Film production company takes first big stepWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re Downtown at the beginning of September, don’t be alarmed if you run into a band of goblins and orcs.
They’ll probably leave you alone. They’ve got other priorities — like shooting a film series in 22 days.
Top of the Hill Productions, a group of Toledo natives with a passion for filmmaking, is about to record its first big project: “Huntsmen.” Staged in the modern world, but equipped with medieval-style garb and ancient Celtic creatures, the 15-episode series will center on a brotherhood of “huntsmen” who attempt to keep the peace between warring supernatural characters.
The production company, run by Gerald Hill, his wife, Kellie, and assistant director Harvey Collins Jr., will start shooting Sept. 1 and finish by Sept. 22. The group aims to show its work starting on Halloween at the Maumee Indoor Theater and at the church where the group rehearses.
Filming will take place in various places around Toledo, including some Downtown alleys.
Hill set a $6,000 budget, a goal he said he hopes to reach by using Kickstarter, a website that collects donations based upon donor incentives. For example, pledge $1 and you’ll see your name in the credits. Pledge $75 and you’ll get a hoodie, DVD, signed poster and your name in the credits. Kickstarter only collects the money you pledge if the group reaches its goal. Huntsmen had collected $770 in pledges as of press time. The campaign runs until Aug. 29.
Hill said he didn’t just name his company Top of the Hill because it is play on his last name.
“It also speaks to the trials that I’ve had to go through and the sacrifices I’ve made … it’s like climbing a mountaintop or a hilltop to get to where I want to go,” Hill said. “I’m not there yet so the goal of this is that one day, hopefully, we will be there at the top of the hill.”
Collins added, “I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Laughing, Hill agreed.
“We’re still that guy crawling up the side,” Hill said.
Hill has used film to crawl up the side of that hill since 2001, when his brother Damion was killed. Hill was 16.
“My mom purchased my first camera for me and that really helped me get through that time in my life,” Hill said. “Had I not had that experience in filmmaking it would have been a lot harder to deal with it — it was a way to escape and express the things I was going through at the time.”
But Hill didn’t start taking film seriously until a couple of years ago, when he decided to sacrifice a steady job to attend Specs Howard, a school for media arts in Michigan. He had been working for 7UP at the time, as a manager of merchandising. But, he said, he needed to do what he loved. And that meant taking a risk.
Hill has also run a class at Collingwood Arts Center for kids who want to learn about filmmaking. The most recent project involved more than a dozen youngsters who shot a short film about bullying. Some of the students Hill met while teaching the class will make appearances on “Huntsmen.”
“Growing up I didn’t have that … I couldn’t find anyone who made films so I just kind of thought, in that sense, I would like to give back to them so they know that you don’t have to be pigeon-holed into certain careers,” Hill said. “It was just a dream that was out of touch for me as a kid.”
Hill has always been interesting in theater. As a child, he said he sewed his own costumes and acted out scenes from his favorite shows. His wife, Kellie, on the other hand, was pulled into it. She has written her own stories for most of her life, but said she fears the camera. So she tries to maintain a behind-the-scenes profile by writing scripts and helping to hunt for costume materials — whether it be fake teeth, fur or upholstery.
Kellie, who also got her sister involved through acting, said working on the production has been a family affair. Collins is her uncle.
“We are like a brotherhood,” Hill added. “There are times where we’re living, eating, sleeping at each others’ houses so it’s nice to have that parallel, that we’re not only filming a series about family and brotherhood but we’re actually living it during the production.”
Check out the Kickstarter campaign at www.kickstarter.com/projects/tothstudios/huntsmen-be-a-part-of-the-brotherhood?ref=live.