With COVID-19 mitigation measures in full swing and movie theaters closed indefinitely, film buffs can either rely on streaming services or their own personal VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray collections to get their fix (sorry LaserDisc). When Daniel Lahr, founder and executive director of the Central Coast Film Society (CCFS), took his family out to see Pixar’s Onward earlier this month, he had a foreboding feeling it might be their last theater outing for a long time.
“I had a sense it was going to be a while until we all could go to the movies again,” Lahr told the Sun. “We all had a sense as this pandemic began to grow that things were going to shut down.”
Although Lahr’s latest episode of Take 18, a new cinema-centric podcast he premiered in January, was released at the end of February—weeks before Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay at home order—it feels more timely than ever to give the series a shot (pun intended).
It’s also free to listen to. And just as listeners can enjoy the show from the comfort of their own homes, Lahr can keep the series going without ever having to leave his house.
“The nice thing about podcasts is that they will continue to come out, even with everyone staying home,” Lahr said. “Technology is such that anyone can create movies and podcasts from their home.”
The flexibility of creating art from home—whether it be a podcast, film, painting, or repurposed LaserDisc installation—reminded Lahr of one particular hobby from his youth and the reasons he fell in love with cinema to begin with.
“It didn’t matter what I was creating, as long as I was creating something,” Lahr said, reflecting on the short films he made as a 9-year-old, using his family’s home video camcorder.
The childhood pastime followed Lahr into young adulthood, as he attended film school before starting his career as an assistant visual effects editor. Lahr’s film credits included Spider-Man 3 among others, prior to switching fields and joining the Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) in 2017.
But Lahr’s adoration for cinema never faltered, even professionally speaking; evident through his duties as CCFS’s executive director and as the SCVB’s official liaison to Film Solvang—a local marketing service dedicated to assisting filmmakers who plan to shoot productions on location in the Santa Ynez Valley.
“I’ve been a movie fan since day one! I think I drove my parents nuts with how I was consumed with movies,” Lahr said. “I remember being a superfan of Ghostbusters in the ’80s, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars.”
And speaking of Star Wars, Lahr’s enthusiasm for the franchise is hard to hide when he’s speaking to Hollywood veteran and Central Coast resident David Hardberger in episode 4 of Take 18. Hardberger is a miniature effects specialist whose filmography includes Return of the Jedi, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, and all three Lord of the Rings films.
Even though we can only hear their conversation, it’s easy to imagine Lahr’s eyes lighting up at several of Hardberger’s tidbits from his long career in the film industry. But there’s a casual quality to the talk as well.
Some of Hardberger’s most humorous anecdotes include recalling his work on Mel Brooks’ comedy cult classic Spaceballs (another revelation Lahr gets giddy about). Hardberger discusses designing the miniature model of the Mega Maid (the film’s parody of the Death Star), which was about 5 feet tall in reality. During the hilarious “from suck to blow” sequence, Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and company attempt to use Mega Maid, equipped with a giant vacuum cleaner, to destroy a planet. Hardberger recalled using several boxes of baking soda in one shot where the vacuum sucks up all of the planet’s snow, only to later blow it back out again.
Other Central Coast residing guests of the podcast include Allen Maris—the visual effects coordinator behind Ad Astra (some of which was shot locally at Lake Cachuma), Prometheus, Mystery Men, and other films—and Kyle Plummer, an independent filmmaker and CCFS board member. Similar to Hardberger’s conversation, the tone of both episodes is casual, down-to-earth, and overall welcoming.
“This is a perfect platform for people to tune in and listen on their own schedule and find some interesting, insightful, and hopefully entertaining conversations,” Lahr said. “I had never done a podcast, or anything like it before. The idea was a bit daunting at first. But now as we’re off and running, it’s so much fun.”
Send podcast recommendations to Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood at [email protected].