A man is violently killed in a dark stairwell. The camera cuts to a railing dripping with blood. This sequence resembles a scene from a Martin Scorsese crime drama. You wouldn't guess that it is part of a locally made short film. Thank You for Calling Information Dynamics is the latest from filmmaker Dylan Griffith. Despite his grace behind the camera, Griffith has found that making films in Indianapolis can be difficult.
"It's not easy making movies in Indianapolis, you have to really want to do it here," he said. Apparently he has that desire, for he's been producing films here with his own production company, Venogram since 2004. Founded with his Butler University film collaborators, Collin Armstrong and Alex Johnson, Venogram specializes in corporate commercial work as well as narrative pieces. It's a success story in a film community not often filled with them. You may not believe this community is still in its infancy given the number of local film events highlighted in NUVO each week. However, it is indeed still growing.
"There's the high-end players shooting Peyton Manning commercials and the people working on independent narrative pieces. There aren't a lot of people in between. That's due to the high cost of film production," Griffith explained. "There isn't a culture for that type of investment here. The state government doesn't help in that respect. In terms of tax breaks, Indiana lags behind Michigan and Illinois. Most people that want to invest in narrative projects move elsewhere."
"You have to make your own opportunities here," Collin Armstrong added. Armstrong almost didn't take this advice. After working on film projects with Griffith at Butler, he abandoned his cinematic aspirations and went to Philadelphia to study law - what he deemed the more responsible career path. He soon realized that wasn't the right decision. "I thought I should be doing what I wanted to do. It was worth the risk to come home and work on film projects."
The risk will definitely pay off with the premiere of Information Dynamics at Earth House on Thursday, April 29. The film is, as screenwriter Armstrong puts it, "a rye look at the components of modern action films." It explores the mundanities of the lives of a group of assassins and the government bureau they work for. Armstrong said the idea came from watching action films with Griffith and poking fun at their extreme intensity. "In many recent action movies, someone will pick up a phone and act like they're about to fire nukes when all they're doing is making a simple phone call. So, we started thinking, 'What would a character like Jack Bauer do in his down time?' Our film shows characters like that in their most human moments."
Earth House will also screen Venogram's 2006 horror short, Red Harvest, 2003's An Everyday Occurrence and the "Singer/Tastemaker" music video for Indianapolis band, We Are Hex. With all of those projects in Venogram's repertoire, making films here must be easier than Griffith claims. He says the secret is to "write and create to scale. Work with what you have. If you're not shooting anything, you have to wonder if you are still a filmmaker." With his talent and the help of his collaborators, that is something Griffith will never have to contemplate.