48 hours to make a moving picture

Sunday, June 12, 2005
Local actors J. W. McCrary, left, and David Martorano performed a scene at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport Saturday as Jason Fritzler operated a camera and Greg Levrault held a boom microphone for the digital film production.

Two men meet in an airport, one a sleazy salesman and the other a dance instructor who turns out to be a hired assassin. Both carry identical black briefcases. They chat over the murmur of terminal noise, and one gets up to leave. Here, the accidental switch is made.

"Cut!" yells the director. Cameramen rush to get the shot again from another angle, and one goes in for an extreme close-up. The director stands at the side, feeding lines to an actor.

This may sound like a scene taken from the next Hollywood blockbuster-in-production, but it actually took place at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport on Saturday, as members of the Cape Film Cooperative scrambled to complete the opening shots of a movie they plan to submit to the St. Louis 48-Hour Film Project, an independent film competition. The four-minute spy film, called "The Last Job," has to be completed before 7:30 p.m. today.

The rush began Friday evening when five members of the film cooperative traveled to St. Louis to receive their assigned genre, chosen at random from a jar of colored balls with 12 different film styles written on them. The group drew a ball labeled "spy," so during the car ride back to Cape Girardeau, they hurriedly wrote a script full of action, intrigue and deception.

Of course, it wasn't easy to write quickly.

"We had like 12 different story ideas, and we started arguing and nothing was getting written," said Michael Huntington, screenwriter, executive producer and co-founder of the cooperative. "But then, Greg [Levrault] pitched this idea here."

The idea: a film about an assassin, alias M. Marlo, who loses his briefcase while traveling to his final assignment and is eventually killed in a slick double-cross.

Huntington, who co-wrote the script with cooperative member Greg Levrault, said the group already had potential plot plans for a few film styles before they got to St. Louis, but they had not worked out storylines for some genres, including "spy."

"There were a few that we were weak on, and 'spy' was one of them," Huntington said. "But it has actually turned out great, better than we could have hoped for."

The cooperative began filming "The Last Job" on Saturday morning at the Cape Girardeau airport, the site of the crucial briefcase swap. In order to use this location, the cooperative had to get permission from the airport director, and they were only allowed to film in the airport's waiting area.

Shooting continued at Breakaways in downtown Cape Girardeau and in an office at BART transportation services. After filming wrapped Saturday night, they went to director Pat Bond's house to edit the movie and add sound and music.

Although the team has two full days to complete the project, Huntington estimated that the film would only take the group about 30 hours to create from start to finish. This is fortunate, he said, because of the travel time to and from the St. Louis competition.

"We're the only ones from out of town, which puts us at a disadvantage because of the two hour drive back and forth," Huntington said.

J.W. McCrary, a cooperative member and the actor who plays the traveling salesman in "The Last Job," said the production is in some ways like the making of a Hollywood movie. McCrary grew up in Cape Girardeau but has spent some time living in Los Angeles, where he had a small role in the film "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" starring Vanessa Redgrave.

"This is similar to Hollywood in that it's a lot of hurry up and wait," McCrary said, between takes. "It's really not as glamorous as most people think it is."

Screenings of all of the 36 films in the competition will be at 6:30 Wednesday in the Pageant Theatre in St. Louis. If the cooperative wins the St. Louis competition, they will receive a high-definition camera and an Avid film editing system. They also could win a chance to compete in the national 48-Hour Film Project.

The Cape Girardeau cooperative was established in 2003 by Huntington, Levrault and Bond, and it is now made up of about 300 professional and independent filmmakers, writers, musicians, actors and other movie enthusiasts. The cooperative held its first film festival, the Show-Me Digital Film Festival, last fall. The group plans to show "The Last Job" and a documentary it is producing about the film and the 48-Hour Film Project experience at its second film festival in October.

wmcferron@semissourian.com

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