If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? While that’s a familiar question for many, and one that inspired Carlton Sugarman’s film The Amateur. “In the case of the phrase, the tree is the musician and the forest is Hollywood,” he explains.
Sugarman was on a 6-week road trip through Mexico when along the way he stopped in San Miguel de Allende. There, he met an architect who had been on the tail end of a beat movement and moved to San Francisco to join the psychedelic/Merry Prankster movement. “I immediately began bombarding him with questions about my literary and artistic heroes of those eras,” Sugarman recalls.
But there was one answer that stuck out to Sugarman: “The one thing that all of the people you’re asking me about share, is that they never gave up.”
Of course, when you hear of Hollywood, you think about all of those who move there with the dreams of becoming an actor, singer or musician but never quite make it. There are some, like the individual Sugarman spoke with, who give up on their dreams or give up on art for whatever reason.
“It reminded me of my circle of friends in Los Angeles,” he says. “Who will be remembered? I wanted to pay homage to them all—whether they’re conventionally successful or not, whether I agree or disagree with choices they make along the way—they have made my life richer and inspired me in ways I could’ve never imagined”
And it’s that inspiration that Sugarman hopes to bring to those who view his film. The Amateur: Or (Revenge of the Quadricom) is, according to Sugarman, a gritty, naturalistic musical drama exploring the chaotic journey of artistic pursuit in contemporary Los Angeles.
Joey, the film’s main character, takes his music very seriously. However, it’s the rest of his life that he isn’t quite as serious about.
The Amateur tells the tale of Joey, a broke and sometimes broken, artist trying to navigate the Los Angeles music scene. “Riding the highs and nursing the hangovers, his journey leads him through various experiences, both personal and professional, that shed new light on the things that really matter,” explains Sugarman.
Sugarman, who hails from Cincinnati, grew up in Clifton and attended Doherty and Seven Hills High School, is the writer, director and producer of the film, there are other Cincinnatians who helped him out along the way. Evan Boymel (also a Seven Hills alum) plays the role of the main character’s manager Barry Johnson. There’s also Scott Ivers (VFX and colorist who went to Sycamore High School) who also made significant contributions to the project.
The Amateur has shown at several film festivals around the world and was the closing film at the Dances With Films Festival in Los Angeles, where it sold 417 or 450 seats at the Chinese Theater Complex. It also showed at the Madrid International Film Festival, On Location Memphis Music and Film Festival, Underground Film Festival in Cork, Ireland, Lake Erie Arts and Film Festival and the Cincinnati Film Festival.