As you settle into a theater seat this summer, ready to soak up air conditioning, giant soft drinks and the most recent installment of the “Transformers” franchise, it might be hard to imagine that filming is going on right here in Columbus.
Moviemaking has arrived locally, although on a much smaller scale and with an exponentially smaller budget.
On a mild Saturday morning in late May, the clock was ticking for a small crew of filmmakers and devotees. The original group of six, which grew as the day went on, gathered at the corner of Fifth and Washington.
Director JayaPrakash Telangana coolly surveyed the scene, taking inventory of his crew and his resources. Telangana had assembled local talent to create his submission to the 24 Hour Film Race, an international film competition. Telangana had exactly one day to script, shoot and edit the three-and-a-half-minute long film.
And at that moment, his filming plans needed to be revised.
The Film Race
A stay-at-home dad by day, Telangana moved to Columbus three years ago from Flint, Michigan. He has been creating short films since 2007. Recent projects include a film — as yet unedited — regarding a political movement in his home country of India.
“There is a different excitement,” he said, “an adrenaline rush when I’m behind the camera.”
At 10 p.m. the night before his 24-hour project began, he received an email from Film Race organizers with the required theme (an ultimatum); an action (biting into something) and a prop (a broom). According to Film Race rules, Telangana had to include all elements and the film had to be submitted online by 10 p.m. the next day.
At first blush Saturday morning, the project’s length seemed almost trivial — until filming started and minutes ticked by with no filming, only fires needing to be to put out.
There was a problem with the first location, planned at the Tre Bicchieri restaurant. The Farmers Market brought too much traffic to Washington Street, so Telangana decided to tackle another location.
He moved the crew a few blocks east to the cobbled alley to the right of the Bartholomew County Public Library. Actress Madhura Jugade took her mark, and Tim Hashko, a filmmaker who traveled to Columbus from Indianapolis to work on the film, settled his DSLR camera on his shoulder.
The crew ignored the curious stares of passersby and a hushed tension settled over the street set. There was a collective inhalation as the camera started rolling on the first scene — until a lawn mower’s growl tore through the quiet.
To a theater near you
A different local movie maker has a film on his summertime dossier.
Daniel Anderson, who grew up in Hope but spent much of his time in Columbus, is now a junior at Ball State. He hopes to make a career in film making. As a hobby, it has improved his planning skills and honed his professionalism.
“The planning that goes into producing a feature film — I honestly wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t been working on this project,” he said.
Anderson will spend the lion’s share of July filming his feature-length film, “The Year 2321.” With his crew of friends, he will film the 103-page script at Zaharako’s ice cream shop, in back alleys in Columbus and up in Muncie.
After the month-long shoot, Anderson and his crew will spend the academic year editing. The plot, a story he created with classmate and friend Jordan Sime, involves a post-pandemic future in which a mob distributes a life-saving anti-viral. It’s an ambitious project, to be funded by donations at Indiegogo.com (with a goal of raising $5,000) and fueled by a collective passion for film making.
“Storytelling has always been a passion for me,” Anderson said. “That’s the fun part of it: being creative and doing something that’s yours.”
Historically, Columbus has only been lightly dusted with Hollywood magic.
Rumblings of a Clint Walker-backed film, “Murder U,” passed through town in the mid 1980s. The rumblings went nowhere, and the film was not made. Walker is best remembered from the TV series “Cheyenne.”
“Madison,” starring Jim Caviezel, notably used Columbus as a location. Released in 2005, the 1970s period piece tells the story of a man’s struggle to win a hydro-plane regatta. Columbus’ courthouse is featured prominently.
Coming-of-age indie flick “Bloomington” used a Columbus house as a location, and was released in 2010.
For the most part, Columbus exports rather than imports talent.
Columbus native Chad Zapfe appears on the credits for the Seth Rogen/Rose Byrne vehicle “Neighbors”; “Nashville” prime-time television show supporting actress Chaley Rose also hails from Columbus.
Tim Grimm and Jan Lucas-Grimm, who returned to Columbus from California, garner considerable acting work, but generally not in the Columbus area.
“Of the dozen or so feature films I’ve acted in, I’d say at least half have been cast and/or filmed in the Midwest,” said Tim Grimm, better known locally as a musician.
Hope resident and teacher Pete Law first set foot on a film set as a cast member for an indie flick. The next day, he headed to Louisville to work as an extra in the 2010 horse-racing movie, “Secretariat,” which starred Diane Lane and John Malkovich.
“I remember that there was a lot of ‘hurry up and wait,’” he said. “But I enjoyed every second of the day.”
Anderson said he would consider leaving Columbus for a location that offers more lucrative opportunities.
“But if I had my way, I’d stay here in Columbus.”
Being a film maker in small-town Indiana is not impossible.
Before she wrote and produced her feature-length film “Paradise Recovered,” Andie Redwine was a stay-at-home mom with four kids. Now she runs By the Glass Productions in Bedford.
Redwine has two scripts in development, as well as commercial work and a documentary that wrapped in Hawaii and Japan.
Making films in Indiana is definitely doable, she said.
She credits her success to her sound customer service record and to living and working in a small town.
Not only does Indiana have a friendly vibe, but it provides lower filmmaking costs and better dollar-per-dollar impact, Redwine said.
“In a town like L.A. you can spend $100,000, and it doesn’t matter,” she said. “But if you spend money in a small town, we know it circulates at least eight times.”
In addition to the low cost, Indiana residents are not jaded by constant filming and generally welcome the chance to offer their towns as locations, said Erin Schneider, director of Film Indiana.
Film Indiana is the state support office for the film, television, commercial and new media industries. The office’s website contains data base resources for filmmakers — including locations, makeup artists, actors and other talent.
Hoosiers, she said, don’t see the film industry as “something to exploit,” Schneider said.
Columbus, she added, has one decided edge over other locations: the architecture.
“What an incredible asset,” she said. “And not everybody knows about it — it’s something we really can get out there.”
In addition to the seasonal variety South Central Indiana weather affords, as well as the variety of flavors Columbus can provide, Tim Grimm sees another valuable resource: The people.
“We have a Midwestern view on life,” said Pete Law. “It’s not a California point of view or an East Coast point of view — and I think we can bring our experiences to film just as well as they can.”
That’s a wrap
YES! Cinema, overseen by the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, operates as not-for-profit entity. It is used as a movie theater but also as a setting for town meetings and a training ground for people breaking into the work force.
It also hosts an annual film festival, YESFest, now in its fourth year.
The festival draws film submissions from around the world, including a few local short films.
Randy Allman, executive director of the neighborhood center, said he would like to receive more local submissions, and to grow the festival’s audience. It typically draws crowds of 650 people.
“We want folks to make the film fest a destination,” Allman said. “First of all, we’re selling Columbus — and we want to get the film lovers out there.”
Seventy-two hours after submitting his film to the 24 Hour Film Race, Telangana got the news that his piece was accepted into the competition.
In the immediate future, he wants to meet filmmakers and writers with whom he can collaborate.
“What I’m trying to do is start with something small and get people interested,” he said. “If I’m able to pull off these projects, I’m thinking feature-length film.”