Georgia ranks third in the nation for feature film production, behind Louisiana and California but ahead of New York. A weekly list of who’s shooting in Dunwoody reads like a motion-picture who’s who. But how many of these films are truly local productions – conceived, written and produced by local residents?
One such film is having its theatrical release this Friday, Oct. 23, at Aurora Cineplex Roswell. Its release in other cities depends on how big a turnout it draws in Roswell.
A project of Dunwoody-based Reel One Entertainment, the movie is called “blackhats,” written in all lower case because it’s a term from the computer hacking world, which doesn’t use upper-case letters.
There are three kinds of hackers: blackhats, criminals who break into protected systems to steal data and create havoc; whitehats, computer security specialists employed by corporations to break into their systems to find vulnerabilities before blackhats find and exploit them; and greyhats, hackers who exist somewhere between the other two.
The movie is about two kinds of blackhats because the main character is a former bounty hunter, a kind of old western “bad guy” or “black hat” that resorted even to killing to capture his bounty. Now reformed and pursuing only white-collar criminals, he agrees to help a beautiful co-worker find her missing brother, who is a blackhat hacker being pursued by assassins. Thus, he is unwittingly dragged into the world he has been trying to escape. How he deals with his moral and physical dilemmas forms the basis of the plot.
“Hackers are the new bank robbers,” said Eddie Singleton, co-writer and co-producer. “They can even turn off a pacemaker.”
Written and produced primarily by Singleton and Martin Kelley, co-founders of Reel One Entertainment, “blackhats” was a totally local production, an indie film in which the writers, producers, actors and most of the production staff were local.
For those of us used to big studio productions with glamorous Hollywood stars, indie films are a different story, involving sacrifice and compromise. Producers must get their own financing before even writing the script. Rather than the standard big-studio team of up to 100 writers, indies may have one or two. To control costs, they find talent using social media, rather than agents. They find their own locations and often barter movie credit for usage.
“We did a lot of begging,” said Singleton, “and experienced many examples of kindness.”
As a result, unlike most indie films, which use only a handful of locations, Singleton and his crew shot in approximately 30 locations, all in Georgia except for a short scene shot in Destin, Florida.
One example was the sheriff’s office in Watkinsville, near Athens. Singleton was looking for an FBI interrogation room.
“They were very friendly,” said Singleton. “The sheriff gave us a tour, and I got on my hands and knees right there.”
For nothing more than a movie credit, the Watkinsville sheriff’s office not only provided the perfect location, they also provided extras.
In another case, they shot in a condo that was for sale and paid the $30 light bill as payment.
According to Singleton, indie films are “all about relationships.” Most of the actors have other jobs, many in local TV shows. To accommodate the actors’ schedules, the film’s 30 days of shooting took place over 6 months.
“We treat everyone like family,” said Singleton. “We don’t normally have insanely long days like the big studios, but if we do work late, I make everybody text me when they get home.”
Singleton and Kelley have worked together for 27 years. When Singleton considered moving to Hollywood, Kelley talked him out of it, believing the industry had a future in Georgia. Since then, they’ve been involved with numerous films, but “blackhats” is their first major feature film.
“Local filmmakers sacrifice a lot,” said Singleton. “If we succeed, we can open the doors for other local indies, but we can’t do it without local support.”
For the schedule for the film’s Friday’s theatrical release at Aurora Cineplex Roswell, go to auroracineplex. com or call 770-518-0977.