Owens student writes, directs movie about terror attackWritten by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
Terrorists are attacking the city and all Jeri Kline can do is hole up in the studio and report the news as her relationship and the world around her come crashing down. This is the scenario faced in the film “The Closing Broadcast,” written, directed and produced by Owens Community College student Matthew Cooper.
The lead role of Jeri Kline is played by Bowling Green student Eli Brickey, who was excited about the Dec. 16 premiere at Owens.
“I have never been to a premiere like this before and I am beyond excited,” Brickey said. “It is a completely different experience as far as theater goes. I cannot adapt or change anything about my acting like in theater and so it will be interesting to sit back and see our work from a few months ago.”
The idea for the film came to Cooper while shadowing his fiancée as she worked the overnight shift at 13abc.
“It was really dark,” Cooper said. “She was the only person in the building. There was no sound except the police scanners that were saying every horrible crime that was happening in the city. It had this really dour feeling to it. The original idea was, what if there was a zombie apocalypse and you don’t actually see anything happening. You’re hearing about it like a radio drama, hearing all these things take place and trying to have an impact on it when really you don’t have any ability to.”
Since Cooper was working on another sci-fi/horror project, he decided to take zombies out of the equation.
“I didn’t want to start off being seen as one type of filmmaker,” he said. “I decided to take it in the direction of more reality. I took away the zombie aspect and thought of what a plausible situation is that would be just as horrible. Ironically, when I was finishing the script, situations were occurring that are very close to the subject material. I was upset we couldn’t have the movie done and out right then.”
Cooper spent time at 13abc as a floor director and camera operator and used that experience when writing “The Closing Broadcast.”
“I was able to figure out the relationships, dynamic and politics of making the news and utilize that for the story,” he said. “I found the way the anchors worked with the producers so entertaining and unique.”
Cooper began making films in his early teens. This project was important to him because most of the cast was involved in a previous film called “Preliminary Testing,” which wasn’t completed due to personal reasons.
“To not be able to let them experience it going out there and people seeing them, I took that as a great personal failure,” Cooper said. “This was a chance to do something even bigger than that ever could have hoped to have been and give them something they can be proud of.”
The cast consists mostly of theater students and community actors including Brickey, Nicholas Anthony Corbin, William Toth, Heath Huber, James MacFarlane, Jordan Jarvis, Kari Duffy-Shrader and Casey Toney.
“I was really impressed with how professional the rest of the cast was,” Brickey said. “At the same time, they were all able to keep their sense of humor while shooting such intense scenes. I think this kept everyone grounded and we were all able to connect easily because of it.”
Brickey almost wasn’t part of the cast. After filming a trailer for the movie, the actress playing Jeri Kline had to drop out and recommended Brickey audition for the part.
“[Brickey] was very personable and showed us two great sides of her,” Cooper said. “She could be friendly but also very dramatic. She had this incredible monologue that showed how far she could take this character.”
“I remember sitting at home debating whether or not to drive to Owens to the audition and I am so thankful that I went for it because it was a wonderful and challenging experience,” Brickey said. “When Matt contacted me about being cast I was just so thrilled. I was filled with all these nerves about it, too, because I wanted to do the best that I could and I didn’t want to let the cast and crew down.”
Another late addition to the cast was Brickey’s boyfriend Casey Toney, who she recommended when another actor dropped out two weeks before they began shooting.
“The character had the information that pushed the story forward, and there wasn’t much more to him than that,” Cooper said. “Casey came in and brought this weight to it, like he was the only guy who understood what was going on and how bad it was. It totally changed the dynamic of the characters around him. We ended up changing the relationships of the characters to accommodate that. It took a fairly static character and made him one of the most powerful characters in the story.”
Cooper received $7,500 of funding from businessman Rich Iott and added $1,500 of his own money as well as various donations. He decided to spend $3,500 of the budget to rent a Red One camera for a week. It is the same camera used to shoot “The Social Network.” The two days it took to transport the camera left five days for filming the 45-minute movie. The setting of the film required them to shoot at night as they worked 12-14 hours each day.
“I am finding that I am falling more in love with the film aspect to performing,” Brickey said. “Film acting has its challenges, but I am learning more about it and it is so exciting. This project was different in the sense of the filming process. Since this film takes place during a third shift essentially, filming took place sometimes from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and that was the challenge I found, was staying on my toes for that long.”
Brickey also shadowed Cooper’s fiancée at 13abc for an evening.
“I am such a hands-on learner, so this allowed me to see and experience all the work that goes into just one evening of news,” Brickey said. “It was the best information I could have asked for as an actor and I got a deeper appreciation for those doing the behind the scenes work. I was able to experience that sense of isolation that those who regularly work third shifts might feel. That is what I love about acting, getting to see the world through a different lens and growing from that.”
Cooper said he was impressed with what Brickey brought to the role of Jeri Kline.
“She grounded that character in a way I didn’t anticipate,” he said. “When you look into her eyes in these really dramatic moments, there are so many layers going on at once with the hurt, the happiness and the anger. She could put those on top of each other, which is an incredibly hard thing to do at this stage in an acting career.”
“This was my first time working with Matt and it was really great because I could see the passion he had for this project and that was inspiring,” Brickey said. “It made me want to do the best that I could each time. He was so hands-on throughout the process rather than being passive, so it was nice to get the feedback from him and to apply it there and then. He really made sure that I had an understanding of all the scenes before we shot them and was so helpful if I had questions about anything.”
Cooper has written two books as well as several feature-length scripts and shorts, and said he works something personal into every project. For “The Closing Broadcast” it was his struggle to balance his career and a personal life with his fiancée.
“Every single one of them is me working out some sort of neurosis or some personal demon,” Cooper said. “A lot of times I don’t know what it is until I’m done. Writing is always very therapeutic for me. Film is at its strongest when it’s cathartic and gives people an emotional reaction they might not have in everyday life.”
Cooper plans to show the film in nine regional theaters and enter it in 12 festivals, but first it will debut at Owens, where most of the filming was done. The premier is Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. in the Owens Center for Fine and Performing Arts’ Mainstage Theatre. General admission tickets are available for $10 at the college’s box office.
“It’s a great moment for me, because I took acting classes at Owens,” Cooper said. “There was something about that space that just grabbed me and awoke something in me. I let everyone else leave in front of me. For a moment I was on the stage by myself. I looked out at all the seats and said to myself, ‘Someday I’m going to fill this place.’ This is my chance to make that happen.”