By Joe O’Halloran
In 1997, Pete Bune was enrolled in a video production class at Hauppauge High School, where he, along with three of his closest friends, were clowning around in front of a camera and putting the finishing touches on a 30-minute clip they created just for laughs.
Little did those four friends know, those 30 minutes would come to define their lives.
“Creating the video was so much fun, and our interest in its production was so high that we wanted to take the next step,” Bune, now 32, says today. “We wanted to take that interest in video production and showcase it to as many people as possible.”
And so they did.
The four friends produced short comedy sketches and music videos, among other amusing clips, and edited them for public access channels on Long Island and in Manhattan. They called their gang the Slack Pack, and their show was called Slacker TV.
“We were a bunch of teenage kids living on Long Island enjoying our time and sharing laughs with a camera,” says Pack member Mike Koscik. Koscik, now 31, says when producing Slacker TV, everybody was given character roles. “I was always portrayed as the dopey one, Pete [Bune] was the funny guy, and the other two members of the pack, Justin Hertz and Sean King, were the jock and the weird guy,” he says laughing.
King, 34, fondly remembers Slacker TV as sparking his interest in cinematography.
“The filming and producing with the pack acted as our own little film school,” says King.
But time moves forward and with it so did the Slack Pack. After 34 episodes over the course of seven years, the group ended production of Slacker TV in October 2004.
“I had started the Slack Pack when I was 18 years old and felt I needed to grow up, so I began to look into and explore movies,” says Bune.
The group released their first full-length DVD feature, Ghouligans, in 2006.
“The film was a take-off on 1960s horror films with Dracula, the Creature, and other monsters and was framed loosely around The Addams Family. It was the first production with all the members of the original pack,” says Kosick.
Shortly after Ghouligans, Bune and King joined forces with Paul Natale and Terrance Smith, two independent filmmakers themselves, and produced a documentary-style anthology titled Lost Suburbia, a look at the myths and legends of Long Island, in 2007.
Now, they’re back for more.
The group’s latest feature, The Freaks, Nerds, and Romantics, is set to debut on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Huntington Cinema Arts Centre (CAC). It took the Pack more than a decade to complete the new film. “The film was never ready to premiere until now,” says Bune. “The vision we had for it had never really caught up with the times until now.”
Jacob Stebel, co-writer and co-producer of the film, is the newest member of the Slack Pack. He says the film was slowed down by numerous forces, from real life to personal grooming.
“The reality is our lives were getting in the way,” says Stebel, 28. “That, and I think this project was far too ambitious for us, with too large of a cast. If one member had their hair shorter than they did the day before, we basically lost an entire day of production.”
Stebel says the film seeks to remind people of a time when the future may not have been so clear in life, especially for younger generations.
“In this world, country, economy, and even here on Long Island, it is harder than ever for young people to make it,” says Stebel. “The film appeals to that generation and gives them the motivation that there’s no finish line to growing up.”
Dylan Skolnick, co-director of Cinema Arts Centre, says he is proud to have the group showcase their work at a place where most of them grew up.
“This film is the most ambitious project yet for the group,” says Skolnick. “We’re not only proud that they have decided to present it here, but we’re proud to show it.”
As for now, the group is already looking ahead with their interest in filmmaking and plans to release shorter projects in the near future.
“We are just having fun and enjoying the moment,” says Koscik. “And no matter what, our friendship will remain.”
The Freaks, Nerds, and Romantics will debut on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Huntington Cinema Arts Center. For information call 631-423-7611 or go to www.cinemaartscentre.org. For more information on the Slack Pack and to see a list of upcoming events, visit their website at www.theslackpack.com.