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Double Exposure

Charlotte premieres provide boost to local filmmaking

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Film: AMONG BROTHERS

Plot: Based on a true story, the film centers on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a student (Lauren Schneider) at a South Carolina university.

Guiding Light: John Schwert, who directed and produced the film, and adapted the original story by Tom Morgan (who wrote about the 1994 death of his sister).

The Project's Genesis: "I met Tom Morgan through some mutual friends," explains Schwert, who relocated to Charlotte in 1998 after growing up in a small town in New York. "He began to tell me about this story he had written about his sister's untimely murder in 1994. At first, I was intrigued by how someone could write such a story about their own sister, and then upon reading it and talking more with Tom, I realized that the writing was actually an emotional closure for him. Once we agreed to terms for me to adapt the story, I left my corporate job, worked on another independent film here in town, and then shot Among Brothers in September and October of 2004."

Budget: "The entire production budget of $32,819 was funded by a second mortgage on my home," reveals Schwert. "This is excluding the $230,000 in deferred contracts that would be owed to the cast and crew if the film were sold. As the post production budget grows — for example, festival submissions, travel and marketing the film — these costs are being funded by my best friend, the credit card."

Shooting Schedule: "I think we had some sort of divine intervention, because of the justice we are trying to serve with the film," muses Schwert. "But no, we had no problems during production at all."

Familiar Sights: "Eighty percent of the film was shot within a couple of miles of uptown Charlotte. Since the story doesn't take place in Charlotte but rather a small college town, the locations aren't all that recognizable." Locations include Queens University, The Great Aunt Stella Center and Extravaganza on Tryon. Oh, and an issue of Creative Loafing makes a cameo appearance.

The Future of the Film: "We recently had requests from some major studios for copies of the film, so I'm hoping to sell the US theatrical distribution rights to one of them and get the film into A-run theaters, which would then lead to taking it internationally. If we can't find domestic theatrical distribution by way of one of them, then we will hope to find private investors. A theatrical release is really a marketing campaign for a film anyway. The objective is to create as much brand identity for the film as you can, so that when it's released on DVD, you can recoup your theater costs and then create a profit."

Consensus: Among Brothers is unusual in that Morgan chose to relate the story not from his sister's point of view but from that of the killer. The actual case remains unsolved, but Morgan and Schwert do an admirable job of building their scenario step by queasy step, resulting in a drama that stays firmly entrenched in the realm of plausibility. A key to the film's success is the fine work by lead actor Matt Mercer, who conveys a winsome congeniality that masks his character's darker impulses.

Screening Info: Among Brothers will be presented by The Light Factory at 7pm and 9pm Thursday-Friday, June 2-3, in the Duke Power Theater at Spirit Square. John Schwert and Tom Morgan will be in attendance, and a Q&A will follow the screenings. Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For details on the event, call 704-333-9755. For more info on the film (including a look at the trailer), go to 4wproductions.com/brothers.htm.

Film: THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

Plot: Growing restless with her staid life, NYU graduate Alex Young (Lauren Schneider) returns to Charlotte to live at home; while trying to make some decisions, she befriends a number of other restless twentysomethings, including a moody artist (Justin Rivenbark) who catches her eye.

Guiding Lights: Will Clegg, who wrote, directed and co-produced the film; TJ Derham and Philip DeVaul, who also share producer duties (DeVaul also appears in a leading role as the brash Avery).

The Project's Genesis: "A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of the Boomerang Generation," explains Clegg, referring to the term given to young adults who move back home after attending college. "Having just moved back into my parents' house, I became interested in the idea. I based most of the characters on close friends of mine and largely used my own back story to introduce the main character of Alex — with an obvious gender change."

Budget: $100,000. "The money came from family and friends," states Clegg, who's lived in Charlotte since the age of two (he turned 25 this past Sunday).

Shooting Schedule: "We were somehow blessed with a wonderfully smooth shoot. There were normal problems of running low on time and money, but everyone did their job and we finished on time and — just barely — under budget. We shot last July, and it rained only two days that month — both of our days off!"

Familiar Sights: Except for one sequence filmed in Chester, SC, the entire project was filmed in Charlotte. Familiar sites include 4th Ward Park, Sir Edmund Halley's Pub (which doubles as the film's fictional Boomerang Café, the venue at which the kids frequently gather) and The Neighborhood Theatre. Oh, and a Creative Loafing box makes a cameo appearance.

The Future of the Film: "We're trying to get into as many film festivals around the globe as we can," notes Clegg. "We're also actively pursuing distribution for the film; we have several companies already interested, though we expect it to be a little while longer before we find the right fit. But we've found that the movie speaks to everyone — from current college students anxious about joining the real world, to thirtysomethings who wished they saw this movie before they left college, to middle-aged parents of these Boomerang Generation kids who want to understand what's happening in their children's minds. So we want everyone to see it!"

Consensus: Clegg manages a neat trick with this film: Its themes of emotional alienation and hesitant self-discovery are universal enough that audiences anywhere can easily hop onto its wavelength, yet he extensively employs Charlotte locales in a manner that will thrill local viewers. Schneider delivers a thoughtful performance in the central role — her character's outward serenity, a marked contrast to her inner turmoil, draws us in, and when her character emotionally explodes toward the finale, it's akin to watching a dam burst.

Screening Info: The Rest of Your Life will be screened at 7:30pm Thursday, June 2, at the Visulite Theatre. Clegg, Schneider and other cast and crew members will be in attendance. The showing will be followed by a party featuring appetizers, a fully stocked bar and live performances by Bellglide and Punk Jazz Project (two bands included on the film's soundtrack). Admission is $10. For details on the screening, call the Visulite at 704-358-920. For more info on the film (including a look at the trailer), go to www.therestofyourlife-movie.com.

Homegrown Cinema is an occasional column that looks at movies made in the Charlotte area.

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