Ojai Mardi Gras Krewe gets documentary treatment


Patricia Cardinali singsThursday, November 7, 2013

By Demitri Corbin

The Ojai Film Festival is just about to kick off its first event and I have scheduled an interview with visual artist and filmmaker William Prosser.  His documentary on the Ojai Mardi Gras screens Friday evening at the Ojai Art Center.  The highly anticipated screening will start with a red carpet reception, followed by a cocktail reception afterwards.  Getting together proves to be a chore and we start our interview 3 hours later than planned and via telephone.

DC:  What prompted this documentary?

WP:  Shane Butler asked me to shoot some footage for the Krewe – that’s K-R-E-W-E – , just footage of their meetings in their studio –

DC:  When was this?

WP:  This was in February.  And Patricia Cardinali just happened to mention that she knew Lyle Matthews, the woman who started Ojai Mardi Gras, they were best buddies.  And she told how it came to be and I said, “There’s a story here!” and I asked for an interview.  I saw a great human-interest story, and I don’t want to give too much away — but Lyle was dying of breast cancer. The story is not how she died but how she handled it, the example she set.  She urged people to celebrate life.  The first Ojai Mardi Gras was small, at her house.  She introduced Mardi Gras to Ojai.  The next year Mardi Gras was thrown as a fundraiser for Lyle.  By then she and been diagnosed and needed help with medical expenses.  She was in really bad shape but she got dressed up and came and had a wonderful time.  She died two weeks later.  It touched a nerve…

DC:  Is this your first film?

WP:  This is my second documentary.  My first is a film I shot in Sri Lanka called, And the Sea took Us, narrated by Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.  I had been in Los Angeles for 20 years in low budget films and I got funding to do a story with a partner about his fishing boat.  Well things just fell apart on that project.  Then the tsunami happened and I went to Asia, to Sri Lanka as a volunteer.  I shot 30 hours of footage.  I put it all together, and entered it into the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival and won!  Suddenly I was an award-winning filmmaker!

DC:  When did you complete the Mardi Gras documentary?

WP:  (laughs)  About a week ago!  Now Demitri, there was no budget for this film, I shot it all on my own.  I finished it and I then I realized I needed music!  I felt, “I’m not worthy!”  I called up the Mardi Gras band and they came through for me.  Patricia Cardinali, Connie Early John Zeretske, Bill Flores, Jim Hansen, Ron Seba, Joe Croyle and Jimmy Calire…

DC:  Are you a member of the Krewe?

WP:  I guess I’m sort of the pet videographer.  I spent time with them with my camera and they were just so welcoming and free, comfortable in their own skin.

DC:  Are you planning to submit to other film festivals?

WP:  Yes, Santa Barbara Film Festival and Nashville … you know the raison d’etre for the musicians is that this is a charity ball.  The Krewe counts the loot after every Mardi Gras, then finds people in the community who need medical care.  They have contributed to Katrina in New Orleans, to local Ojai people with medical needs, the Krewe votes on who receives the funds.

DC:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

WP:  Yes.  It’s been a delight to contribute to the community.  Before this I did not know the Krewe.  I grew up here but I went away and now I’m back and I got to know them as I shot the footage.  It was a great chance to show a little slice of Americana.  The film shows this year’s Mardi Gras.  You know, Monet painted stacks of hay and friend said, “Why don’t you paint lilies.”  Now they don’t do that anymore and they’re valuable, they’ve been documented.  But you can document to show what’s happening truthfully.  If I do that then I’m made.  And one more point:  I didn’t have a high definition camera, I didn’t have all the fancy gadgets.  But if you’re a filmmaker and you want to tell a story, you’ll find a way.

DC:  Thanks so much Will and congratulations!

WP:  Thank you, Demitri!

Will’s documentary on the Ojai Mardi Gras screens tonight at 8 pm at Ojai Art Center.  For tickets and more information on the Ojai Film Festival visit www.ojaifilmfestival.com. You can also learn more about him at williamprosser.com.


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