Steve Turner recently returned home to Jackson from trips to Chicago and Austin, Texas, where he conducted callbacks for actors and actresses who auditioned for his upcoming film "The Lies of Others."
They aren't household names but have worked in films and TV shows many would recognize, he said. This homegrown production to begin shooting in Cape Girardeau in May is going to have professional actors and crew.
Toni Cobb Brock, who recently did the location casting for "There Will Be Blood" and is working on the new Forest Whitaker film "Patriots," supervised Turner's casting call in Texas. She never works on low-budget movies, she told him, but consented because she liked the script for "The Lies of Others" so much.
The movie is about two young lovers whose lives are torn apart by a murder in the family. The story considers moral questions about what people would be willing to do for their family.
Auditions were held Feb. 2 in Cape Girardeau and Feb. 16 in St. Louis. Turner declined to give the names of the actors and actresses who auditioned until contracts are signed. Though roles remain to be cast, "The Lies of Others" will start filming May 17 in Cape Girardeau.
"The film is on," Turner said.
A St. Louis native, Turner was an English major at Southern Illinious University-Carbondale who also directed short experimental films and stage plays. His directorial experience ranges from "Our Town" to "Glengarry Glen Ross."
In 2005 he and his wife Sheri Schrader formed Schrader Turner Films. The following year he quit his job as the general manager at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Cape Girardeau to concentrate on filmmaking. His short film "Mere Sentience" won the Best Picture award at the 2007 Show Me Digital Film Festival. His feature-length, "extremely low-budget" film "Miller's Tale" is entered in this year's St. Louis Film Festival and is being considered by others. The movie is about small town life "lived in the margins."
Reading about Mexican immigrants traveling to the northern states inspired him to write the screenplay for "The Lies of Others."
"I was interested in what people will put themselves through to get themselves a better life," he said.
Like all independent filmmakers, Turner is always searching for more funding. "To many of the people I have approached it's such a bizarre thought," he said. "It's hard for them to comprehend that this is destined for theatrical release."
The budget for "The Lies of Others" is six figures, not much as motion pictures go but enough to hire professional actors and crew members. Turner is encouraged by the success of "Once," the Irish independent film that recently won the Oscar for Best Original Song. That movie was made for $160,000 and as of last December had gross revenue of $14 million.
Each film is a steppingstone to the next in the life of an independent filmmaker, Turner said. "The situation I'm in is that this film will make it easier to get more money for the next film."
The movie has eight principal roles and 12 featured speaking roles. Local actors will play a number of characters. Turner is still looking for two boys — one 8 to 12 years old and the other 10 to 12 years old — to play brothers Thomas and Benjamin Marquette. Both must be able to ride a horse and hold a rifle.
Cape Girardeau landmarks will appear in the movie. "We will be shooting downtown. Cape will play a big role and will come out positive in the film," Turner said. "People will know it's Cape for sure."