COLUMBIA — Local film director Brian Maurer thinks Missouri is a great location for a Midwest film studio.
"You have river flats, lakes, plains, lowlands, farms, metro areas and small towns — everything except mountaintops," Maurer said. "You have four seasons. You have two international airports and a regional airport nearby. You don't have to go anywhere else because everything you need is right here.”
A trailer for the "The Pardoners" can be seen on vimeo.
Maurer wants to remind Columbia residents that in spite of the economic downturn and budget cuts that resulted in the closing of the Missouri Film Office in June, the local filmmaking community is alive and active, and it's not going anywhere.
“There’s a group of people who are trying to make sure that film doesn’t die here in Missouri,” Maurer said. “We’re still all here. We’re still doing our thing.”
His current "thing" is a modern day retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," called "The Pardoners," which Maurer describes as a "three-way free-for-all."
The 17-minute short film focuses on three criminals who are secretly plotting to kill off their partners to avoid sharing a large sum of money, Maurer said.
At 11 a.m. Sept. 17, the Ragtag Cinema will host a free screening of "The Pardoners", followed by a question-and-answer session with the cast and crew.
The short film is designed to whet viewers’ appetites and pique their interest in the larger project, an hour-long pilot for a television show.
“People like a good mystery,” Maurer said. “We hope that what it shows will entice people to want to know more. When it’s all put together, it’s a much bigger story.”
Maurer also hopes that people in the community will take part in the show’s production.
The free screening at the Ragtag Cinema is part of a month-long fundraiser aimed at raising $4,500 needed to complete six 10-minute segments that will be combined to form the pilot episode, Maurer said. The segments will initially be aired online, then combined to form the full-length pilot for public viewing, he said.
Maurer’s production company plans to pour the money raised back into the community. They will use local vendors to provide rental equipment, catering services, props, costumes and the cast and crews for the pilot, he said.
They also will highlight area businesses and locations in filming the pilot episode, including the Broadway Diner and Cosmo Self Storage, he said.
“When we’re supported by the public, the community benefits,” Maurer said. “We want people to understand what we’re doing. We’d like them to be a part of it, to take ownership of it.”
Cast member Steven Buehler, who plays one of the criminals in “The Pardoners,” said using local talent provides a “constant foundation of people to work and grow with, as well as opportunities to find experience” in the industry.
He also said he thinks Missouri has all the elements necessary to make it a viable location for the film industry and sees working on films such as "The Pardoners" as part of making that come to pass.
“Instead of making all of us move to LA or New York, we can grow and make Missouri a heavyweight contender in the film community,” Buehler said.
If the $4,500 fundraising goal is met by noon Sept. 30, production will begin in October, Maurer said. He hopes to have a public viewing of the completed 60-minute pilot in the spring of 2012.
For more information on the project or fundraiser, go to burntbridgefilms.com.