Levi Peretic just graduated from Edinboro University in May and he’s already been invited back to speak to film classes.
Peretic, of Sharpsville, and his production partner, Dan Kinem, have a full-length documentary under their belts and their do-it-yourself approach could resonate with budding filmmakers looking for the on-ramp to the highway to Hollywood.
The pair shot “Adjust Your Tracking,” an 84-minute documentary examining the obsessions of people who collect VHS tapes, the home video format usurped by DVDs.
Kinem, of Erie, is the VHS buff of the pair, and the documentary grew from his hobby; his collection includes about 8,000 tapes. He noted that 40 percent of movies released on VHS never came out on DVD, and collectors obsess over the packaging the way record aficionados do over album covers.
They decided to have Peretic shoot footage of Kinem on the hunt for VHS tapes in New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey with the intent to post the product on Kinem’s website, VHShitfest.
“We found out VHS is not dead and VHS collecting is very much alive,” Peretic said.
The pair, who still were in college, decided to expand the project into a full-fledged documentary. They wanted to conduct interviews with people who live in other parts of the country, but were short of the cash for a road trip.
They put the project on the website Kickstarter and raised $3,800 from 121 backers, which exceeded their goal by $800, then piled into Kinem’s car with three others.
They visited “every major city” in the U.S. during July 2012, recording 70 interviews over 22 days, often staying at the homes of collectors they met along the way, cutting down on their travel costs.
“People we never met before let us walk right in,” Kinem said. “It made me love the VHS community more.”
Being a collector himself, Kinem, who conducted the interviews, came at them from the same perspective as his targets.
“We interviewed everyone from people who have 50 tapes to 50,000 tapes,” Kinem said, along with filmmakers and video store owners.
One of Peretic’s favorite interviews was of a man who turned his basement into a video store.
“He had the counter, he had the computer, he had the gumball machine,” said Peretic, a 2009 Sharpsville High grad. “He hates drama movies but he had a drama section because a store would have to have one.”
The pair had much more material than they could use, and cut out or condensed some of their favorite footage so “Adjust Your Tracking” would appeal to more people than just their subjects.
“We wanted to make a movie that was for VHS collectors and that was not for VHS collectors,” said Peretic, noting that some of the omitted material will turn up as deleted-scenes features on the DVD.
“We made it general enough anyone can watch it and like it and take something from it,” said Kinem, who majored in journalism at Edinboro.
Peretic and Kinem finished the film while completing their classwork and working, Peretic handling the midnight shift as a security guard in one of Edinboro’s dorms.
“My last semester was kind of chaotic,” he said.
Once the documentary, made for $5,000, was complete, Kinem was tasked with getting it shown. Because they couldn’t afford the entry fee for most film festivals, Kinem worked on getting invited to them, and the VHS collector network lined him up with contacts for theaters, festivals and conventions.
“I used the community of VHS collectors as a jumping-off point,” he said.
They hit the road again in August, showing the film at 23 screenings in 21 cities over 31 days, hitting Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Toronto and other markets.
They attracted the attention of local press, Time magazine and USA Today.
To widen potential appeal of the film, Kinem and Peretic often held VHS swap meets at screenings, and question and answer sessions with the audience. That way, they attracted people to the movie who were originally only interested in the swap meet, and turned some who came for the movie into VHS collectors.
“It added an interactive element to the movie that people liked,” Peretic said.
They sell T-shirts and posters at screenings, and the film has made back its investment and is starting to earn a profit.
While Peretic maintains a day job working for a local home improvement contractor, he and Kinem hope that the March release of “Adjust Your Tracking” on DVD and VHS tape – yes, there still is a company that makes VHS tapes – will fund their next production, which could be another documentary – they said they have several ideas – or a horror film.
The film’s website is: www.adjustyourtracking.com