'Class Action Park' created by Shreveport filmmakers
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) " Add to the watchlist a whirlwind tale about the tragic and almost unbelievable adventures at a place touted as 'The World's Most Dangerous Amusement Park.'
'Class Action Park,' a feature-length documentary about the now-defunct Action Park in New Jersey, will premiere in August on the new streaming platform, HBO Max.
'Class Action Park' was directed and produced by Chris Charles Scott ('The Shape of Shreveport') and Seth Porges.
The film examines how a popular destination for entertainment operated for decades despite the numerous scandals and injuries and deaths of guests.
'This is a fascinating story that involves government corruption, shady capitalism, poor parenting techniques, and just kids being kids,' Scott said. 'It's a dark comedy because it is truly fascinating how this thing was allowed to last so long. It's a humorous tale.'
The epic is told using investigative journalism, real-life accounts, and unearthed documents and recordings. Action Park survivors provide first-hand insight about how Action Park became a beloved treasure and rite-of-passage despite the known risks.
'This waterpark routinely maimed and hurt and sometimes killed their patrons. This was not a deterrent to the park. It was almost a calling card,' Scott said.
Action Park opened in the 1970s but had its heyday in the 1980s and '90s. The wrongdoings spanned from the park's experimental and dangerously designed and constructed rides to the negligent owner, employees, and parents who allowed their children to visit, he said.
One of the attractions questioned for its safety and physics-defying design was an enclosed tube water slide built with a complete loop.
Over the years, the amusement and water park company began to suffer financially as a result of lawsuits. In 1996, Action Park closed, however, it hasn't erased the good and bad memories of those who visited making the park legendary and almost mythical.
''Class Action Park' brings feelings of nostalgia even if you didn't grow up going to this infamous New Jersey amusement park,' said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. 'The insane stories of lawlessness and injury are an unbelievably wild ride.'
THE ACTION CREW
Porges, a journalist, was enthralled with the park's scandalous past and began investigating. He produced a short film about Action Park that's credited as inspiring a Johnny Knoxville movie 'Action Point' and other media.
Last year, Porges recruited fellow documentarian Scott to expand the viral short into a full-length feature film.
Film credits include co-producers and co-editors Chris M. Johnston and Chris Lyon with the director of photography titles shared by Johnston and Rob Senska. The original animation was created by Richard Langberg. The Holladay Brothers wrote, composed, and recorded an original musical score for 'Class Action Park.'
'The film is made with personal love by Seth Porges and Chris Scott,' Senska said. 'Seth is obsessed with the topic and he's a fantastic writer. Chris knows how to pull stories out of people. The movie is somehow hilarious and sad, which is exactly what life is like. People should watch it because they'll be shocked by what was allowed to happen, then entertained by the first-hand stories and joy that was had.'
Lyon describes the film as a 'true crime story of a businessman who threw all caution to the wind and opened up an amusement park where he kind of put the park's attendees in the driver's seat often to disastrous effect.'
Hundreds were hurt, and people died, he said. Despite the devastation, many have fond memories of attending Action Park.
'It's this cautionary tale of no having safety regulations"not having some common sense safety measures in place,' Lyon said. 'People did get hurt and people did die and, by today's standards, it would be considered needlessly unsafe. But it was innovative, and it was fun, and people have romanticized memories of this park.'
SHREVEPORT FILM CONNECTIONS
The New Jersey story is a testament to Shreveport's film industry.
'Beyond the story itself, 'Class Action Park' is a story with deep Shreveport roots,' Lyon said. 'The story may not be about Shreveport but it's a Shreveport production in a lot of ways.'
Scott enlisted Lyon and Senska for 'Class Action Park' having worked with them on previous projects, beginning with 'The Shape of Shreveport' documentary series.
From 2015 to 2017, Scott, a native of New Chapel Hill, Texas, lived in Shreveport and directed the production through which he met Lyon and Senska. Their work together would lead to the trio collaborating for several subsequent productions.
In 2016, 'The Shape of Shreveport' earned the Documentary of the Year award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
Since then, Scott has built a career traveling to and living in cities with a mission to shine a light on their historic events and notable people through film, often with Lyon and Senska.
'Class Action Park' is their first feature documentary together and the latest production on their growing list of shared credits.
'Any major production that I have I go straight to these guys,' Scott said. 'My career as a filmmaker was launched in Shreveport and it was launched because I met people as talented as Rob Senska and Chris Lyon. This project exists because there's talent in Shreveport that exists.'
Scott directed 'What About Waco?' "a four-part series about the history of Waco, Texas. Currently, he lives in Nevada where he directed a soon-to-release five-part documentary series penned, 'The Life of Las Vegas.' Also, 'One October,' a documentary about the U.S. deadliest shooting which occurred in Las Vegas in October 2017.
'Just about five years ago, I got my start as a filmmaker in Shreveport, Louisiana,' Scott said. 'Shreveport was my launchpad. I could trace everything good about my career back to Shreveport and 'The Shape of Shreveport' series This documentary was a graduation of sorts.'
Senska and his creative partner-wife Mindy Bledsoe lived in Shreveport from 2008 to 2015. After several years working in the local film community, Senska's career led him to destinations around the world to work on major network shows and indie and feature films, such as Netflix's 'Fastest Car,' CBS's 'Amazing Race,' and NBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?'
'I met him (Scott) at CoHab to discuss 'Shape of Shreveport,' and we've made docs all over the country since then. He's a person that respects his crew and sees how the pieces fit together,' Senska said.
Lyon remains a Shreveport resident and continues to work in the regional film industry with works ranging from feature films to music videos. His documentary credits include the 'Rational Middle of Immigration,' 'Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future,' and 'Unexpected Modernism: The Architecture of the Wiener Brothers,' premiering in Shreveport this year. He is the associate director for the Louisiana Film Prize.
'It's a big deal. A lot of people think of the Shreveport film industry as being dead and gone but there's still some work being done here and it's still reaching"in this case, it's reaching an international audience through one of the most prestigious and long-running original content platforms in the world,' Lyon said.
'Class Action Park' is evidence of how a small crew can produce high-quality feature-length, Scott said. Also, that creative skill can originate in Shreveport.
'There's still talent and big things coming out of Shreveport and the city still has this potential to produce great filmmakers,' Scott said. 'There's a lot of good things happening there and I'm going to continue producing all of my films from Shreveport, Louisiana.'