Impact Productions: On the move and not slowing down

Paul F. P. Pogue

Local filmmakers Sean Eichenberg and Chris Cones, in one of the many Indianapolis back alleys where they shot 'Bound By Blood.'

Sean Eichenberg and Chris Cones are two guys in a hurry to get movies made. With two feature films in the can in one year and several more in pre-production, they've spent every minute they can to keep things hustling.

"I only got a little bit of time," said Cones, a former kickboxer who specializes in martial arts roles such as his leading part in the action flick Bound By Blood. "I can only do the splits for so long. I'm not 18 anymore."

As partners in Impact Productions, they've completed Bound By Blood and the thriller Rage, which premieres in Indianapolis in April. Already they've hosted a successful premiere for Bound By Blood and have numerous distributors interested in a worldwide DVD release. At the same time, they're working on marketing and distribution for Rage. It's a relentless dedication to task that has already served them well in the extremely tight shooting schedule for Bound By Blood.

"Most independent filmmakers shoot on weekends, whenever they can," Eichenberg said. "Chris and I are getting older and we know our window of opportunity is closing. Every day that you shoot costs money. Instead of shooting four or five weeks at exorbitant costs, we crushed everything into 19 days of 20-hour days."

In person, the duo is the epitome of every crazy cop/sane cop buddy movie you could imagine. Cones is big, bald and tough looking (though he still holds doors open for women); Eichenberg is quiet and unassuming. The characterization tends to hold true through their on-screen roles in Bound By Blood, where Cones is the hothead on the edge and Eichenberg the by-the-book cop. "I'm driven by emotion, and he's driven by discipline," Cones said. "It was pretty easy to get into the characters."

Martial arts has been part of their acting background since the beginning; they both landed small roles in Best of the Best III when it filmed in Indiana in 1994. (Cones made the final cut; Eichenberg didn't.) Despite parallel career paths, they didn't meet until an audition for a sporting goods commercial in April 2004. They struck up a chat about karate and kickboxing and their friendship moved swiftly from there.

"Next thing I knew I was on a plane to Los Angeles to work on an independent film that Chris starred in," Eichenberg said. (That film, Monster's Bride, is still in post-production and will be distributed later this year.)

That experience gave them a grounding in independent film and fueled their determination to do their own work in their hometown.

"We saw what guys were doing with independent film in L.A., and we realized that we could do this better and cheaper in Indianapolis and involve the community," Eichenberg said.

NUVO: You've got a lot of distributors interested in Bound By Blood. What are your realistic hopes for what could be accomplished here?

Eichenberg: It's realistic to get worldwide DVD distribution. If we get a large enough following, which could very well happen, we might get a limited theatrical release in the Midwest, a couple of hundred theaters.

Cones: We're still heads and shoulders above any other independent filmmakers we know. We knocked out two films in one year. We had a distribution deal on the table before we went into post [production]. A lot of people we know in L.A., it takes them a year and a half, two years to get one film done. We're moving into films as a full-time career. We're putting a lot of things on our credit cards. But we're confident in the product.

NUVO: A lot of what you've done and what you have coming up are very much genre pieces. Why?

Cones: If you create something people like, it's easier to get a deal. We've done genre pieces because genre pieces are easier to market. We haven't sacrificed anything, because we think these are good products, but we think these have good, strong mass appeal.

NUVO: What advantages did you find in filming in Indianapolis?

Eichenberg: Shooting in Indy is easy. If you say you're going to make a movie, people will help you out. They'll open up their doors for you, give you a price break. You don't need to have a permit to shoot in Indianapolis like you do in other cities. We were able to get into places we wouldn't normally be able to get into, for comparatively little money. When you've got two guys who know this is our future career, you take it seriously. If we made something for $10,000 and it looks like we spent $10,000, it's not going anywhere. We tried to take our budget and make it look like we spent a hundred times more than we actually did on it. We're trying to approach Mitch Daniels, Bart Peterson, anyone in the governmental level who sees this as a filmmaking city. Look at films shot in Toronto that look like they're in L.A. or New York.

Cones: We're not gamblers. They key was having a good plan, well thought out, eliminate as many risks as possible. I can't tell you how long we studied as far as the technical aspects. We knew that we had to have a good business plan, good commercial product, good creativity and a balance between the three.

Eichenberg: I'll be honest with you, there were moments that were hell and there were moments that were wonderful. One day in the middle of prod, I looked at him and said, "If we'd known it was gonna be this hard, we wouldn't have done it!"

NUVO: Neither of you have any formal filmmaking training; how did that affect your approach?

Cones: The cool thing is that we don't know there's a box, and that allows us to think outside of it. A lot of people get amazed that we didn't go to film school and all these other things. I'd kind of rather not. Because people are going to tell you how you're supposed to think, what you're supposed to do, the formulas you have to follow. When you don't put limitations on yourself, I think you can accomplish anything.

NUVO: You've got a busy slate coming up; you've mentioned inspirationals, comedies, dramas and more action, starting out with sequels to your already completed films. What can you tell me about Rage?

Cones: Rage is a psych thriller about child abuse. I'm not into psychological thrillers or horror genres. But one of the things that Sean and I agree on is that we don't want to get labeled. Unfortunately, a lot of action films get labeled as B-films. I think we've got A-list stories, that caliber, that potential. We screened Rage for about 30 people, and after it was over, everyone's mouths were dropped open. They were like, "Oh my gosh, we just saw a hit." I don't think they knew how to react to something so different, yet so commercial. We had a lot of people that compared that kind of thrilling suspense to Saw, which had a tremendous story. I really think we've created a form of filmmaking. It comes down to innovation.

NUVO: Any other thoughts on what you've learned so far?

Eichenberg: I learned that filmmaking wasn't that difficult of a process, it was just a very tedious process and you had to learn the industry terms. Intelligence is great, preparation is key, but the No. 1 thing to have is diligence, that undying desire to keep going. If you have that and you're pretty good with the other things, you can never, ever stop.

Cones: You don't need to recreate the wheel; you've got to recreate ways of getting there. We sprouted wings and flew.

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