Road to Hollywood Begins in the Niagara Frontier

Post a Comment » Written on January 4th, 2011     
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LOS ANGELES, CA (January 4, 2011) – Filmmaker Chris Hall is under no illusions about the difficult path to success in Hollywood, but the Covenanter’s award-winning short film is a step in the right direction.

Chris Hall (left) and cameraman

Hall, who grew up attending Zion Covenant Church in Jamestown, New York, wrote and directed Flint Creek, a 22-minute piece of historical fiction set during the War of 1812 in the western region of his native state. The film has already earned six awards, including top honors at the 4th Annual Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (Best Short and Best Supporting Actor) and the Shoestring Trophy at the 52nd Annual Rochester International Film Festival.

Hall graduated from North Park University in 2004, having majored in communications and minored in theater. He spent his final semester at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, a student program of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

“The program is geared toward creating working professionals who can serve as pillars in the film industry where decisions are being made,” says Hall. “Most graduates are not making overtly Christian, evangelical films, but we’re working within the Hollywood framework to promote our values.”

Hall went on to complete graduate school at the University of Southern California and became a cinematographer and colorist. In 2007, he founded Basher Films, a boutique post-production company in Pasadena.

“As a colorist I put the finishing visual touches on film and video projects, oftentimes correcting exposure problems, changing color balance, ‘relighting’ actors, and fixing makeup and cosmetic blemishes,” he says.

Hall decided he wanted to write a script about the War of 1812 because it gave him the opportunity to combine his loves of history, filmmaking, and Western New York. “Much of the war took place in Western New York and across the Niagara in Canada, but not many people realize that fact, or even know anything about the War of 1812 to begin with,” Hall says.

Hall hopes the film will give people a glimpse into a significant part of U.S. history. Flint Creek tells the story of a settler who witnesses a war crime deep in the wilderness of the Niagara frontier and must decide how he will respond.

The filmmaker had to overcome one major obstacle to getting the film made—financing. He obtained a $20,000 grant to produce the film—an amount that wouldn’t even cover one day of shooting for a major film.

Casting director Katrina Wandel, a 2005 graduate of North Park, found Screen Actors Guild talent to donate their time. “She did this on top of her full-time job at a casting agency,” Hall says.

Hall shot some of the film in Western New York and made the rest of it just outside of Los Angeles. Ultimately, it took him two years to complete the film.

He is writing more history-based projects but knows it may be some time before they make it to screen. “Although writing and directing historical films is really my passion, it’s really more of an ‘extracurricular activity’ for me as the process of getting a film made is one that that takes a lot of time, money, resources, and planning,” Hall says.

The business model is changing in ways no one can anticipate. Filmmakers outside the large studios “work long unpaid hours on projects that no one is sure will even break even financially, let alone be seen at the theater or get on the shelf of the local video store.”

Hall spends part of his time trying to arrange distribution deals that will enable the general public to see the film. Because it was on the festival circuit, the film was not eligible for regular distribution until this year.

In the meantime, Hall also is focusing on growing his business and says the work at his “day job” continues to inspire him professionally and creatively. He adds, “It allows me the opportunity to stay connected to the industry and filmmaking process that I love so dearly, while doing it a way that is financially viable for the future.”

Now and in the near future, Hall will be working on various music videos, a PBS documentary entitled The Girls in the Band about women in jazz to be released in late 2011, and a thriller feature film by Joe Dante, director of Gremlins.

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