Monday, March 4, 2002
Every summer, Timothy English pays a visit to the KAN Film Festival to see what independent filmmakers are creating.
Every summer, the same thought nags him: "I can do better than this."
So, the 26-year-old Eudora resident and a small cadre of amateur actors have devoted evenings and weekends the past year and a half to shooting takes and retakes of English's first film, "Run."
English wrote the script, recruited the cast, played the main role and used a digital camcorder to shoot scenes he wasn't in.
Now, he's meticulously editing more than 25 hours of footage ï¿½ shot mostly in Lawrence ï¿½ into a 50-minute sci-fi thriller he hopes will grab attention in the open division of the 2002 KAN Film Festival on June 1 at the Lied Center.
"My goal is to put together a movie that tells a story that's as intriguing as anything you will see coming out of Hollywood on a small budget," he said.
He's spent about $3,000 so far and looks to fork out about $1,000 more for advertising.
Despite his relative inexperience creating movies ï¿½ he took a few courses on video production and acting in high school ï¿½ English tackled a complex project with "Run."
It's a story told mostly in flashbacks about Jax Reeves, a man being chased by aliens in human form who have abducted his pregnant wife because Reeves stole a disk from them.
Those familiar with the geography of Lawrence's alleyways, parking lots and wooded areas could probably identify the locations used in English's film.
A nearly eight-minute chase scene winds through Memorial Park Cemetery, the woods just north of the cemetery and a wooded area along the north bank of the Kansas River.
The alley behind the Granada, 1020 Mass., is the scene of a foot pursuit that ends in one character's death.
"Several people die in it, but all the violence is off-screen," English said. "I want it to be a movie for a fairly wide audience."
Many of the movie's scariest moments rely on what's implied rather than what's seen, English said. For instance, the aliens are never revealed.
"A lot of science fiction movies these days just get so over-the-top, and people just can't get into them anymore," English said.
Bumps in the road
The basic premise of "Run" hasn't changed since filming began in winter 2000.
"It started out small," English said. "It was only going to be maybe 10 minutes long ï¿½ a sad scene in a cemetery, a chase and then the climax of the movie."
But then the man originally cast in the leading role joined the Army, and English decided to revamp the story, filling in the blanks.
"I finally ended up with the current movie, and I felt it was well within my abilities to tell this story right the way I wanted to," he said.
Filming was sometimes hampered by snow. Actors were sometimes less than reliable. And by the time English completed most of the filming, he was beginning to burn out.
But seeing the fruits of his labor as he edits the scenes on his home computer has rekindled his excitement.
"To see the transformation from initially writing the script, through casting a face for each character, then filming ... and then to see that scene that started out as mere words on a page come to life is very cool," English said.
First of many
A trailer he created for "Run" recently was played in Overland Park at the premiere of another independent film called "Stuck on Star Wars." English was an extra in that film.
"Seeing the teaser trailer on screen was pretty sweet," he said. "There may have been some people scratching their heads about it, but that's kind of the idea."
English hopes to have a private premiere for his film in May but hasn't scheduled that event yet. He also plans eventually to sell the movie on VHS or DVD and possibly make enough money to put toward a sequel.
And he's got enough ideas for other projects to keep him busy for years. So although getting "Run" ready for the KAN festival is English's first priority now, he hopes it will just be the first in a series of on-screen successes.
"My first love is writing," he said. "My ultimate goal is to be a screenwriter."