ACTION! Figures

Five independent filmmakers show off their locally made full-length features this month at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque’s first-ever festival of homegrown talent.
To be an independent filmmaker here is to face obstacles: a thin talent pool, last-minute location changes and tiny budgets. It also means not losing sight of the goal, even when that means holding a casting interview with a longhaired, bikerlooking dude amid the plastic comfort of a fast-food joint.


“I asked if he would mind performing a couple lines for me,” recalls “American Stories” director Rob Lucas about his first encounter with Larry Miles, the booming-voiced man he cast as his quirky comedy’s big-time wrestler, The Ripper. “It was 10 in the morning at a Burger King, and he stands up and yells, ‘You thought you had it all! You thought you were king! You were wrong!’ All these people were looking … and I just had this huge smile on my face.”

Lucas is one of five directors featured at the Cleveland Cinematheque’s “Think Local” Film Festival Aug. 17 and 18. The weekend will also feature Luke and Andy Campbell’s action/comedy “Cordoba Nights,” Joe Ostrica’s B-movie tribute “The Horror Convention Massacre,” Ted Sikora’s superhero twist “Hero Tomorrow” and Bill Johns’ trappedin- a-house thriller “Madness.”

Johns’ full-length directorial debut was an exercise in rapidfire filmmaking, after having trouble financing a different feature. He filmed “Madness” in two weeks with a cast of unknown actors and a Chardon house he had on loan. “[The idea was to] keep it simple and do it all in one house and one location and do it for nothing,” Johns says. “The only money we spent was on food … then the camera rental. But for about $3,500, I made the whole feature.”

The Campbell brothers’ “Cordoba Nights,” which opens the festival, offers some known names (Duane Whitaker of “Pulp Fiction” and Martin Sheen’s younger brother Joe Estevez) but that didn’t make filming the tale of a pizza delivery guy chased by thugs any easier.

“We’d be filming scenes and get stopped by people who didn’t really know what we were doing,” Luke Campbell recalls. “We ran into a lot of obstacles like that.”

Lucas’ “American Stories,” which was filmed mostly in Akron, kicks off the festival’s second night, while Ostrica’s “The Horror Convention Massacre” caps it. Sikora’s “Hero Tomorrow” will run between the two. Filmed at more than 30 locations across Greater Cleveland, the superhero-themed feature was last screened here at the Cleveland International Film Festival in March. It was also one of 30 films from the United States chosen for last month’s Fantasia Festival, North America’s largest genre film festival.

“Filmmaking has become much more accessible to people who want to go for it and that’s a great thing,” Sikora says. “It’s still a major accomplishment to complete a feature film. On one hand, you wonder why there aren’t more. But, on the other hand, you’ve gone through it, and its quite understandable.”

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