There’s trouble on the set of “Alien Boy and Talking Dog.”
The dollar-store duct tape won’t hold and the empty spray-painted boxes and gauges that serve as the spaceship interior keep falling down.
Jesse Walton, 11, the main character — whose idea it was for the four-minute sci-fi film — gets into costume.
His helmet is a modified colander and his spacesuit is a slip-on silver exercise garment meant to make people sweat.
It works, and Walton asks the instructor, Steven Paul Judd, “Why can’t you just spray paint my clothes?”
Too late. The spray can is empty, all used up making the spaceship.
All this is squeezed into a 9-foot-by-9-foot room at a Puyallup Tribal Health Authority building.
Eighteen students whose imaginations are greater than their skills are involved in a 10-day workshop put together by the American Indian Film Institute and led by Lummi tribal videographer Freddie Lane.
It’s tuition-free and the students, ages 10 to 18, were recruited mainly from the Tacoma area.
Walton, an Omaha Indian Tribe member, says, “Doing the movie is actually pretty cool. The whole thing is coming up with ideas, with brainstorming.”
Beyond making a four-minute black-and-white movie and a couple of short public-service announcements, Lane says, “The goal is to provide media education and bring multimedia to tribal youth.
“We live in a digital age and this is a powerful way to tell your story.”
Says 11-year-old Tami Gallo, a Puyallup: “It’s hard work but fun.”
Along with technical skills, they’re learning to ask questions:
What does culture mean to you? What is tradition?
The short public-service messages deal with problems of gambling and with suicide prevention.
The no-budget sci-fi film brings laughter — what Lane says “is a universal language, the sense of humor.”
The emphasis while making this 1950s-type movie that references Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is to instill storytelling skills.
The further goal is “training our young people to tell our stories,” Lane says.
On the set, Walton’s co-star is a dog whose lines are delivered off-camera by another student.
But Alien Boy has many lines to learn and each stumble leads to take after take, then a five-minute break to refresh.
Returning, he nails it.
Now, on to the edit.
“Alien Boy and Talking Dog” is now online at https://youtu.be/WkQuBNimWi0. The movie and the public-service announcements will show in November at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.