By Merle Bertrand | August 31, 2000

The late great Film Threat Video Guide had a great motto: “If you don’t like movies, make your own!” The various folks who make up sister production companies Random Foo Pictures and Pangæa Films have certainly taken those words to heart, as they’ve done just that: Made their own movies. Lots of ’em apparently, judging by the collection that comprises the twin pilot episodes of “Fade to Black.”
Both of these slickly packaged episodes have professional trappings to them, such as high-end credits and graphics, that, truth be told, are all out of proportion to the material each contains. Somewhat sluggishly cut previews of that particular program’s shorts begin each episode, followed by the films themselves. Most of these range from fifteen to twenty minutes long, making them perfect bite-sized nuggets for inclusion in a television episode. More previews then fill out each hour-long program.
The actual videos cut across all genres. “Strike Zone,” for instance, is a baseball tale about a grudge match between former high school rival jocks. “Elsewhere” sends a wizard to offer his creator, a widowered fantasy novelist, the chance to rejoin his lost wife in the wizard’s world. “51 Access Denied” launches a couple of conspiracy theorists on an adventure to discover the true nature of America’s most well-known secret base. And so forth.
Despite this seeming diversity of subject matter, all of the videos have a sort of sameness about them; this being due in no small part to the extensive and repeated uses of scarcely modified apartment buildings as locations, as well as the same troupe members repeatedly showing up in the various roles.
This naturally makes the acting the weakest part of the mix, as one might expect for such do it yourself efforts. While most of the rather conservative photography and sound work falls within the competent range, the writing also occasionally shades to the weak side. Still and all, “Fade to Black” has a certain raw and charming no-frills enthusiasm to it. Besides, these guys freely admit that they’re amateurs hoping to step their productions up to a more professional level. They’re already there when it comes to the packaging and presentation. Only time and experience will tell whether or not the phrase, “To be continued…” fades up on-screen after the picture fades to black.

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