SJSU in the News: Alumnus Draws on Childhood Superheroes to Create Cinequest Feature

San Jose State University graduate Jeremy Inman returns to the Bay Area with the world premiere of his film ‘Super Hero Party Clown’ at this year’s Cinequest film festival

Originally appeared in the San Jose Mercury News March 3, 2011

By Heather Zimmerman

Filmmaker Jeremy Inman can’t shoot webs from his hands, or climb straight up a 10-story wall. And while such a lack of superpowers once discouraged him from taking a job portraying a superhero, the special powers of an independent filmmaker–a superhuman sense of perseverance and the ability to function on an inhuman lack of sleep, among them–helped Inman to finish the long process of bringing Super Hero Party Clown, the feature film that he wrote and directed, to the screen.

The Cinequest film festival presented the world premiere of Super Hero Party Clown, March 3 at the San Jose Repertory Theatre; another showing takes place March 5, also at the San Jose Repertory Theatre following the 7 p.m. Emerging Maverick Award presentation to Alyson Stoner, and March 6, 9:30 p.m. at the California Theatre.

Inman, who was born and raised in Fremont, studied film at San Jose State University and graduated in 2009. He recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue his film career.

It’s been a long process of editing and finishing Super Hero Party Clown since the film was shot during the summer of 2009. The movie was filmed entirely on location in San Jose–audiences may recognize such familiar spots as Philz Coffee in downtown San Jose. Spartan Film Studios, a student production program at SJSU under the leadership of professional filmmakers, produced the film.

The world of superheroes was a familiar subject for Inman.

“I started reading comics when I was 10 or 12,” he says. “My brother, who is a lot older than me, already had a huge collection of stuff. He’d been collecting since he was my age and he would pay me to organize his comic collection and I would just read it instead.”

In fact, Inman says his brother put up most of the film’s initial funding. Following the start of filming, the project received an additional contribution from the guardian of one of the film’s young actors.

Super Hero Party Clown tells the story of Eugene, who performs at children’s parties dressed as the superhero Arachnid Man (who has powers not unlike Spider-Man). Eugene likes his job, but is also a bit embarrassed by it, which is compounded when he finds himself performing at the birthday party of Walter, the younger brother of his longtime crush, Emily. Eugene elects to keep his identity secret at the party, only to discover that Emily seems to appreciate what he does. That’s when Todd appears and becomes a rival for Emily’s affections, going so far as to take a job at the same party clown company where Eugene works–and performing at children’s parties as Arachnid Man’s rival, Captain Tremendous.

Superhero tales are enduringly popular in the movies, but the inspiration for Super Hero Party Clown actually came in part from Inman’s own experience. As a teenager, he was offered the job of portraying Spider-Man at children’s parties, which he turned down. “I got hung up on the idea that if a kid asked me to climb a wall or asked me to shoot a web, what would I do to make him believe that I was still Spider-Man even though I couldn’t do those things?” Inman says. “It hurt me to think that I would have to break that for him–the illusion of the hero.

“A lot of those insecurities wound up being part of Eugene’s character,” he says.

Making Eugene a party clown superhero was also a way for Inman to tell an indie film version of a superhero story without all the big- budget trappings, like CGI effects. “On a more practical note, the only way I could tell a superhero story was to take it and make it a real-world thing,” he says

Inman’s initial concept for the film called for Eugene to portray Spider-Man at parties, but the potential expense of gaining permission to use the character led Inman to create his own superhero mythology for his film. He notes that creating his own characters freed him to tailor his hero’s lore to better suit his story, right down to the evolution of Arachnid Man’s appearance, which changes along with Eugene’s story.

And although superpowers are the flashiest side of any superhero tale, the most compelling part of any caped crusader’s mythos invariably delves into his/her human side.

“A big part of the script is Eugene trying to reconcile what he loves and who he loves and finding a balance between those two sides of his personality, which I think is very common in superhero books,” Inman says, “particularly Spider-Man, which is why I chose him as a basis.”

Any good hero also knows his weaknesses, and Inman got a chance to learn what changes the film might need when a first cut of Super Hero Party Clown was shown in a test screening at last year’s Cinequest festival. The screening was held in the 1,100-seat California Theatre, which was filled nearly to capacity.

“It was a big deal–the first time for the crew that they got to see the film in its semi-completed form, and it was the first time I got to sit with an unbiased audience and watch it,” Inman says. “The input has made it a better film.”

Insights gained from the test screening inspired some changes to the script, and confirmed what scenes were already playing as intended. There were also technical tweaks: Script supervisor Alex Sauer sat with a stopwatch and timed audience reactions to ensure the film was edited so that audiences wouldn’t, for example, laugh and miss a character’s next line. Many audience members at the test screening were also asked to fill out questionnaires, and Inman says that he still occasionally consults the 250 completed questionnaires that were turned in at the screening.

“Cinequest was a huge boost for me,” Inman says. “There was a home field advantage to get that many people to show up for a test screening for a film produced by students.”

In addition to finishing editing on Super Hero Party Clown, last summer Inman entered the film’s trailer into Los Angeles’ Trailer Festival, where the film was a finalist and garnered some distribution interest. Also over last summer, Inman served as a producer with Spartan Film Studios for Cheap Fun, a film by Zack Sutherland, who plays Eugene’s best friend Garth in Super Hero Party Clown. Cheap Fun will be shown in a rough cut at this year’s Cinequest festival, March 8, 9:30 p.m. at the San Jose Repertory Theatre.

Inman’s production company, Two Brothers Productions, has also made an in-house human resources film for Facebook, and Inman is working on a script for his next feature, a dark comedy called Dad’s Dead.

Inman continues to enter Super Hero Party Clown into festivals around the country, although its showing at Cinequest will mark the film’s debut.

“There is a message,” Inman says of Super Hero Party Clown. “It’s about the importance of finding a way of bringing together however many aspects of your life are competing with each other–overcoming insecurity. For me, Eugene’s got two things that he loves: Emily and Arachnid Man (except for the fact that he’s insecure about it). How he reconciles those two aspects of his love is something that a lot of people can relate to.”

Individual tickets for screenings are $10 general/$7 matinee/$5 seniors and students. 408.295.FEST or

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