Forget Low Budget, Here's No Budget

Short films by Paul McComas

Apr. 7, 2011
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"No Budget Theatre" has been a cult favorite among Chicago cable viewers and the DVD collection allows the rest of us to see why. Framed in a cleverly campy, light-hearted context by the show's host-creator, Paul McComas, "No Budget Theatre" is a collection of short films made by McComas as an adolescent in suburban Milwaukee during the '70s. Shot with a handheld Regular8 camera, the contrast between the short subjects and the Hollywood features that inspired them (Logan's Run, Star Wars) is both amusing and revealing of the ways of filmmaking.

The teenage director kept a consistent narrative running through his productions, which stylistically were a potpourri of whatever was handy. Some of the primitive animation within cardboard settings recalls (probably unintentionally) the pioneering c. 1900 science fiction of French filmmaker Georges Melies. Live action scenes starring family and friends are juxtaposed with dolls and found footage (recorded off the TV?). Anything around the house was a potential prop, including mom's kitchen bowls, overturned to suggest the domed cities of a dystopian future. Of course, McComas also shot some of those scenes outside the suitably futuristic Domes of Mitchell Park.

McComas' teenage movies are funny (intentionally so after a point) but also marvelous for their creativity within right constraints. He paid for t hem with his allowance money and, as he says in an intro, "every penny of it ended up on screen." Sales of the "No Budget Theatre" DVD benefit blood donation services. For information, go to

McComas has also made a name for himself as a fiction writer. He will perform stories from his new collection of speculative fiction, Unforgettable, 7 p.m., May 4 at People's Books, 2122 E. Locust St.


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