Brothers make first feature film with time to spare before their University of Kentucky graduation

rcopley@herald-leader.comApril 29, 2014 

  • 'Loofo'

    What: Debut feature film from brothers Ben and Zak Norton, both UK students

    When: 8 p.m. May 1

    Where: University of Kentucky Student Center's Worsham Theatre, Euclid Ave. and S. Limestone

    Admission: Free

    Website: Thenortonbrothers.com

Ben Norton wheels up to A Cup of Common Wealth coffee house a few minutes ahead of schedule sporting a pinstripe jacket and oxford shirt, even though he's tooling around on his yellow mountain bike.

He is followed a few minutes later by his fraternal twin brother, Zak Norton, 37 minutes older, wearing a yellow tropical print shirt that belies the slightly chilly, rainy April morning.

During an hourlong chat, Ben leans forward, frequently guiding the conversation, while Zak tends to lean back relishing the story he has to tell.

It is a story of collaboration between the 22-year-old brothers, as they celebrate their first feature film and their upcoming graduation from the University of Kentucky.

"We wanted to write this script in particular because it's relevant to us coming out of school," Zak says of Loofo, their debut feature that will have its second screening Thursday night at the Worsham Theatre in the UK Student Center.

According to the brothers, the film fulfills senior thesis requirements for both of them, but don't call it a student film.

"We're students and we made a film, but this is much more than a student film," Ben says. "It's an independent feature film."

Zak says their need for a senior thesis and their graduation were motivation to make the movie.

"When we were freshmen, we knew we had to do a senior thesis, but we were, like, why don't we just do a feature film, because if we want to grow up and make films for the rest of our lives, I want to get one under my belt before I graduate," he said.

The brothers moved around a lot early in life before settling into Oldham County and graduating from Oldham County High School. Zak, in particular, was a devoted film fan, liking nothing better than spending his weekends watching movies good and bad. They each had other interests as well; Ben's music compositions are a big part of their filmmaking.

They entered UK aiming for different majors. Zak originally was interested in kinesiology, and Ben looked at physics and math. A few weeks into their freshman year, they realized film was what they really wanted to do. Ben is earning degrees in film, Spanish and music while doing early graduate work in ethnomusicology. Zak double majored in kinesiology and topical studies focusing on film, television and digital media.

They have since done many short films, Zak routinely cranking out trailer videos for UK Theatre.

"We did this (Loofo) because we've been making videos and films for several years and we wanted to make our own first feature," Ben says. "We had friends who were great actors and we had the people in mind.

"We had a script, and we had all these things that fell into place ... ."

The film centers on a college student named Loofo who becomes involved in some intrigue that relates to his past, and its broad intent is to satirize the "coming of age" genre, popular among filmmakers the Nortons' age. That said, it also incorporates elements of horror, thrillers and other conventions for, as Ben defines it, "a multigenre hybrid."

After graduation next month, the brothers are set to go their separate ways for a while. Zak will spend the summer working on Burning Kentucky, a feature film being shot in the commonwealth by former UK student Bethany Brooke Anderson. Ben will be doing academic and activist work, including writing for Think Progress, a liberal political blog. Meanwhile they are also editing Loofo so they can submit it to festivals, hoping maybe it will be one of those indie debuts that catches fire. But even if it doesn't, they accomplished a big goal.

"We did everything," Zak says. "We edited it on our computer at home — we built a work station — and we had our hands on everything, and I think that's such an important aspect of it because we're learning it at the same time we're doing it, and you couldn't ask for a better time to do that than in college."

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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