Smile Politely

John Isberg’s Final Summer is an indie-horror delight

If you’ve ever dreamt about transforming your most frightening nightmares into a bone-chilling masterpiece, you know precisely what it’s like to be Champaign-Urbana filmmaker John Isberg. Isberg — writer and director of the upcoming indie-horror-slasher film Final Summer — serves as a model for all aspiring filmmakers with a dream, a camera, and a library full of petrifying muses.

Using funding achieved from Kickstarter, Isberg created the ultimate throwback slasher film Final Summer. This ‘80s-inspired horror feature follows the aftermath of a summer camp tragedy where a group of camp counselors must fight for their lives against a masked killer. Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “That sounds a lot like Friday the 13th,” you’d be right. Isberg designed his film to pay homage to some of his favorite slasher films, including the 1980 classic Friday the 13th. In fact, Final Summer even stars Thom Matthews, the same actor who played Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986).

Isberg himself is native to our neck of the woods, and what makes him so interesting are his multifaceted qualities. He is a film director, cinematographer, grip, gaffer, and educator. All of the qualities one needs to be an independent filmmaker, and with so much passion informing his project, it’s no wonder Isberg spent so much time on the post-production stage of his picture.

“I’ve basically been in my basement for the past 11 months editing, color grading, and finishing up the final touches on the film,” he confided to me during our interview. “You can probably tell by my growing collection of half empty coffee cups just scattered all over the place. I’ll be like, ‘I think that’s the one from today… I’m not sure.’”

Indeed, coffee cups littered nearly every surface in Isberg’s basement office. Coupled with the bags under his eyes and the bright enthusiasm in his voice, it was clear that Final Summer is more than just a movie to Isberg; it’s a passion project.

In fact, Isberg’s passion for filmmaking cuts deep. As we spoke he shared with me his collection of filmmaking equipment he has accumulated over his career, his early pre production days working on the film, and a little bit about himself overall.

“You know, what helped me a lot, actually, was Masterclass.” Isberg shared with me as we spoke a little bit more in depth about his creative process. “Masterclass was really helpful, because at every stage of the filmmaking process there was somebody — a video — that you could sort of refer to. Like, for example, I watched a lot of Aaron Sorkin when it came to screenwriting.” I thought this detail was extremely cool, because it just goes to show some of the resources available to those who were ever curious about making a film themselves. And how does one even begin to share their most cherished art with the world? As it turns out, Isberg has an answer to that, as well.

“It’s interesting, because when you first get into filmmaking you get this idea in your head that you want to put the film in a theater, because that’s just what you grow up seeing — movies in a movie theater. But I think that things have changed so much where streaming is so huge now that it’s hard not to think of that as a potential option.”

To realize such an ambitious distribution plan, Isberg has submitted Final Summer to a host of film festivals, including the Popcorn Frights Film Festival in Miami, Florida. Isberg hopes these festivals might help gain a distributor for his film, thereby adding thousands more people to his potential audience. He also added, “the film has also been invited to submit to three film festivals in the United Kingdom, two in Canada, and one in Argentina.”

Though Argentina may be a bit of a hike, people can catch a viewing of Final Summer a little closer to home. It premiered October 13th at the Harvest Moon Drive-In Theater in Gibson City, alongside David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends. And if you’re bummed out that you missed a chance to see the film on the big screen, don’t worry! Final Summer is also to be shown at Savoy 16 this weekend, October 28-31. So, if you’re a thrill-seeker, a horror movie buff, or a simple cinephile, you have your Halloween season booked with one fright after another.

Final Summer 
Savoy 16 + IMAX
232 Burwash Ave
F Oct 28th, 7 p.m.
Sa-M Oct 29th through 31st, 9 p.m.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misspelled Isberg’s name. The article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling. We regret this error. 

Top image by Della Perrone; image courtesy of John Isberg. 

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