During my college years, I was involved in producing training videos for the Alliance For The Mentally Ill in Rock Island, Illinois and worked on a number of news reports and living television sporting events for my University's TV station (football and basketball) while I earned by B. A. in Mass Communications from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. After attending the University Of Southern California film school in 1987 and entering my junior year of college, my focus went to making independent feature films full time where it was remained. When time permitted I would still help out friends with their non feature film projects as I did with Tammy Pescatalli (Stand-up/ comedian / actress / NBC's Last Comic Standing) - I helped her make a promotional tape that she had planned on sending to a particular Executive at a entertainment company and as part of that tape we shot a short comedy parody about a rising ever optimistic comedian trying to get a job with stand-up comedian/actor John Bowman. Many of you will remember John from one of the best and creepiest television performances I've ever seen in the episode "Honor Among Thieves" on Miami Vice where he played a twisted child killer and informant Paul Delgado. I always thought he deserved an Emmy for his role on Miami Vice. We had a great time shooting the bit - here it is with slight editing (I cut out a name that of someone we made the video for).
While most of the neighborhood kids appeared in a film or two at some point, the two friends I used most in my early films were Chris Young and John Poffenbarger. We are still best of friends to this day. Both lived just up the street from me and were always willing to do anything at anytime. Which was my attitude as well. Chris Young went on in his career to work behind the camera and to star in television series and films like Max Headroom, The Great Outdoors, Book Of Love, Warlock 2, etc. While John Poffenbarger took a different path and went into the U.S. Air Force. We used our homes, our yards, our neighborhoods as a studio back lot where anything was possible and anything could be filmed. All of our parents were always 110% supportive and even John's parents, Dave and Judy Poffenbarger, were kind enough to let me use their use for filming of an exterior scene in a horror comedy we did years later called Beauty Queen Butcher where the character portrayed by Tammy Pescatelli (NBC's Last Comic Standing) returns home.
We would go on to film many Super 8 films, some horror, chase, comedy skits, etc. After Super 8 cartridges, we made the leap into a magical world of Video with Sound. Well it seemed like it for a bunch of kids discovering we could actually record dialogue for the first time. My parents bought me a huge video (all the early ones were large) that would shoot black and white video with sound but the the VHS Video tape was not on a tape but on a large reel to reel. The reel to reel was mounted onto a large recorder that you had to sling over your shoulder and connect to the camera with a long cable. Since I only had one reel to use, it had to be reused constantly. So I figured out, rather than erasing footage we shot, I would copy it off onto VHS tape before shooting the latest epic on the reel to reel.
One of the most asked questions is when did your interest in filmmaking begin?
I thought it would be fun to have a small Early Years page on my site devoted to some of the earliest films I made from the age of 10 through high school and college - Too often, fillmmakers are hesitate to show their earliest work because it's not their best. But we all start somewhere. This is how I started. I also wanted to post it as a thank you to all of those in front and behind the camera who assisted me during those early years. Also check the Other Films Section for more early work.
My initial interest in movies started very young. I was still in a crib when I would stop playing and stare at the TV with fascination whenever a show called Dark Shadows came on. It was a horror themed soap opera with a vampire. My mother has a photo showing me staring at the TV - just to prove to me that I actually did this. Around the age of 7, my parents would take me to Disney film. I remember watching a Herbie movie in the theater where the VW was doing a stunt and I turned to my parents and said "I want to do that. I don't know how they do that. But I want to do that." As a 7 yr old, I knew it was make believe and that people put that together somehow so I could see it. But to this day I don't know why I suddenly took such a strong interest in it or had any reason to think I could even be involved with films as a career that young.
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While I attended Alleman High School, I spent four years at WQAD-TV (ABC Affiliate in Moline Illinois) in their Junior Achievement Program where they had high school students produce weekly half hour variety television shows. We had to be the cast/crew for each episode, find the talent to interview on the show, and sell the commercial airtime on the episodes to local businesses. During my senior year, I was elected President of the JA Company at WQAD and we won Best Production Methods/Company Of The Year at the JA awards including National JA Delegate status and a college scholarship.
In 1984, we moved from black and white video up to a color video camera (vhs). Below is a montage video of different video clips from some of those films. If you were in any of my early films, you might see yourself in the video below but it still amounts to only about 1% of all the films we made. I jammed in as many clips as possible to the montage below.
Next influence was viewing Star Wars in 1977 at the Showcase Cinemas in Milan Illinois (Scroll down to see a tribute to the now demolished Showcase Cinemas.) It showed me how much fun movies could be. This was quickly followed by viewing George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead and John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween which further fueled my interest which was quickly developing into a passion for film. Without any doubt, John Carpenter is my favorite director who influenced and inspired me the most. I then turned to my friends who lived in the neighborhood to become my cast and crew. Astro-Field productions grew. In addition to my parents, Dean and Dolores Carney, who were always supportive even if they didn't understand what I was getting into, three friends were there from the start - John Poffenbarger, Chris Young, and Greg Padakis. We would often call each other to make movies even though we didn't have a script initially for the earliest films. We just wanted to shoot anything. And we were always shooting something. I would direct/produce and be the cameraman. My friends would be the cast and the support crew. During the early days we did Super 8 animated films with original Star Wars Kenner toys. The animated films were time consuming and required dedication regardless of how raw they look - You essentially moved the toy a fraction of a inch and then clicked off one frame from the Super 8 camera. Move it another fraction of an inch and click off a frame. You had to keep repeating the process all day to get 3 minutes of Super 8 footage. Despite the cold winter, we still animated the Kenner Star Wars toys in the snow. You can view the early Super 8 animated films below.
I then started filming our family vacations with a Regular 8mm film camera. One of the first was a visit to Universal Studios in CA. As a child, I was fascinated by the Universal Studios Tour and asked my parents to take me back to it a second time before we left CA on that trip. There was something about the back lot and the process of filmmaking that intrigued me. I was hooked.When we returned home from the vacation, I saw a children's show on TV that explained single frame animation with a Super 8 camera. My parents had a super 8 camera. With that, I was off with a Super 8 camera doing frame by frame animation of a pie on my parents' dining room table that would eat itself. You can see that film below. That was the start of Astro-Field Productions AKA Jeff Carney Films. There's nothing extraordinary about the short film other than it ignited the imagination of a child and made me want to learn even more about filmmaking despite the fact I was living in the midwest, had no contacts in the film industry and no reason to believe I could ever follow it as a career.
In my Junior year of High school came a critical decision. I wanted to play football but with school all day, the practices after school and then usually I would skip supper to film until midnight or 1 am. Then do homework until 2 or 3 am and get up the next morning at 6 am do it all again. After a while of attempting to do all of this, I was worn out by the time I got to practice and by the time I started filming each night. Something had to give and I had to decide how serious I was about making films. So I gave up football for my passion which was definitely filmmaking and concentrated on that after school each day. In addition, I also filmed some industrial videos for a national telemarketing company, filmed yearly documentaries for Bill Moon on the Trucker's Jamboree for the I-80 Truck Stop (World's largest truck stop by the way) and shot music videos for Fred Ricaurte (Ricky And The Blue Rocks - The Hands Of Perfect Timing) in 1985 and Austin McNeal (I Jus' Wanna Look) in 1986.
At that time, it was fun just to film anything and each project gave me more experience. I particularly enjoyed the music videos with Fred and Austin. The Hands Of Perfect Timing came about in my senior year of high school and I filmed part of it in the Alleman High School gym using classmates as extras and then at various locations in the Quad Cities including South Park Mall in Moline, Illinois, Muscatine Iowa, and Iowa City. Several local radio personalities had roles in the music video including Spike O'Dell and Jack Carey. Despite the low budget, we had a great time making it. It was shot on VHS and then I bumped it up to 3/4" video for editing. There's actually two versions of it - the original has a story intercut with the music and the second version is just the concert footage that I shot at Alleman High School. I needed a camera dolly to shoot some of the concert angles, so my father turned a old tv stand into a dolly by mounting a board for the tripod to sit on. It actually worked great and we had several dolly shots in the music video as seen in the photos below..
During high school, I also helped out and shot behind the scenes footage for the band Midnight Express during their music video Danger Zone. The music video was shot over in Lincoln park in Rock Island Illinois which is right across the street from Alleman High School - where I attended.
And for nostalgia, I'm adding the video below. As I mentioned earlier on this page, I often would go to my local theater to watch movies. As a child, I remembered being fascinated by what was on screen and wanted to do that from a very young age even though I had to idea how they created what I was seeing on the screen. From the early Disney films of my youth to Star Wars to countless Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and George Romero films later in my life - those were all seen at the Showcase Cinemas which was located in the Quad Cities in Milan Illinois. I never dreamed during those early Disney screenings at the Cinemas as a child, that several years later I would be once again sitting in the theater at the Showcase Cinemas with my parents watching my name in the credits of films such as Field Of Dreams and some of the Pupi Avati Films that I worked on which also had their special screenings the Cinemas. Not to mention eventually meeting and working with many of the people who I saw on screen or listed in the credits of the films from my youth. In 2004, the Showcase Cinemas was demolished. I was fortunate to be in town when it occurred and below are some photographs which I took during the Showcase Cinemas final moments.