Wiseguys with Fedoras in the Shadows: Why I Love Telling Noir Stories

A throwback look at to our attempt at a film noir movie trailer that didn’t quite nail the mood and thoughts on telling stories in the genre we love.

J.W. Eberle


I’ve always loved a good crime drama. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with the film noir classics — Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, D.O.A., Dark Passage. There is something about the tense atmosphere and moral ambiguity of the genre that fascinates me. A sense of doom permeated those films, especially the ones made during the years of the Hays Code, when the studios would not allow depictions of murderers and thieves getting away with their crimes. You knew that eventually, the protagonist was going to run out of time and be caught or killed, but didn’t know when or how they would meet their end.

I was so enamored with the genre that during my freshman year of college, I set out to make a film noir movie of my own. I never quite managed to finish the script (sadly, I cannot…

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What I Learned Making a Short Film on an iPhone

Our very own Jonny Eberle on the development and production of our newest short film, “The Closet” and our first attempt to make a film with an iPhone.

J.W. Eberle

Screenshot from the Closet. Photo by Jonny Eberle.

When I started making short films more than almost 15 years ago, a decent, mid-range consumer video camera was about the size of a brick and recorded either to miniDV tape or mini DVD, which was good for 60 minutes of recording. Tapes got chewed up during playback, DVDs got scratched, and in the general the process for making a film was tedious and technical.

In the time before YouTube, once you had finished your film — provided that you hadn’t lost footage to the magnetic tape gods — you had to connect to a tape deck to transfer your finished film to a format that could be easily shared, like VHS or DVD. Somewhere in a box, there’s a stack of old VHS tapes with handwritten labels documenting my early filmmaking efforts.

I bought my first digital camcorder when I was 18. It was a hot rod red Canon…

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Ten Years of Obscure Studios

It all started with a dream on a cold winters’ day 10 years ago. We were in high school then and we wanted to make a movie. An off-the-wall musical about a pirate, a blind woman, two Siamese twins, the Pope, a giant squid and some very angry Canadians. A script was written and then rewritten. Music was procured. The cast was selected. A few test scenes were filmed. And then nothing.

Gollandtsy! Gollandtsy! was never made, though rumors would stir up every few years that it had been glimpsed somewhere in the woods north of Flagstaff. But something was born. Something beautiful. Obscure Studios, founded to produce the musical in 2004, went on to make other projects a reality. From Reilly’s Dorm to the Big Night to Cold Read to Border Line to the one where Jonny narrated Will’s thoughts while he sat on an office chair. People grew to love the stories and the characters.

Fast forward a decade. On this 10th anniversary of Obscure Studios’ founding, the gang is scattered across the country. River and Katie are married with a daughter. So are Nathan and Danika. Jonny is off doing God knows what in the Pacific Northwest. He and the afro parted ways a few years ago — it now runs a record label in Nashville. Will and Yannick are still in Flagstaff. Sarah went off to seek her fortune somewhere near Alderaan. JACKson makes a living as a professional photobomber.

Obscure Studios’ video output has dwindled since the glory days. But don’t count us out yet. We may be separated by miles and years and new commitments, but the spark of our creativity has not gone out. No, Obscure Studios is a survivor. Don’t be surprised if you see something new from us in the future.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll celebrate us turning one-tenth of a century old. Check out our old videos, revel in the memories of the good old days and keep your eyes open for the biggest comeback since Star Trek II.

Hold on to your hats — the obscurity is on the move.

– Jonny, Will, Julio and the Whole Darn OS Family