With the second annual Coronado Island Film Festival less than one month away, it’s lights, camera, action here in the Crown City! On Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, Back to the Future will be October’s Classic Movie at Village Theatre. For those of you, who like me, grew up in the 1980s, perhaps it’s apropos that this movie, labeled a “classic,” is being shown less than a week before Halloween! Seriously, when did we get so old? It’s scary! Michael J. Fox (a.k.a. Marty McFly) is now 56 years old!
Accepting an invitation from the Coronado Island Film Festival’s planners, Dean Cundey, the cinematographer of Back to the Future, will be in attendance at this special showing! Even if October 25th marks your first time seeing this film, a classic blend of adventure, comedy, and science fiction, chances are you’re already familiar with Cundey’s works. In addition to his contributions on the trilogy of Back to the Future films, Cundey has worked as the Director of Photography on other incredible blockbuster hits, including Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, Hook, The Holiday, and the recent release, Home Again.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Cundey about his work as well as his upcoming trip to the Crown City. Although he was unable to attend last year’s inaugural Coronado Island Film Festival, Cundey, who was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, has fond childhood memories of his father driving the whole family down to San Diego and Mexico. He’s visited the Hotel del Coronado before, but says he’s never attended an event there, making him even more eager to experience all that the Del, the presenting sponsor, has to offer.
While the glimpse of life in Coronado is certainly enticing to Cundey, it’s his passion for his lifelong work as a Director of Photography that is the driving force behind his visit here later this month. He explains that his official title on the set of a film is Director of Photography but that often, off the set, people shorten that title to Cinematographer. Regardless how people refer to him though, Cundey shares that his role is to “capture moving images as opposed to still images.” He makes it sound so simple, doesn’t he?
Cundey notes that our beloved Coronado has a lot in common with the 1955 version of the fictitious California town of Hill Valley, where Back to the Future takes place, even though there’s no clock tower here. (The 1985 film was actually shot on a back lot at Universal Studios.) Like Hill Valley of the mid twentieth century, Coronado is a small town where locals know each other by name, and like the Hill Valley of 1985, Coronado is a town where residents are dedicated to preserving the unique history of the “Village” and its notable landmarks. Busier than ever it seems, Coronado somehow has maintained an old-school charm reminiscent of days gone by just like Marty McFly experiences when he goes back in time.
Of the movies he’s worked on as cinematographer, which is Cundey’s personal favorite? Is it like asking a father to choose which of his children is his most beloved? “Every time someone asks this question, I always say there are three in particular that I’m especially fond of,” he responds. “The Back to the Future trilogy is probably at the top, and then there’s also Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Jurassic Park.” (When I admitted that Jurassic Park still scares me, Cundey said, “Good! It’s supposed to!” Touché!)
Cundey explains that after he graduated from film school at UCLA in 1968, his career got started with “low budget, action films that were essentially destined for drive-in theaters.” Nostalgic for the drive-in theaters, which are few and far between nowadays, Cundey says, “Drive-in theaters were the reason why I had the opportunity to get started in the film industry.”
In addition to attending the showing of Back to the Future on October 25th, Cundey will be returning to Coronado to attend the Coronado Island Film Festival, which will be held November 9-12, 2017. Doug St. Denis, Founder and Executive Director of the Coronado Island Film Festival, says, “We are so excited and honored that Dean Cundey will be such a pivotal part of this year’s film festival. The best way to describe our anticipation would be ‘over the moon!’ ”
Even if, like me, you’ve already watched Back to the Future a million plus one times, you won’t want to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Cundey, a Hollywood cinematography legend, in person later this month at Village Theatre. And while this film is a timeless tale that those of us born in years starting with 19_ _ know and love, it’s found a whole new fan base of loyal followers with subsequent generations as well. Cundey’s brilliant cinematography has allowed fans of all ages to experience, even for a brief while, a chance to go “where we don’t need roads.”