By April 30, 2018 Read More →

InterView – The Force is with Wes Page

The Force is With Wes Page
By Chris Murphy

There are people in our lives who really make an impact, with vision, wisdom, outlook and integrity. My friend Wes Page has been one of those voices of vision in Modesto and he has the eye of a filmmaker. It might be coincidence that Wes’ classmate at Downey High School was our own George Lucas, but these two are cut from the same cloth. George chose to leave Modesto to direct and produce. Wes Page, similar to Ron Howard’s character Steve Bolander in American Graffiti, chose to stay in Modesto. George literally has made an indelible impression on Wes Page and he in turn has made an impression on Modesto. Married to Barbara Page, Wes had a brief career in the legendary Modesto radio history in the rock and roll years of K5 AM radio and serves on the Board of the Modesto Radio Museum. Wes worked in and taught film and video production at MJC until his recent retirement. Wes was instrumental in the development of the Modesto Historic Cruise Route, and has produced great local documentaries about the State Theatre, Downey High School and has appeared in and directed plays. Like all great people, he is busier in retirement and we were lucky to catch up with him.

ModestoView: What was magical about being in the Downey Class of ’62?
WP: Actually I was in the Downey class of ’65 but because I was given the honor of creating videos that were shown at many of the class of ’62 reunions I was made an “honorary” member of their class. But the closeness of the classmates of “The Class of ‘62” is remarkable. They get together for a reunion every 5 years.

MV: When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
WP: I think I’ve always wanted to tell stories through film and video. I spent hours in front of our old black and white TV as a child. I wanted to do more than passively watch movies and programs, I wanted to make them!

MV: Where did you meet your wife Barbara and what was your first date?
WP: Actually I declined what would have been my first date with Barbie. A buddy (Former K5 DJ John Chappell) wanted to set me up on a blind date with her. It would have been an all day trip to San Francisco. “What if we didn’t hit it off? I would be stuck with her for the whole day,” I thought. That decision was a big mistake on my part. Fortunately I happened to meet her a few days later at a mutual friend’s house. We instantly hit if off and I asked her out. We went to a crab cioppino dinner at the California Ballroom. We had a great time dancing to a live band. We fell on the floor doing the polka, laughed a bit, got up and continued dancing as though nothing had happened. We got married that same year. That was 42 years ago.

MV: When did you discover your love of filmmaking and production?
WP: It all started with my Dad’s old 8mm movie camera when I was 12 years old. He let me document our road trip across the U.S. to Michigan and back. I shot very forgettable footage but it sparked a passion that remains to this day. I enrolled in Radio, Television and Film classes at Modesto Junior College and under the tutelage of greats instructors like Bill Hill, Harley Lee, and Max Sayer thrived.

MV: What was it like to make the transition from actual film work to video work and what doors did it open for you?
WP: When you’re as old as I am, you see many advances in the state of the art. When I was a student at MJC in the mid 60’s we shot 16mm film in our film classes and in the TV production classes we recorded video on a huge Sony 2” reel to reel video recorder.

Until non-linear video editing came around, the quality of video editing suffered greatly. My first non-linear editor was an Amiga based Video Toaster. At the time it was the hottest thing around. I now use a Mac computer.

MV: How does it make you feel knowing that Star Wars changed the world as much as it has?
WP: It pleases me that the love for George Lucas’ creation has crossed multiple generations. But it isn’t just Star Wars and American Graffiti that changed pop culture. George Lucas was a pioneer in enhancing sound quality in movie theatres with his THX sound system. In order to create the special effects he wanted in Star Wars he developed never before available technology to accomplish this. His innovative companies; Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound, Lucas Arts, Pixar and the George Lucas Educational Foundation have had a huge impact.

MV: The two of us shared a really cool moment when we got to interview George Lucas when he was here as grand Marshall for the North Modesto Kiwanis Cruise Parade. What was it like being behind the camera at the moment?
WP: It was an amazing moment that I wanted to do right, but what I was worried about was the lighting, and dealing with the sun through the window and I went into full technical mode as I wanted it to be just right, but that bright sun made it hard.

MV: When did you decide to become a Storm Trooper?
WP: Actually my first Star Wars costume was Count Dooku. When I saw Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dooku I thought: “Hey, he’s an old guy with gray hair and a beard, I’m an old guy with gray hair and a beard. Let’s give this a try.” Since then I have been Darth Vader, an Imperial Officer and of course, my favorite; a Storm Trooper.

MV: Why a Storm Trooper vs one of the other characters?
WP: When I put on my Storm Trooper armor and bucket (helmet) I feel that I become a Storm Trooper, especially in the eyes of a child. But when you are Dooku or an Imperial Officer, etc. and your face is visible you are just a man wearing a costume. It’s still enjoyable, but a little of the magic disappears.

MV: You have a very special tattoo, would you mind sharing what it is?
WP: Ha ha. When I was given the privilege of sitting at the table with George Lucas at his 40 year Downey class reunion in 2002, I was overwhelmingly star struck and wanted something more than just an autograph (If you have ever seen his autograph, it’s really just a couple of quick squiggles.) So I decided to ask him to draw a 30 second self-portrait. He looked at me curiously and then drew a quick sketch of himself complete with beard and glasses. I was so honored that he would do that for me that I later had it tattooed on my arm.
Since that time I have asked other people whom I admire to draw self-portraits. I now have Weird Al Yankovic, Carol Channing, Doug Jones and the cartoonist who creates my favorite comic strip; “Pickles,” Brian Crane. But my one and only tattoo was the caricature that George Lucas drew.

MV: Have any of your children chosen your line of work?
WP: I have 3 children; Rhonda, Matt and Ben. My youngest son, Ben, is the only one who has chosen a career similar to mine. He is a prop builder in Hollywood. He recently finished production on the new “Ant-Man and the Wasp” movie coming out July 6th.

MV: What is your favorite film of all time?
WP: I guess it would be American Graffiti. But not just because it helped put Modesto on the map with it’s homage to cruising. American Graffiti introduced an innovative editing technique that is now extremely common in both movies and TV programs. Rather than telling a story from the beginning to end in a linear fashion, American Graffiti was the first to cut back and forth as several storylines progressed.

MV: What is your next big project?
WP: Now that I’m retired I look for projects where I can give back to the community that has been so good to me all my life. I enjoy creating video projects for the Gallo Center for the Arts, State Theatre, McHenry Mansion, McHenry Museum, Modesto Radio Museum, Stanislaus Veterans Center and other non-profits.

MV: Our traditional question: Beatles or Stones ….



About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.