For an aspiring filmmaker, Chris Easterly seems to have been living the dream, based in Los Angeles, racking up writing credits. But it turns out that the Frankfort native had another dream: to make a movie in his home state and premiere for friends and family he grew up with.
Tuesday night, that one comes true too, as the Franklin County High School (Class of 1993) and University of Kentucky (’98) graduate screens his drama “Relict” at the Kentucky Theatre. When we popped Easterly a few email questions this week, we found out more about the movie, and that he plans to make more movies in the Bluegrass State.
Tell us the story of “Relict,” and how it came to you?
I was born and raised in Frankfort, Kentucky, and went to college at University of Kentucky. A week after college graduation, I drove out to Los Angeles and started pursuing a career as a screenwriter. I worked as a production assistant on various movies and TV shows, a writers’ assistant for the show “Touched By An Angel,” and as a substitute teacher and copywriter.
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In 2009, I was accepted into the prestigious Warner Brothers Television Writers Workshop, an annual competition for aspiring writers. Coming out of that program, I got staffed as a writer on a Fox drama called “Past Life” and later a Cartoon Network action show called “Unnatural History.” I also adapted Beverly Lewis’s New York Times bestselling novel “The Shunning” into a movie for the Hallmark Channel.
A couple years ago, I was sitting around my apartment in L.A. and thought, “I could either wait for my manager to call me with job offers, or … I’m a writer, so why don’t I just write something and go back to Kentucky and shoot it?” I had always wanted to come back to my home state and make a movie here.
I wrote a feature called “Devil’s Hollow” and came back to Kentucky to start location scouting. Eventually, the budget on that project grew beyond the shoe-string budget I’d originally imagined. So I hooked up with some producers and we started talking with investors about raising more money to make “Devil’s Hollow.” I discovered that finding $800,000 to make an independent movie takes some time.
Someone once told me that my favorite movie, “Rain Man,” took 11 years to get from script to the screen. I didn’t want to wait 11 years, so while we continued seeking funds for “Devil’s Hollow,” I decided to write another indie feature that we could shoot for next-to-nothing with local actors and talent.
To keep costs low, we needed a simple story that takes place mostly in one location, with just a handful of actors. I wrote “Relict,” about a man who locks himself in his house and spends the evening talking with the ghosts of his family as he waits to be apprehended for murdering the man who killed them. Everyone from the local police to businesses owners to actors jumped in and helped us make it happen.
A buddy from L.A. shipped me his camera. My high school friend, Andrew Ortwein, who lives and works in Lexington, loaned us lights and a boom mic. All the actors and I worked for free, and the whole production ended up costing just under $5,000.
Where in Lexington did you film, and who did you bring into the project?
We shot most of the film in Frankfort, but we shot one scene in the parking lot above the Lexington Public Library, overlooking downtown. Lexington actor Patrick J. Mitchell plays the detective in the movie. Patrick is a great actor and elevated every scene he’s in. We also worked with Images Model and Talent Agency to find an actress to play the main character’s teenage daughter. We needed someone who could both act and play violin. Images hooked us up with Dina Birioukova from Lexington, who knocked it out of the park for us.
What are plans for the movie beyond the premiere at the Kentucky?
After the premiere, we plan to seek distribution through streaming services like Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, etc., as well as DVD.
Beyond “Relict,” what are you doing now, and what’s next for you?
In addition to “Devil’s Hollow,” I’m currently writing and developing two other independent film projects, one to be shot in Kentucky and one in L.A. The Kentucky one is based on a true story I adapted for a Lexington-era resident.
If you go
What: Premiere of Frankfort native Chris Easterly’s film, shot in Frankfort and Lexington.
When: 7 p.m. July 25
Where: Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main St.
Admission: $8general admission, $6 ages 13 and younger and 60 and older