Two films made by local residents are making their debut this month, but in very different venues.
“They Are Mine,” a thriller written and directed by Michael James Hull, became available for viewing on Amazon.com earlier this month. And on March 23, “Runner,” a short thriller written and directed by Paul Schuyler, will get its premiere on the big screen at the Chatham Orpheum Theater.
Both films show what can be done with a tiny budget, a lot of talent, and the resources and locations available on Cape Cod.
“You can do anything here,” said Schuyler, a Harwich resident who worked in film in California before moving to the Cape a dozen years ago. “You can do a rom-com here, you can do a horror movie, in the same way California is like that, with access to so many different locations.”
In 17 minutes, “Runner” tells the story of a single mother whose run along a woodland trail turns into a nightmare when she witnesses a murder. Most of it was filmed along the Harwich-Dennis town line and in a barn owned by Schuyler's mother-in-law. He said he came up with the idea while on a run in the woods, and it seemed like the perfect project to showcase his abilities as a filmmaker, a calling card to attract interest in two feature-length scripts he's written.
“We tried to encompass a little bit of everything in a short time,” explained Jade Schuyler, Paul's wife, who plays the lead in “Runner” and is also the villain in “They Are Mine.” “It's also Paul's favorite genre.”
The Schuylers' involvement in both movies shows the cross-pollination within the Cape's small filmmaker community. Paul Schuyler worked on two of Hull's previous shorts and had a role in “They Are Mine.” Some of the crew worked on both “Runner” and “They Are Mine,” and Hull was an extra in “Runner.”
“I'm impressed by Mike,” Schuyler said. Hull's dedication of two years of his life to “They Are Mine” inspired Schuyler to move forward with his short film, which he and Jade hope will attract enough interest to allow them to film their features here on the Cape.
“It would be such an amazing opportunity to so many local artists, and even young people who want to get involved in filmmaking,” she said.
“The more people out here making movies and pushing that, it's better for everybody,” added Paul.
There's always an element of risk in exposing your work to a wider audience. “Once you show it in front of an audience, there's nowhere to hide,” quipped Schuyler. “It's like a train that gets rolling. I'm interested to see what presents itself.”
He said he's honored to show the film at the Orpheum, which he called one of the technically best movie theaters he's seen. The theater's former assistant manager, Geoff Bassett, who was director of photography on “Runner,” arranged the screening; at first Schuyler thought it was just an after-hours showing for the cast and crew.
“When he told me this is actually for public consumption, we decided we had to step up our game,” he said.
As of early this week, tickets for “Runner” were still available through the Orpheum's website for the March 23 showing but were going fast. The film will be followed by a question and answer session with the Schuylers and Bassett.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch “They Are Mine” now. Hull said Amazon has a program allowing independent filmmakers to upload their films if they meet certain technical criteria. For an independent, getting a distribution deal can be next to impossible; Amazon allows anyone anywhere to watch the film via online streaming. (Those without Amazon Prime can rent it for $2.99 or buy it for $9.99.)
“You promote it as much as you can,” Hull said in a telephone interview from Los Angles, where he moved in October. “The more hits you get the more it shows up on pages. Then more people will see it.”
Hull's film is a true work of passion; the Chatham High School graduate wrote, edited and directed the 63-minute feature, which was shot in recognizable locations in Chatham and the surrounding area. He also built many of the sets; much of the climactic scenes in an abandoned mine where filmed in a set Hull constructed in his parents' back yard. The resulting film – in a which a high school senior witnesses what he believes is a kidnapping, leading him and his friends into the clutches of a deranged killer – is both fun to watch and chilling in its use of suspense and horror conventions.
In Los Angeles Hull is working as a production assistant and helping with student film projects, “really any aspect (of film) that I can,” he said. “In the meantime, I'm working on my next script,” a crime-romance-drama in the vein of “True Romance,” only “the way I would do it,” Hull said.