FILM Issue: On Location - Kentucky has produced a kaleidoscope of cinephiles, near and far

Jun 11, 2008 at 11:07 am

From this list, you would think Sunset Boulevard was just around the corner, instead of 3,000 miles away.

Louisville has spawned actors, directors, producers, cinematographers, set designers and other citizens who forsake real jobs for unabashed celluloid bliss. Some have stayed, some have relocated, but the common threads remain.

As is inevitable with Louisville filmmaking’s quasi-guerilla aesthetic, each artisan wears multiple costumes. You don’t have just actors, but actor-director-producers, producer-screenwriter-directors, fundraiser-promoter-connecters, all with one single-minded, creative mission: Get it made. Get it made well.  —Mat Herron

Robin Burke

Producer of award-winning documentaries “Night Waltz: The Music of Paul Bowles” and “Dangerous Music.” “Night Waltz,” an Owsley Brown-directed documentary of Paul Bowles, won the 1999 Southampton Film Festival, the prestigious Spirit Award in March 2000 and was shown at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival. Burke was also a producer of the independent short film “Dangerous Music,” which was a Competition finalist at the USA Film Festival and Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, and winner of the Houston International Film Festival Bronze Award. Burke was a director and producer on “CAN DO!,” a five-part video documentary series for parents and teachers of blind and visually impaired children. Most recently, she was involved as a director on “Living Lightly,” which won Best Family Film-Directors’ choice, Best Regional Short Film-Director’s Choice and Best Short Film at the Bluegrass Independent Film Festival.

Dan Rhema

In coming up with “Little Sex Shop of Horrors,” Rhema pulled a Jack Kerouac, dreaming about the plot of the film, then committing it to paper. The script centers on a man, played by local actor Jason Crowe, who runs a sex shop that turns out to be a haven for bloodthirsty vampires masquerading as mannequins. A select group of friends, producers and sponsors have read the script and raved about the film’s fang-tastic acumen.

Rhema’s throwing a kickoff party June 28 at The Clare Hirn Studio at the corner of Market and Hancock streets, with tattooed models and a cross-dressing singer in tow. After the film premieres in August, Rhema will have a live auction of the props of the movie — the whips, the corsets and yes, the flying dildos, will be autographed. “The dildos play a big part in this thing,” he said. “Louisville hasn’t really seen anything quite like this.”

Carol LaFever

The CEO of Cascade Broadcasting leads the WBKI/CW Network and LouNet, a new community-access station. LaFever’s 30 years of experience in the television business started with Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1977. She’s won an Emmy, a Peabody, as well as several other awards for public service broadcasting. She has overseen the start-ups of three different television stations. LaFever took over operations at the CW Network in February of 2007.

Scott Shuffitt

Shuffitt is a short-film actor/director and the co-founder of Lebowski Fest, which is now in its 10th year. He also cowrote the book “I’m A Lebowski, You’re A Lebowski: Life Of The Big Lebowski, and What Have You” with Bill Green, Ben Peskoe and Will Russell. The University of Louisville grad is also a painter, graphic artist and vintage-car enthusiast who also organizes the Beatersville Festival at Phoenix Hill Tavern every year.

Elliott Greenebaum

Greenebaum directed, wrote and produced the 2003 independent film “Assisted Living,” which won the grand jury prizes at the Slamdance and GenArt film festivals. The film was an Official Selection at the South by Southwest Film Festival and won Best Feature at the Woodstock Film Festival. Greenebaum took time off from film school at NYU to shoot “Assisted Living” at an actual assisted living facility here in Louisville. He appeared on “The Charlie Rose Show” to promote the movie.

Derrick Beasley

In Spring 2009, Derrick Beasley and two other business partners are opening Vanguard Cinema, a drafthouse cinema (read: they serve beer) at Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center.

The cinema, situated inside the separate building next to Mellwood’s parking lot, will house two theaters, one for 200 people and one for 70, with a restaurant and full bar attached that will serve customers inside the theaters. “We’ll be showing movies that either don’t come or get a very short run in Louisville,” said Beasley, who, along with Last Call Film Festival organizer Andy Schanie, will decide what’s shown. The two are focusing primarily on movies from independent film distributors. 

The menu, developed by Christopher Seckman, co-owner of the North End Café, will center on wood-fired pizza as the main course.

A big presale push started at last week’s Last Call Film Festival, Beasley said, with packages ranging from $10 to $10,000. “We’ve already had a couple takers on that,” he said. Who could blame them? For that money, customers get free admission and half-off special event tickets and food and drink for life. There’s more at

As for the launch, Beasley’s leaving that up to your imagination, for now. “We have an exciting opening night planned, but I can’t quite tell you what it is right now.”

Brad Riddell

Riddell is the screenwriter behind “American Pie 4: Band Camp.” The screenplay was originally titled “Band Geek” and was Riddell’s senior thesis script at the University of Southern California Film School. Riddell, a University of Kentucky graduate, earned an MFA in screenwriting from USC. He is also the founder of the Kentucky Film Lab, which is an organization dedicated to expanding and maintaining Kentucky’s film community. Riddell’s next project is a film titled “Harmony,” which he will develop alongside fellow Kentucky filmmaker Stu Pollard.

Will Oldham

Though he is well known for his music under the names Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Palace, Oldham has also appeared in nearly a dozen independent films, including famed indie-director Harmony Korine’s 1996 film “Julien Donkey-Boy.” Oldham’s first film role was in Matewan, the 1987 movie about coal miners’ attempt to unionize in a rural West Virginia town. Since then, Oldham has been featured in various films, most recently “Old Joy,” which won awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Rotterdam International Film Festival and Sarasota Film Festival, as well as spots on a number of film critics’ year end lists in The Boston Globe, The Onion’s A.V. Club and Entertainment Weekly. Oldham’s music has also appeared on a number of soundtracks.

Bruce Skinner

Skinner is the filmmaker behind the 2006 documentary “Thunder and Reins,” which follows Derby-winning jockeys and the preparation for the big race. Skinner also heads Blue Sage Mercantile, a company that specializes in creating period costumes for re-enactments of historical events and films. Skinner has created clothing for the Kentucky History Center, the Liberty Hall Historic Site and various film and commercial production companies.

John and Brad Hennegan

The Hennegan brothers wrote, produced and directed the film “The First Saturday in May,” which premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The film follows six trainers and horses on their quest for a win at the 2006 Kentucky Derby. One of the horses in the film, Barbaro, went on to win the Run for the Roses that year. The Hennegan brothers grew up on Long Island, and with their father working as a placing judge for the New York Racing Association, the two developed an affinity for horse racing at a young age. Both have established careers in the broadcasting industry: Brad, working for companies such as IFC, HBO, ESPN, Showtime and Bravo; and John, with CNN before he moved on to become a freelance writer, producer and director.

Gabriel Wrye

Wrye has served as an assistant editor on “Jerry Maguire,” “Meet Joe Black” and “Dangerous Minds.” Most recently, he edited “Brothers Bloom” starring Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo, due out in October. The story follows two con artists who cheat businessmen out of millions. 

Greg Willinghanz

Willinghanz produced the 2007 documentary “Mitch and Paul: Friends From the Opposite End,” which debuted on KET last August. The film documents the friendship between University of Louisville professor Dr. Paul Weber and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as they prepared to open the McConnell Center at the Ekstrom Library on the University of Louisville’s campus. 

Molly Bingham

Bingham directed, wrote and produced “Meeting Resistance,” which follows the lives of eight different insurgents in Baghdad and explains their reasoning behind resisting American forces after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Bingham, a 1990 Harvard graduate, has used her photojournalism skills to document arms trafficking in Central Africa for Human Rights Watch. She was captured and detained with four other westerners in Abu Ghraib after the initial invasion of Iraq, and wrote a major story on the Iraqi resistance for Vanity Fair in 2004. Bingham appeared in the 2005 documentary “Bearing Witness,” which followed the lives of several female journalists working in war-torn areas.

Greg King

King is a filmmaker and graphic artist who was born and raised in Louisville. He attended Hunter College, where he received an MFA for experiments in painting, drawing, film and video. King joined the Louisville-based band Rachel’s in 1995, playing keyboards, and he often produced original films for their shows. Recently, King has become involved in numerous experimental theater projects in New York and has worked with director Annie Bogart and production companies like SITI Company and Stillpoint Productions. His first solo film project, “Rotating Mirror,” is scheduled to be released on DVD sometime this year.

Morgan Atkinson

This independent filmmaker is responsible for “Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton” and “Time in the Garden,” a documentary about the Abbey of Gethsemani monastery in Bardstown, Ky. “Soul Searching” was an in-depth documentary about the life of poet, activist and Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Atkinson started his production company, Duckworks, in 1985, and has since created seven documentaries for KET/PBS, as well as a number of films about local issues and personalities, including the “Tom Owen’s Louisville” series and “A Way of Life: Basketball In Kentucky.”

Kay Milam

Milam produced the independent documentary “The Butterfly Diaries,” about the monarch butterfly. Milam’s focus is capturing the beauty of nature on film. She was also a field producer on the “KentuckyShow!” project, which explores Kentucky’s natural landscapes and premieres later this year. An experienced painter, Milam teaches art to children and adults.

Roni Jonah, Jason Crowe

Actor Jason Crowe starred as “Jim” in the 2007 horror/comedy film “Dead Moon Rising.” He has also appeared in “Into The Woods,” a 2006 horror film shot in Lexington, and alongside Kevin Sorbo in the upcoming thriller “Fire From Below,” to be released this year. Roni “Rockstar” Jonah is a musician, professional wrestler and aspiring actress who was born in Vancouver, B.C., and now lives in Louisville. She has made a name for herself in wrestling leagues like Ohio Valley Wrestling, as well as the Great Lakes-based organization Second City Wrestling. Jonah and Crowe are competing for roles in an upcoming horror film to be shot in Romania that will be screened later this year as part of the 8 Films To Die For Horror Fest. 

Joe Goodman and Bobby Neutz

Goodman and Neutz started the independent production company Namesake in 1995. They have worked on numerous horror and sci-fi films, including the 2000 Christian sci-fi adaptation of the book “Left Behind.” The duo produced the two thrillers in 2007, “House” and “Thr3e,” and are finishing “Uncharted,” to be released later this year. Goodman and Neutz specialize in the “spiritual thriller” genre and screen many of their films at churches.

Langan Smith and Whitney Bishop

Bishop and Smith started the Louisville chapter of Kino in 2005. Now called KinoLouisville, the organization seeks to establish a community among amateur filmmakers here. KinoLouisville is known for holding special “Kabarets” — two-day workshops where a theme, or “secret ingredient,” is established at the beginning. Then the filmmakers have about 48 hours to finish the film and screen it for the audience. To date, KinoLouisville has held seven screening events for 77 different films.

Peter Byck

Byck’s 1996 film “Garbage” won Best Documentary at SXSW in 1996. He’s also maintained the long-running web show “Ralph the Roadie,” and edited bonus materials for television show DVDs like “ER” and “The West Wing.” Byck’s most recent film was the short “I-Nasty” in 2007, and he is working on a new documentary titled “Carbon Nation.” He is an occasional film reviewer. 

Joseph Ardery

Ardery served as an assistant on the set of “U23D.” Before that, he was a director, writer and producer for the film “Peoples,” which was filmed here and starred native John Hensley. Ardery has also worked as a sound assistant on the short film “Suicide Inc.”

Nicholas Gray

Gray is the writer, producer, and director behind the upcoming film “If You Could Say It In Words,” set to premiere this year. He is also the co-founder of A Chip and Chair Films, a production company specializing in films and theater. As well, Gray is a fight choreographer who has worked with the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Princeton University, Rochester Shakespeare in the Park and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Naomi Wallace

Wallace, an established playwright and screenwriter from Prospect, has seen her work produced both in the U.S. and England. Her first play, “The War Boys,” was nominated for Best First Play by the London Fringe Awards. Her playwright credits include “In The Heart of America,” “One Flea Spare,” “Slaughter City,” “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek,” “The Girl Who Fell Through a Hole in Her Jumper,” “Standard Time,” “Pure Confidence,” “Moot The Messenger,” “Things of Dry Hours,” and an adaptation of the William Wharton novel “Birdy.” Most of Wallace’s plays deal with salient social and political issues and human rights. She recently completed an adaptation of “The War Boys.”

Jamie Buckner

Buckner wrote, produced and directed the 2006 film “Ascension.” He has served as a production assistant on the set of more than a dozen feature films, such as “The Departed,” “Elizabethtown” and “War of the Worlds.” More recently, he has been an assistant production coordinator of “The Accidental Husband” and “The Code,” both to be released this year. Buckner’s film “Ascension” was produced with the help of local production company Derby City Productions. 

Owsley Brown III

Brown is a director who wrote and and directed the 2000 film “Night Waltz: The Music of Paul Bowles,” a documentary about the life and music of composer/novelist Paul Bowles. “Night Waltz” won the Truer Than Fiction award at the 2000 Independent Spirit Awards. 

Robert Podgursky

Podgursky co-produced the 2006 film “Saved By Deportation,” a documentary about 200,000 Jews who were deported from Poland by Stalin in 1940 to work in labor camps in the Soviet Union. The film was partly inspired by Podgursky’s father’s own experience with this particular situation. “Saved By Deportation” has been show at Jewish film festivals worldwide. 

Ned Beatty

Beatty has been featured in more than 150 films and television shows since 1972. He is most famous for his roles in “Superman,” “Deliverance” and “Rudy.” Beatty was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1976 for his role in “Network,” and has also been nominated twice for an Emmy and once for a Golden Globe. In 2006, Beatty was awarded the RiverRun International Film Festival’s “Master of Cinema” award.

Stephen Trask

A composer, Trask provided the score for “American Dreamz,” “In Good Company” and “The Savages,” as well as the off-Broadway musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” He was at one time the musical director and a house band member at the New York drag club Squeezebox, and has performed with many musicians, including Joey Ramone, Debbie Harry and Yoko Ono. Trask lives in Lexington.

Steve Zahn

Zahn has acted in about 50 films and television shows over the course of his career. He is most well known for his roles in “Riding In Cars With Boys,” “Saving Silverman” and “Crimson Tide.” He has starred in “You’ve Got Mail,” “Sahara” and “Reality Bites.” Zahn began his career on Broadway, but got his television debut on an episode of “Friends” in 1995. Since then, he has won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his role in “Happy, Texas,” as well as a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for the same role. Zahn was born in Minnesota, but moved to a horse farm near Lexington in 2004.

Arthur Rouse

Rouse is a producer/director and founding director of the Kentucky Film Lab, an organization dedicated to expanding and maintaining Kentucky’s film community. Rouse also owns and operates Video Editing Services and the Media Collaboratory in Lexington. He served as a producer, director and editor for the documentaries “For Generations to Come: The Wisdom of Thomas Clark,” “Harriet Van Meter: A Life Extraordinary” and “Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.”

Jerry Bruckheimer

Bruckheimer is a renowned television and movie producer, responsible for big-budget blockbusters like “Black Hawk Down,” “Armageddon,” “Top Gun” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. While well known for his action movies, such as “Con Air” and “Gone In 60 Seconds,” Bruckheimer has also produced a number of comedies, among them “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Kangaroo Jack.” He splits his time between his home in Beverly Hills and he and his wife Linda’s 110-acre farm in Bardstown, Ky.

George Maranville

Maranville wrote and directed the 2004 film “Yeti Vengeance,” which was shown at 16 film festivals across the country. He edited and produced the 1997 independent film “100 Proof” and worked with fellow Louisvillian Archie Borders on the 2004 film “Paper Cut.” Maranville hosted the cult and horror television/web show “Brains on Film,” and teaches in the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Filmmaking Program. He works closely with the Louisville-based BWK Media Group, and his documentary “Spooked: The Ghost of Waverly Sanatorium” was shown on the Sci-Fi channel

Sellus Bessinger

Bellinger wrote, directed and produced the 2007 independent film “The Dangers of Dreaming,” which was set in a small town in Kentucky. “The Dangers of Dreaming” was shown at a number of festivals across the country, including the Park City Music and Film Festival, the River’s Edge Film Festival and Action On Film Festival. Bessinger is from Frankfort, Ky., and according to his MySpace page, is running for a seat on the Frankfort City Commission this November.

Contact the writers at [email protected]