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Mike Jittlov recounts tribulations of moviemaking

MIKE JITTLOV

Presented by the MIT Lecture

Series Committee.

Room 10-250, Feb. 17.

By REUVEN M. LERNER

MIKE JITTLOV is possibly one of the most creative and skillful animators ever to have lived. Unfortunately, his genius has not yet led to legendary Hollywood fame and fortune. If his presentations in last Saturday night's "Jittlov Day" are any indication, though, the tide may be turning in his -- and our -- favor.

Jittlov, who has been animating ever since he took a mandatory arts class while a student at UCLA, spoke briefly and then answered questions from the audience for over two hours. The questions -- which ranged from "what do you plan to do next?" to "why don't you shake hands?" -- proved almost as entertaining as some of the answers.

Many questions related to his full-length film, The Wizard of Speed and Time, which was roughly based on his short film of the same name. Jittlov described some of the many problems he encountered during production, chief among them his partner and producer, Richard Kaye. After describing some of the problems he claimed Kaye had caused, Jittlov played part of a less-than-flattering recorded conversation between the two of them.

Jittlov also told the audience about the many problems involved in distributing Wizard. He said that the movie had simply not done well in Seattle, where it originally opened. When it came to Boston last fall, however, the movie proved a smash success, running for three weeks longer than the one night originally expected. Jittlov pointed out that just as Wizard was doing well in Boston, the distribution company moved it to a different theater in a local suburb.

The close feelings that Jittlov has for his movie were obvious. He told the audience about how he had placed his entire life savings into the film, hoping that Kaye would produce the keys to success. Instead, he noted wryfully, he learned that the best advice for aspiring filmmakers is to "watch your backs."

All of the problems associated with Wizard haven't changed Jittlov's love for animation and filmmaking, however. In a post-lecture interview, he described his work as "a labor of love; you do what you think is right." He said that his films are often shown at science fiction conventions, and added that "I sometimes get calls from libraries."

Jittlov, who held about 85 staff positions in Wizard, was pleasantly surprised by the response students at MIT gave his movies. He was not sure, however, what other campuses thought of his movies. "This is the first," he said.

Will there be a sequel to Wizard? Or will he simply produce more shorts? "After this screening, I just might. I'm trying to figure out right now what to do -- whether to make shorts or feature films, or to go on to something else," Jittlov said.

For now, at least, Jittlov is "helping friends" in their movies, working as "a free consultant in Hollywood." He doesn't get too involved, though, since movies are, in his words, "their chance to express their own creativities."

Why does he work on movies? "I'm at a point in my life right now where I just want to leave a good gift behind. It's nice to do something that people really enjoy watching."