NICHOLASVILLE — Jessamine County hasn't had many claims to movie fame since some of The Flim-Flam Man with George C. Scott was filmed at Valley View in the 1960s.
But Tuesday night, Nicholasville was the site of a world premiere of the independent film Unrequited at AmStar Cinemas at Brannon Crossing. The movie was shot entirely in Fayette, Scott, Jessamine and Clark counties last summer.
"It's a homegrown project that is, in my opinion, as competitive or as equal to a lot of films you would see in L.A.," said director Jason Epperson, a Clark County native.
"It's fun to see the end result and celebrate having finished all that hard work," said Tom Lockridge of Nicholasville, a co-producer who is also the commonwealth's attorney for Jessamine and Garrard counties. He co-wrote the Unrequited screenplay with Jeff Day, director of Asbury University's theater-cinema program; together they founded Lucky Day Studios, the company that produced the film.
"It's a pretty darn good movie," said Lockridge, beaming like a proud father.
Unrequited is described as a "psychological thriller" about a troubled teen (Michael Welch of the Twilight movies) who kidnaps a former girlfriend (Sarah Habel) in an attempt to regain her affection.
"It's really a commentary about what can happen in the absence of love and how quickly a life can deteriorate," Lockridge said. As a prosecutor, he said, "I see a lot of people who have families that are in disarray, and then those young people's lives are also in disarray. I'm not a sociologist, but I sure see a lot of that in the court system."
Unlike Seabiscuit, Elizabethtown and other movies that were shot partially in Kentucky, Unrequited will have more Kentucky flavor because it was shot entirely in the Bluegrass State.
"We wanted to use what we have, which is the backdrop here in Kentucky," Epperson said. "The backdrop is so beautiful, you've got to take advantage of that. The fact that we were able to get the locations and basically get them for nothing, that doesn't happen in L.A. I'm really excited to be back here in my home state making films."
On Tuesday, there was a private 7 p.m. showing on two screens for investors and others, then a 9:15 p.m. showing on three screens for the public. "We're overwhelmed. We're blown away," Day said.
Epperson and Habel posed for photographs as hundreds crowded the AmStar lobby before the 7 p.m. screenings.
The movie will be shown at film festivals in Toronto and Santa Monica, Calif., this fall. It also will be shown at the American Cinematic Experience Fest in New York on Aug. 20. Distribution rights for the movie have been sold in the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Latin America and Indonesia, Lockridge said. The movie probably won't see wider U.S. distribution until 2011.
In an interview before the premiere, Habel said the movie is an important milestone for her.
"I've done a lot of supporting characters, but it's my first chance to get to help to shoulder a movie," the actress said. "To have that opportunity to do that, for that to turn out the way it has, I'm just really proud of it."
Since finishing Unrequited, Habel has appeared on the CBS dramas Cold Case and CSI: New York.
Lockridge and Epperson are thinking about their next projects, too.
Lockridge said Lucky Day's next project will be based on the true story of Jarrett Mynear, the Jessamine County cancer patient who began a toy cart for other terminally ill children before he died in 2002 at age 13.
"That kid accomplished so much in his life," Lockridge said.
As for Epperson, he hopes to do a documentary called Impact: After the Crash about the 1988 Carrollton bus crash. Twenty-seven children and adults were killed when a drunken driver in a pickup going the wrong way on Interstate 71 crashed into a church bus returning from a trip to Kings Island in Ohio.
Epperson is hoping to raise money for the project through the Web site www.theimpactmovie.com.
"It's just such an important story to tell," he said.