GOSHEN — Friday morning’s filmmakers panel roster read like a who’s who of Goshen-area natives and others now carving careers in the entertainment industry.
About 70 audience members filed into Ignition Music Garage to hear Matt Litwiller, Brody Bernheisel, Whitney Valcin, Leila Djansi, Sarah Elizabeth Miller, Jordon Hodges, Wes Jones and Jon Helmuth offer updates on current projects while recounting their personal trajectories.
Helmuth, producer and star of last year’s River Bend Film Festival Best Documentary winner “The Flying Dutchmen,” first took the Ignition stage with emcee, artist, filmmaker and local educator David Kendall. The movie, which chronicles Helmuth’s cross-country motorcycle trek with his near-blind companion and friend Daryl Zook, is currently being pitched for purchase, a step that would deliver the work to a much wider audience.
“The film is kind of like that kid that lives in your basement,” Helmuth said, describing the process. “You’re like, ‘Get out there and get a job. I mean, you’ve been great, but c’mon, let’s see what happens.’ It’s a little like that.”
Shot partially in Goshen and following the pair to the Pacific Ocean, the doc will screen over the Atlantic at Cannes Film Festival in May and will be circulated for acquisition at the American Film Market conference in November, Helmuth said.
His production company, Paradox Film Group, recently financed the feature-length “Acts of Violence,” starring Bruce Willis and Sophia Bush, as well romantic-comedy “Untogether,” starring Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Grey, Sharon Stone and Ben Mendelsohn, both of which are close to wrapping.
Returning to the Goshen area for filming in early May will be actor, writer and producer Hodges who intends to shoot his upcoming feature, “The Shade Shepherd,” over the course of about 25 days with director Chris Faulisi and crew, Hodges said.
“It’s a script I’ve been working on for about a year now with the director. I’m really proud it,” he said. “It takes place in the late ’80s and I’m a soon-to-be father and I’m shepherding my older, troubled brother to the Canadian border to escape police custody. I mean, I have a recurved bow on my back, a quiver, arrows, the whole nine. It’s really an adventure film and it really kind of gives a play to the ’80s, ya know.”
Near the end of the coffee talk, audience members lobbed questions at the panel. Local attorney and Goshen schools board member Felipe Merino requested explanation of each panelist’s personal impetus for pursuing a career in the creative arts.
For Litwiller, a Goshen High School grad, it was access to software such as editing programs. Fellow GHS alumnus Bernheisel agreed, adding that encouragement from Kendall, a GHS faculty member, assisted in his ascent.
“You gotta go at it with no chains attached. You gotta hit it — hard — and make mistakes and Dave was able to allow us to do that,” he said of Kendall, a former GHS media arts teacher to both Litwiller and Bernheisel.
Jones, a writer on the Showtime series “Billions,” missed the Kendall-helmed boat at GHS and, instead, mined motivation from the more quiet creative climate of early-’90s Goshen.
“I think about growing up in Goshen, I pre-dated, ya know, Dave’s inspiring transformation of the Goshen High School arts program,” Jones said to audience chuckles. “It was a little more hands-off when I was there. If anything, I was inspired by the void of artistic options.
“Something about it gives you space to create worlds and I think that’s what filmmaking is in a way.”
Follow Geoff on Twitter @glesar_TGN