Thursday, February 27, 2003

Young filmmakers shoot for big time

Next wave: Who's up and coming

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Though still a student at Wyoming High School, 18-year-old Bryan Amburgey is an award-winning director.

His 2002 video short Color Blind (about racial discrimination) picked up honors at last year's inaugural Queen City Film Festival, Ohio's Sprockets high school film contest, the Apple iFilm Festival and the Cranbrook (Mich.) Film Festival.

Now he is expanding his horizons as a producer of another short film - one that costs 1,000 times more than Color Blind.

"Color Blind was $20 and now we're working with $20,000," he said.

Intended to run about 15 minutes when finished, Who Is Charles? will be shot on 35mm film with paid cast and crew. The partners are still looking for money. Much of the financing raised so far comes from the family of Amburgey's old friend and Color Blind cameraman Tyler Wirtanen, 18, the writer and director of Who Is Charles?

The producer's job involves a lot of planning, Amburgey said. "I'm getting all the crew together, talking with the film commission. We're getting locations, and they're helping me get permits. And managing the budget, too, which is a definite new task."

Who Is Charles? (about homelessness) will shoot in Cincinnati for a week beginning Saturday. Then Amburgey and Wirtanen will spend a weekend shooting "New York" scenes on the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles. They gained entry to the studio through an L.A. film program where Wirtanen is enrolled.

The 10-member cast includes Cincinnati actors Bob Elkins and Ernie Roland, and an L.A.-based actor named Felix Tipper who, coincidentally, is a native Cincinnatian.

Amburgey has earned more than festival prizes as a filmmaker. When Wyoming teacher Lori Friedman took samples of his work to a conference in Columbus, Apple executive Jeff Jones was impressed enough to invite Amburgey to share his skills with professionals. The teenager has made presentations about movie software to Apple executives in Chicago and school superintendents at two conferences in Santa Fe, N.M.

Script supervisor Rebecca Harpring, 18, of Anderson Township, a freshman theater major at Butler University in Indianapolis, learned of the project from fellow crew member Jason Brown. Though it is her first experience on a film crew, she is convinced Amburgey and Wirtanen have the right stuff. "I think they're doing a fantastic job," she said. "They have extreme dedication. It shows they have real potential for their careers."

Not everyone has shown as much confidence in the young filmmakers, Amburgey said.

`Some people are really skeptical," he said. "They're like, `You have $20,000? What are you doing with $20,000?' Sometimes we get that. But we're doing everything as professional as possible, because we want to in order to learn. But also to spite people who are like `What are you guys doing?' That's just an added bonus."


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