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MAKING THE SUNDOWNER

Steve Christolos and Alan Wigley met in San Francisco while coordinating sound together on the set of a short film. This brief working relationship grew quickly through their work on various projects over the following months, into not just a productive filmmaking partnership, but also a very close friendship. During Steve's second semester at The Academy of Art, the two collaborated on a class assignment about a man who built his own sailboat. Their twin passions for the project grew as they interviewed their subjects, and, with the addition of new interviews and unexpected footage, the humble class project was on its way to becoming an independent documentary.

While both director and producer were full time students trying to pull in meager income and complete multiple projects on time, they decided to take on the extra burden of entering The Sundowner in their school's annual film festival. Each bolstered by the other's dedication, as well as multiple cups of coffee, the two managed to whittle down hours of powerful footage to a mere twelve minute piece in order to meet the festival entry requirements. The sleep deprivation paid off, and after its screening at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco, The Sundowner took home an award for Best Documentary in April of 2009.

After a positive reaction from a large audience and a personal blessing from Jon Bendz, the film's main subject, Steve and Alan realized that the career of The Sundowner had just begun.

The following months were extremely busy for Alan and Steve, who spent their summer off from school shooting additional footage, refining the structure of Jon's story, and keeping an ear open for a composer who could capture the right mood for their story of the open sea. In addition, the task of cohesively assembling footage of varying quality from 1-chip cameras, 3-chip cameras, old Hi-8 video, and 16mm film took an extreme amount of effort, but the two young filmmakers showed remarkable dedication in bringing this moving story to its finished form.

Aside from the process of actual filmmaking, creating The Sundowner taught both Steve and Alan the value of being trusted with another man's story. Regardless of any accolades the film may garner, the highest honor they could receive is Jon's blessing, and the knowledge that the tale of his time on the ocean has been accurately and lovingly put in a form that can be shared with countless others.

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