| Indianapolis Star
Indiana towns, fictional and real, have been the setting for many famous movies. Here are seven classics you need to see.
Domenica Bongiovanni, email@example.com
Movies helped keep us sane in 2020, and they’re going to be just as relevant as we await a full vaccine rollout. Fortunately, plenty of filmmakers have been focusing on all things Hoosier, so you can recognize some scenes that aren’t too far from your backyard.
Some of these films, documentaries and series are already widely available. Others are still in development and hope to hit screens soon. All of them are telling Hoosier stories that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
‘The Shade Shepherd’
LaGrange County and the Shipshewana Amish community form the backdrop for a movie about two brothers who are fleeing to Canada so that one can escape allegations of a crime. Jack, a psychiatrist, leaves his pregnant wife to help his brother Pike, who has been charged with murder but, suffering from a heroin withdrawal, doesn’t remember it.
“My character seems like the person who does have his stuff together. My brother does not. We’re like polar opposites from the start,” said Jordon Hodges, who plays Jack. “As, I think, the story progresses, you kind of see them crisscross a little bit. Both are on the run, but for different reasons.”
“The Shade Shepherd” is set in 1987, and large portions of it take place in the woods, where the natural light and element of mystery lend themselves to the storyline. Hodges said setting the movie before the days of cellphone tracking relieved them of having to problem-solve technology questions and allowed more time to develop the characters.
Hodges, who now lives in Elkhart, grew up in the Goshen area and said the dynamic backdrop of Indiana’s four seasons and Hoosiers’ willingness to help them make the film were among reasons they wanted to shoot here. Hodges co-wrote the script with director Chris Faulisi.
The actors include Randy Spence (“House of Cards”), Caroline Newton (“Borrasca”) and Brett Baker (“Identity Thief”). Brett Baker and Hodges (“Sand Castles”) of B2 Entertainment produced “The Shade Shepherd.”
Learn more: indicanpictures.com/new-releases/the-shade-shepherd
How to see it: Apple TV, DirecTV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNOW and other streaming sites, also out on DVD.
In this heist film, grifter Mac goes after a seemingly easy opportunity, only to find himself vulnerable to an old lover in a situation that could cost him dearly. To make it neo-noir, the filmmakers aimed for timelessness. Benjamin Madrid (“The Lumber Baron”), who plays Mac, said they didn’t focus on technology, cars and other elements that would date “No Place.”
Director and co-writer Peter Matsoukas shaped the movie around co-writer Madrid, who has experience in comedy. But in Mac, Madrid decided to build a character who’s a much better con artist than standup comedian. Making sure Mac wasn’t that funny took some work.
“I had to swallow my pride a lot because we went in, in front of a little audience. I always feel the pain of that audience, so my job as a comedian in real life is to make them feel comfortable. I’m in the driver’s seat, this is going to be OK, this is going to be great because they want to see you do well,” Madrid said.
“I had to sort of let that audience know when we were in there, ‘Guys, this is not going to go well, and trust me, I’m totally fine with it.'”
Indianapolis sites in the film include Mass Ave.’s Burnside Inn, The Box media production space near 16th Street and Riverside Drive, Cornerstone Tasting House at 54th Street and College Avenue, and Al’s Modern Clothing & Shoes in Castleton.
Matsoukas co-wrote the film with Madrid. Stars include Afton Shepard, Forba Shepherd (“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”), Ric Payne (“A Day in the Life of Joe Redwood”) and Hugo Bolden. Producers include Matsoukas, Madrid, Payne and Derek W. Tow and Greg Malone.
Learn more: indicanpictures.com/new-releases/no-place
How to see it: Apple TV, DirecTV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNOW and more. DVD releases Jan. 26.
‘Ms. White Light’
Many people consider themselves to be terrible at talking about death. They struggle to find ways to adequately express sympathy, often leaning on cringeworthy cliches.
Enter Lex Cordova (Roberta Colindrez of “I Love Dick”), who’s an expert at counseling people who are dying but can’t connect to the living. And then enter Val (Judith Light of “Who’s the Boss?”), a woman who forces Lex into the uncomfortable territory of examining her own choices. What makes “Ms. White Light,” written and directed by Paul Shoulberg, original, is its relatable humor and unrelenting focus on the often-taboo topic of death. The movie was filmed entirely in Bloomington.
“The story of MS WHITE LIGHT was born out of personal experience dealing with the death of loved ones, so personally we just needed to tell this story as a way to process that,” John Armstrong, co-owner of producer Pigasus Pictures, wrote in an email to IndyStar. “But we also felt a film hadn’t been made that really addressed the end of life directly, actually talking about it.”
Pigasus, which is also co-owned by Zachary Spicer and Gordon Strain, is behind “The Good Catholic,” “So Cold the River” and “The Miseducation of Bindu.” It was co-produced “Bindu” with Ed Timpe and Prarthana Mohan.
Learn more: pigasuspictures.com/ms-white-light-1
How to see it: Prime Video, iTunes and video on-demand platforms.
The documentary explores a tragic plane crash and the ensuing investigation. On April 20, 2006, Georgina Joshi, a student studying voice at Indiana University, was flying four friends into Bloomington and Monroe County Airport in a Cessna 206. The plane crashed, and all five died. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated and found the cause to be pilot error. But her family and other experts said that the facts of the crash didn’t bear out that conclusion.
As her family dug deeper, they said they found that the highly respected board was effective in its investigations of commercial flights but not with private aircraft and other general aviation. The lack of oversight for the agency, they said, fuels flawed investigations that continue to circumvent the real reasons behind crashes that keep happening.
A 2014 USA Today investigation found that federal accident investigators have overlooked equipment defects and other dangerous factors as they assigned the blame for crashes on individual pilots of small plans.
“Eighty-six percent of the time, it is declared as a pilot error (in general aviation),” said Yatish Joshi, Georgina’s father. “That means case is closed. That means they don’t make any recommendations whatsoever to (the Federal Aviation Administration) to change the rules to make it safer for other people.”
He and a team made the documentary to bring attention to Georgina’s case as an example of this — and to ask Congress to put pressure on the safety board to do better.
Yatish Joshi and Joan Joshi are executive producers. The film is directed and produced by Todd Boruff.
Learn more: invisibleskyfilm.com
How to see it: Available on Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play and on InDemand cable services.
‘A Break in Belonging’
In 1996, Keith Nickens was found shot and burned in Hancock County. Martin Thomas, who’d been a Kansas City, Mo., pastor, pleaded guilty to killing him. But he never publicly admitted why, documentary director and executive producer Shirley Williams said.
His actions damaged his family and his five sons’ future — something Thomas bore the weight of while he served more than 20 years for the crime. He began to preach while he was in prison, growing its church and helping to build rehab programs for inmates.
“Martin’s story is very layered and it’s very packed,” Williams said. “He never told his family or his lawyer — he never told anybody why he did it (at the time). For him, because of his spiritual belief, he felt like the crime had been done and he had committed, like, the ultimate sin and the reason behind it and the details at that point were irrelevant and he just needed to serve his time.”
After Thomas was released, he and his wife began Foresight For-Givers Foundation Inc. in Indianapolis to help those who have been incarcerated rebuild their lives.
Williams first heard Thomas speak at her church, the Harlem Church of Christ in New York, after his release. Amazed by Thomas’ frank talk of his own guilt and his way through it, she began researching the crime and read Thomas’ book, “On the Road to Manhood,” which encourages men to find a truthful path and God in their lives. She asked him to be the subject of a documentary to talk about his life, the murder, his time in prison and, finally, why he chose to commit the crime.
The filmmaking team is currently raising money to start shooting the documentary, which will be a four-part series, in April. Williams aims to be finished by April 2022 and is in talks with potential distributors. Hollann Sobers is also an executive producer.
How to follow along: abreakinbelonging.com
What would you do if a man from the future tells you that you’ll invent time travel but that you have to meet your future husband first to do it? If you’re Dr. Carrie Nikam, you’ll have to find a way to make him fall in love with you. “Paradox,” shot in Garfield Park’s Sunken Garden, accomplishes that in about seven minutes.
The cast and crew filmed the entire short in one day, creating a sci-fi world until daylight ran out.
“That was one of the challenges of writing the script … is telling a complete story with some depth to it in a really short amount of time, to really have a full arc and everything,” said Glenn Pratt, who directed the short and wrote the script.
Adam Janeira, with I’m the Villain Films, produced it. Yasmin Schancer, Ransom Pugh and Isaiah Treadwell star.
How to follow along: “Paradox” is currently on the festival circuit. Find updates on its progress on the Renegade Films Facebook page.
In this 30-minute horror suspense thriller, a woman goes into hiding at a bed and breakfast after her husband is shot and the perpetrator gets away. But she soon finds that the business’ owners aren’t who she thought they were.
“I read it twice in a row. I was just like, ‘Oh, wow.’ It’s a great cat and mouse,” said Cameron Grimm, CEO and president of co-producer 5 After 5 Studios. “It had this nice twist in the way it was written. The character was really deep and attachable.”
Written and directed by Sandy Slaven, “The Doorman” will begin filming in February in Mount Summit, just north of New Castle. Grimm said the plan is to submit the movie to film festivals.
Along with 5 After 5, Slaven Pictures and Spook House Entertainment are the producers. The filmmakers behind 5 After 5 made “The Man Who Loved Flowers,” an adaptation of the Stephen King short story, in 2017 in Greenfield. . “The Doorman” stars Lynn Lowry (“The Crazies” and “Shivers”), Liz Fletcher (“Fighting the Dark”) and James Stokes (“The Devil Comes Dressed for Church Too”).
How to follow along: 5after5studios.com
“Staying Alive Chapter One: Sacrifices” sets up a mystery in just 14 minutes. After a young woman is kidnapped and killed, her police officer brother must identify her body. Meanwhile, a man who was near the crime scene finds himself deep in a human trafficking gang that the officer will have to investigate. The first episode leaves plenty of questions for the next installment.
Filmed along East 38th Street and at Indianapolis landmarks, the “Staying Alive” horror series brings Indianapolis issues to light through an abstract aesthetic influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino and German Expressionist films.
“Donald Glover’s ‘Atlanta’ series, I love how it really incorporates the city, so I wanted Indianapolis to play a major role,” said A.G. Tha Pharoah, who wrote and directed the film. He wanted to create “a story that wasn’t linear but kind of kept people’s attention, too.”
Pharoah and the filmmaking team are building the chapters off of characters they previously filmed in shorts with improvised dialogue. They began making the series in early 2020. “Staying Alive” is produced by JESS Network. Actors include Damon Dulin, Dominique Moon and Isean Roe.
Pharoah, an Indianapolis musician who released “SE7EN LORD” and EP “Flowers,” wants the “Staying Alive” series to be five or six episodes. Each one will come out on YouTube throughout 2021, with the final episode planned to air around Halloween.
Watch it: https://youtu.be/n2R8DyK0194
How to follow updates on the series: JESS Network on YouTube and facebook.com/agthapharoah
Wes Montgomery documentary
Tentatively titled “Wes Bound,” it is the first film documentary about the iconic jazz guitarist who dazzled Indianapolis and the world. Former TV news executive Kevin Finch is making it with major help from Montgomery’s son Robert Montgomery. Among the most exciting contributions from the family: 14 reels of 8mm home movies that haven’t been seen publicly.
The guitarist was known for filming his life, his son said, and reels include his performance at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, family at his home near Butler University’s campus and scenes from a picnic at a Lafayette amusement park. Montgomery was known for revolutionizing jazz guitar with his fingerpicking style that influenced George Benson and Jimi Hendrix, among many others.
“People know about the music, but they don’t know about him and where the music came from,” Robert told IndyStar for a December story. “It wasn’t just his style of playing; it was him as a person. When you have music that comes from the heart and the beauty of a person, then it draws you into what’s being played.”
Finch’s company, Jukeboxer Productions, announced that the documentary is scheduled to premiere in March 2023 on Bloomington-based public television station WTIU.
Learn more: jukeboxerpro.com/wes-bound
‘Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time’
When the documentary comes out this summer, it will be the fruition of more than 30 years of work. In 1982, a young Robert Weide reached out to Vonnegut and asked to chronicle his life and work. The author agreed, offering up home movies and interviews. The documentary captures Vonnegut walking through his childhood home in Indianapolis, going to his 60th class reunion at Shortridge High School and his growing friendship with Weide.
The name “Unstuck in Time” calls back to Vonnegut character Billy Pilgrim’s travel to different times of his life in “Slaughterhouse-Five.” The documentary does the same as it traces the author’s important moments as a child, a prisoner of war, a father and husband, and, finally, an iconic writer.
“The way some people have their musician or their painter or playwright or filmmaker, I finally found the guy who spoke directly to me, really got under my skin,” Weide told IndyStar in 2001. “I loved his humor, I loved how he approached these huge topics on the one hand with some sort of cynicism but all filtered through this wonderful sense of humor.”
IFC Films acquired rights to “Unstuck in Time,” which is produced by Whyaduck Productions and 9.14 Pictures. Weide, known for directing “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and Don Argott are the directors.
Learn more: vonnegutdocumentary.com
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Contact IndyStar reporter Domenica Bongiovanni at 317-444-7339 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @domenicareports.