In His Script, He Becomes 'The Steve'

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Chris Taylor admits he had a tough time in school. It's little wonder. In class, Taylor's mind spun like a high-speed blender, transforming his studies into a science fiction world all his own.

Math equations became secret codes to an alien universe. Science experiments became futuristic battles between good and evil.

Taylor's imagination didn't just take off--it left vapor trails.

Today, the 25-year-old Costa Mesa resident is out to prove that his daydreaming wasn't all for naught. As president and founder of Future Productions--the fledgling film company he runs out of his bedroom in his parents' home--Taylor has made dozens of short, low-budget films based on bursts of inspiration while in class at Costa Mesa High and Orange Coast College.

His goal? To win an Oscar by age 31.

If you're laughing, get in line. Taylor's heard it all before. Give it up, friends and family tell him. You'll never make it. Go back to college and get a degree before it's too late.

Taylor, a videotape librarian for the International Channel Network in L.A., acknowledges their concerns. He never went to film school. His movies have never played in front of a paying audience. His producer is a stock room manager at a Costa Mesa clothing shop. His soundman is a high school science teacher.

And, although Taylor won a $20,000 car in a nationwide video production contest in 1991, the money from selling the car, as well as the bulk of his personal finances, has been sucked into the black hole of self-financing.

He's broke. He's unsigned. He plans to be the next Steven Spielberg.

Obsessed?

Taylor breaks into a proud smile.

"I'm totally obsessed," he says.

It all started with "Star Wars." Taylor saw the movie and proclaimed it a life-changing event. His dream of becoming a paleontologist suddenly meant nothing to him. Sports? Who cared. He would be a filmmaker.

He was 7 years old at the time.

His mother and father chuckled at first. Especially Dad, an actor-turned-insurance salesman. When Chris was born, Larry Taylor had designed his son's birth announcement to look like an ad for a movie premiere.

Later, when Chris dug out his Dad's 8-millimeter movie camera for the first time, he thought it cute that his 11-year-old son was trying to film his version of "The Empire Strikes Back."

Cute was not the operative word for long.

Video technology rushed in. Taylor's grades went down. By age 14, his sole focus was what he saw through his viewfinder. Going to class meant having extra time to work on a screenplay. After-school hours were spent casting neighborhood kids for spoofs on "Jaws" and James Bond movies.

While others his age listened to Springsteen, Taylor cranked up the music of composer John Williams. When Taylor announced the formation of Future Productions--"the film studio of the future!"--his buddies tried hard not to roll their eyes.

Homework? Not for a kid who's headed to Hollywood. Studying meant watching movie classics on TV, taking careful notes on how the director approached certain scenes. Class projects? Taylor produced a commemorative video for the senior class--and pocketed 2,000 bucks.

At Orange Coast College, Taylor tried to make academics his priority. It didn't last. During a psychology class, Taylor was mesmerized by a lecture on the effects of sleep on the mind.

"I was so jazzed, I said the hell with class--I'm writing this into a screenplay," Taylor said. He spent the next two weeks of class time writing the screenplay for his latest film, "Immortal."

Taylor comes to an interview as is. Faded jeans, gray T-shirt, white sneakers. His trace of beard can't quite disguise a face that shouts "Card me." He pulls a gold-tone business card case from his pocket, laments the fact that the calling cards don't read Christopher Scot Taylor instead. His demeanor is part cool, part kid on Christmas morning.

With reverence, Taylor opens his two-tone leather photo album.

Tom Hanks. John Travolta. Jim Carrey. Clint. The pages are filled with the Hollywood elite. The snaps, Taylor says, were taken at the American Film Institute's tribute to Spielberg in March. Taylor and his producer, 27-year-old Paula Gomez of Santa Ana, paid $1,000 apiece to attend.

A thousand bucks? Judging by Taylor's expression, he would pay money to shine his idol's shoes.

"I just wanted to be a part of it," Taylor says, placing his hand over his heart. "Steven Spielberg is . . . " He clenches his fist, searching for the words. " . . . such a big part of my life."

Big?

It's gotten to the point where Larry and Joan Taylor call their son "Taylorberg" when they want to get his attention. Like the majority of Chris' friends, they have the stories memorized.

How Taylor first met Spielberg at an "Arachnophobia" screening. How Taylor went to shake Spielberg's hand, only to hear Spielberg say: "Wait a sec. Let me wipe this nacho cheese off my hand first." How, through the delicate science of Spielberg-ology , Taylor has determined that he and "The Steve" (as he calls him in particularly cheeky moments) have an uncanny number of parallels.

"It's true," Taylor says. "We're like two to three years apart on everything. He made his first film at 9. I made my first film at 11. He won his first film festival at 19. I won my car at 21. He got signed at 21. I just turned 25!"

Taylor beams. To him, it's obvious. He'll be signed any day now. It's part of the pattern, the grand plan. Chris Taylor--Christopher Scot Taylor--is destined for Hollywood.

His father isn't quite so wide-eyed.

"He's no Spielberg," Larry says of his son. "But then again, he's not a jerk, either."

The cold facts? Chris Taylor might have better odds climbing Mt. Everest. Competition in the motion picture industry is that fierce.

Kirk Brennan, an admission coordinator for the USC School of Cinema-Television, says he receives about 500 applications a year. He says most of the applicants have at least one thing in common.

"They all say they want to be the next Steven Spielberg . . . or make the next 'Star Wars."'

Taylor is undaunted. So he didn't have the grades to get into film school. So he has yet to attract a Hollywood agent. He believes in his heart he'll make it--for the right reasons.

"I'm not one of these guys who go around with goatees and a light meter around their neck," Taylor says. "I'm not into the Hollywood scene. I just love images, images that tell stories."

Taylor glances at a flyer of his 45-minute sci-fi thriller "Immortal," the premiere of which drew nearly 250 friends and relatives to Costa Mesa High School last Saturday night. Taylor wore a tux for the event, as did Brent Neumeyer, his high school science teacher who wrote the film's musical score.

They had hoped an industry insider might show up for the premiere. They weren't overly disappointed when one did not. Taylor figures sooner or later, word will get around. After all, he and Gomez calculated they'd have to spend $8,000 to make the film. They did it for $5,800. How many directors in Hollywood finish nearly 30% under budget?

"A lot of people in my life have laughed at me," Taylor says. "But I know I can make it. If I die tomorrow, I'll be happy because at 7 years old, I wanted to be a director.

"In a technical sense, I'm a director already."

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