow producer and Dartmouth alum Kyle Sullivan, to nearly everyone involved with the project.
Petey is played by Jeremy Brothers, an actor and teacher at the Improv Asylum in Boston's North End. Michael Cuddire, who plays Tim, came by way of New York. From the editors on down, each crew member comes with an impressive resume -- a blessing talent-wise, but a curse for scheduling.
"I was lucky if I was getting four hours of sleep a night, shooting all day, packing up, watching the games in a daze, then having to plan the next day's shooting," Burke said. "I'm just catching up with sleep again now."
For what will ultimately be a 20-minute short film, the amount of planning was immense. Shooting was done not only at Fenway during this year's playoffs but in apartments and alleys of nearby Allston-Brighton, a gas station in Taunton, the state police barracks in Weston, the Dunkin' Donuts on Ashley Boulevard in New Bedford -- "they shut down the drive-thru for us, they were great," Burke said -- along with Route 88 in Westport, which served as a replacement for shooting some scenes on busy I-93.
"For a short film, it was a huge production," Burke said.
A production that benefited from some equally huge cosmic coincidences.
Whether it be Petey and Tim's beaten-up Ford coming off eBay for $86, then breaking down at the very moment needed for a critical shot, or another car paralleling the story by running out of gas near the famed Keyspan tanks in South Boston, it often seemed throughout production that things were just aligned for Burke and his film.
Not to mention a World Series victory as he finished up most of the shooting.
"Before the Red Sox had won the World Series, I thought 'There's zero market for this.' Once they won, I tried to think of my alternatives where there would be a market for it," Burke said. "This has become a national story. It's become an international story. A friend of mine down in Sydney said everybody in the bar down there, when the Red Sox won it, erupted in a big cheer because they were cheering for the underdog."
While there is still the original feeling of every filmmaker to create a product many can enjoy and relate to, the surge of Red Sox mania since the Series victory has opened a limited window to a wide market for Burke. He still plans to get the movie into as many local film festivals as possible -- screening locations will be posted on 1918film.com as they're determined -- but now thinks he can sell the film to help pay more of his actors and recoup some of his expenses.
"Initially, it was let's really get some notoriety locally, make a name for myself as a local filmmaker and go from there. When the Red Sox were able to win the World Series, we decided 'Let's get this thing out faster,'" Burke said. "If we could sell it, that'd be great, but it's mostly getting exposure for myself, for the actors, for some of the crew people ... just demonstrating that we're capable of producing something of a really high quality for next to nothing."
In talking to Burke, it's clear that is his driving motivation through all of this. Not wanting to be seen as trying to capitalize on the title, he knows this is a moment when he can make a name allowing him to tell more tales as he's wanted to since childhood. He's already penned a feature-length screenplay on New Bedford fishermen, with a period piece about Heddy and Ned Green also waiting for funding from potential investors.
"You have all this stuff on paper that you worked so hard to get right. If you can't get out there and have people see you're capable, then you're not going to get another chance to do it," Burke said. "If you're good at telling a story, then hopefully you'll get another chance to do it."
As every New Englander knows, there've been few better stories that the 2004 Red Sox. Especially when relayed by those who've lived the ups and downs along the way.
"There's an innocence to it. It's about Red Sox fans, but there's a lot of quirkiness about Massachusetts in there," Burke said. "The fact that it happened this year, and I decided to do it this year ... it seems a little cosmic.
"It just feels like it's meant to be."


Original article:
Lights, Camera, Red Sox

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1918 - the film
Based on a true story
Written and Directed by Jay Burke

Congratulations 2004 Boston Red Sox - World Series Champions!