The 20th Anniversary screening of Bernaltown: The Movie that took place at the Bernal Heights Library last Tuesday night was a classic Bernal event. The film sold out two screenings on Tuesday night, and the audiences were a friendly mix of Bernal neighbors, old and new.
That’s probably because Bernaltown is such a sweet film. Clocking in at about 30 minutes, Bernaltown was written and produced in the mid 1990s by Gregory Gavin, who at the time was running a youth program that taught local kids how to build wooden go-carts for racing on Bernal Hill. The kids and the go-karts ended up with starring roles in Bernaltown, which was first shown in 1997.
Twenty years later, Bernaltown remains a work of delightful, uninhibited fun that showcases Bernal’s quirks and characters. It shows us how far we’ve come in some ways, reminds us what we’ve lost in others, and celebrates the oddball creative spirit that still clings to Bernal Hill’s chert.
A few celebrity guests from the Bernaltown cast were on hand Tuesday night, including the dastardly, diabolical Dealer Dan (Nic Griffin), and Shila Evanchak, who played a superhero version of her childhood self in the film:
Berntown celebrities Shila Evanchak (left) and Nic Griffin (as Dealer Dan) were on the red carpet Tuesday night
The Bernaltown screenings at the library sold out quickly, which meant a lot of Bernal neighbors were sad because they weren’t able to see the film.
Now, all Bernalese can partake of the joy that is Bernaltown through the magic of our 21st century Interwebs. Yes, Bernaltown is now on YouTube!
So load it up and gather around your favorite screen with friends and family.
Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, dogs and cats… Welcome to Bernaltown:
We’ll get to the details about the where and when in a moment. But first, a brief history: What is Bernaltown?
Bernaltown was a delightful short film produced in 1997 by a group of Bernal Heights neighbors and kids. Making movies was a nontrivial thing to do in the late 1990s, because at the time, tape-based camcorders were still the prevailing technology and the era of digital video and YouTube was still a decade away.
Nevertheless, Bernaltown was glorious. Produced in the playful spirit of the 1960s Batman TV series, Bernaltown tells the story of a group of superhero kids who use high-tech go-karts to battle a diabolical developer who’s scamming to build a a hotel-casino complex on the top of Bernal Hill.
Musician and Bernal Neighbor Joshua Brody contributed the music for Bernaltown, and here’s how he remembers it:
A little over 20 years ago, good friend Sheila Balter invited me to donate my services to a fund-raiser for a film her friend Gregory Gavin was finishing up, so I did. Once I met Gregory and saw the trailer he’d put together, I fell in love with the project: A half-hour story called Bernaltown.
Gregory had been running workshops for kids in Bernal Heights to learn how to make their own go-karts and wanted to do some documentation on it, but rather than do a dry non-fiction talking heads piece, he decided to craft a narrative featuring the kids as superhero crime-fighters, other neighborhood regulars playing more-or-less themselves (eg. the beat cop as “the chief of police”) and throwing in a fictitious — but entirely plausible — subplot about an evil gambling syndicate’s real estate grab.
It was charming as f–k, and I instantly offered my services as composer, which Gregory just as instantly accepted, sound unheard. I think my terms — free — helped clinch the deal.
The film premiered in the schoolyard behind the Bernal Public Library (where it will be shown again… to commemorate its 20th anniversary). The showing was successful enough, but what really moved me was the aftermath: neighbors strolling up and down Cortland wearing Bernaltown paraphernalia and greeting each other kill it was the small town portrayed in the film, not just another big city neighborhood.
Maybe that kind of magic can repeat itself.
The trailer for Bernaltown is lost in the analog mists of time, but this KRON report from 1997 captures the spirit of it:
So, with all that established… Bernalwood is thrilled to share the news that finally, at long last, the Citizens of Bernal Heights will again have an opportunity to see Bernaltown again.
The 20th Anniversary screening of Bernaltown – The Movie will happen on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in the main reading room of the Bernal Heights Library (500 Cortland) beginning at 7 pm.
The screening is free, but tickets are required; reserve your seats here — and you’d best hurry, because space is limited.
Recently, JaVonne appeared in a fun little video that celebrates life in San Francisco. The video is structured as a comedic chase across town, but it culminates on Bernal Hill, in a kind of a rapturous coming-together that’s totally uplifting, and totally Bernal.
The accident, which occurred last Thursday morning, August 3, may have also involved a Cadillac SUV. While the exact sequence of events is unclear, the cyclist may have lost control after the Cadillac turned left onto Bronte while traveling west on Cortland.
The cyclist has not been identified, and there is no further information about the cyclist’s condition. Neighbors say the Cadillac left the scene after the accident, and the driver has also not been identified.
After a week like this, now is a good time to view the world from a different perspective.
Thankfully, Neighbor Jesse has come through for all of us. Neighbor Jesse is a videographer who lives on Prospect, and he just produced an stunningly gorgeous timelapse video called Infinite City that highlights some of the more impressive views in our city of impressive views — including several scenes shot from Bernal Hill.
Neighbor Jesse tells Bernalwood:
For the last year and a half I’ve been obsessively shooting timelapses in San Francisco. After much hard work, I finally have something to show for it!
I got interested in timelapses around the beginning of 2016. Living in Bernal, I have the perfect place to practice. All of the shots in this video are day-night transitions, so for the most part each shot requires about a three hour wait. Standing in one place for a long time is actually part of the fun, you really get to know a neighborhood — or at least an intersection.
One of the things that got me hooked on timelapse is that it’s a great combination of photo and video. You have to worry about all the things you would for a normal landscape photo, but also have to take into account weather, foot traffic, where the moon will rise. It’s also great that I can’t see the result right away. The raw images take at least a few hours of work to get into a final video, and even then it needs to be converted one more time before it’s viewable.
After shooting a little over a hundred of these things, I started to try to fashion them into a single ‘best of’ video, but wasn’t quite satisfied with the results. . For the last month or so I’ve been looking at my video segments one at a time, and trying to bring out some aspect/shape of the video. Some are more successful than others, but overall I’m pretty happy with it.
Some stats on the video. Overall about 30hrs are represented here, in under 4min. All the source videos are 8k. In total so far I’ve shot over 50,000 images doing timeapeses, creating a little under 2tb of data.
Behold Neighbor Jesse’s fabulous video; Headphones and a big screen are highly recommended. Enjoy:
China went up to Bernal Heights to record a video for “Everyone Thinks I’m a Loser.” Royal Oakie founder David Glassebrook produced and directed the visuals, with his partner Yasamine June chipping in as co-director, art director, and cinematographer. Shot entirely on Super 8, it’s a dark, lovely, grainy ride, with a touch of humor to make sure you aren’t totally wallowing in self-pity. It all feels just right:
This week, Duckwrth released a new video for his song “Bernal Heights.”
The song is a sweet jam, but fair warning: The words don’t match the visuals. Duckwrth was raised in San Francisco, but he now lives in Los Angeles, and the video for “Bernal Heights” was filmed on the streets of South Central.
“Bernal Heights, the majestic hill that lives on the southside of San Francisco. In 2014, I wrote this song (produced by Spencer Stevens) about a shroom trip I had with a girl on this hill. Due to the push of the Nowhere project, I never got a chance to drop this song. So recently, Emmeline Kim, Free Bread and I came together to create visuals for BH. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to San Francisco to shoot this, so instead we used my old neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles to create this story about romance, envy and sweet fuckin’ victory.”
Check it out:
Yeah, that sounds about right: “Bernal Heights… where the grass is greener, with a chill-type demeanor.”
Despite the offsite location scouting, we hope “Bernal Heights” helps make Duckwrth a superstar. There’s precedent for this, after all: Jhameel got a bump when he released his “Bernal Heights” back in 2010. Here’s hoping the Bernal muse will work her magic twice.
Yesterday, Neighbor Tim proposed to Renee atop Bernal Hill. She said Yes!
This being 2016, the proposal was documented from above by Bernalwood pal and ace aerial videographer Eddie Codel. Eddie says:
Long time Bernal resident Tim Lang proposed to his girlfriend Renee Carano yesterday atop Bernal Hill, on what was probably the warmest day of the year. The special moment was captured by drone, of course!
The video is lovely, sweet and deep, in a way that only an aerial camera could convey. Kleenex Alert: You may experience feelings. Watch:
Bernal neighbor Ryan Avery lives near the southern end of Peralta. He just helped complete an unauthorized video about the fabulous Exploratorium, and he wrote to Bernalwood to tell us all about it:
One of your fellow Bernal Heights residents (myself) helped produce and direct a music video immortalizing the Exploratorium. It’s a parody of “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, shot guerrilla-style in San Francisco.
I’m a local music producer who goes by the alias of Chance’s End. A good friend of mine, Jade Stone from the Noe Valley district, called me up about a month ago and explained “I want to record some lyrics I wrote. Can you help me out?” After learning the lyrics were about the Exploratorium parodying Uptown Funk, I was in 100%.
We recorded her vocals one evening, and then set to work planning on the music video. We recruited a bunch of our friends to be backup dancers (all Bay Area residents), and Jade brought her parents up from Southern California to help with filming. Then we spent a weekend shooting the video. It was a bit tricky in places without the consent of the Exploratorium (ahem), but I think it turned out pretty nicely!
Why’d we make this? I think Jade would agree with me – “Just because we felt like it.”
Enjoy the video! It’s nerdtastic fun, and we’ve waived the admission fee: