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Creating Art to Defy Cancer

Local filmmaker looks to raise money and awareness about cancer, the creative process.

Like many artists, Brian Smith is dedicated to his craft and spends untold hours scouting, writing, acting, directing and editing for his action adventure fantasy film “Mindscapes.”

Smith, more commonly known as Brian Spectre, is working on a full-length feature film about a CIA agent reactivated from a secret Cold War Program, Mindscapes, to perform one final psychic mission — to wake up a senator’s daughter from a deep coma.

From there the agent James Michael, played by Spectre, is thrust into a surreal comatose world.

The Avon resident is serious about making a quality film, one he hopes to finish by year’s end and will feature a trailer at the weekend’s Farmington Valley Film Fete and Mixer.

But there’s more than art that drives Spectre’s countless hours scouting locations, gathering volunteer actors and editing film. His biggest motivation is defeating cancer and sending a positive message to those fighting the disease.

It’s one that has consumed all too much of Spectre’s life and he hopes to use the film to raise awareness and money.

It’s also a way to inspire survivors to push on with their creative sides, despite setbacks and often discrimination both overt and subtle.

“Cancer survivors can do things and be really creative,” Spectre said. “The world’s not over when you have cancer.”

But it has affected Spectre’s life in so many ways.

In the early 1990s, Spectre said, he was tapped to play drums for a world-renowned progressive rock band.

But then he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he believes was caused by Mitral, a company that operated a metal machining shop in Harwinton from 1966 and 1990, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Volatile organic compounds were found in 31 wells near the property, according to the agency’s website.

 “I had gotten to where I wanted to be, then I got sick,” he said.

To make matters much worse, he lost his fiancée to the disease.

And over the years he has fought bouts of cancer, had seizures, been through reconstructive surgeries, fought depression and experienced other setbacks.

But he’s determined to purse his creative side, was able to begin playing rock music again and has delved into other ventures such as audio engineering.

And when his struggles were documented in film, he got the “bug” to pursue a new passion — making movies.

And now he is committed to making the film and while it’s brought him all over the Northeast, several scenes have been shot in the area, something he’s committed to doing more and more.

Recent film shoots include one a few months ago at  Husk: New American Tacos in Collinsville. The scene was designed to follow footage shot at the Collinsville Halloween parade.

Numerous area residents volunteered to dress up, come out and spend several hours on the set.

It’s the way much of the film has been shot. While a few actors and actresses, such as Christine Burdick of Windsor, who plays the head of the Mindscapes Division, have been regulars, many scenes in the film have featured friends and other willing and available talent.

Others area residents are helping in other ways. Doug Tubach of Canton, who has rendered visual effects for some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, is helping in that department.

Two other Canton residents have been instrumental in the film have played a large role in its production.

 Akis Yerocosta, Spectre’s best friend, is a well-known Collinsville musician and photographer doing much of the camera work for the film.

Also helping is Ellen Knowlton, a cancer survivor from Canton.

The two had some initial contact through a mutual friend. When the friend died in April of 2010, their bond grew.

Knowlton is putting some college radio and TV production skills to work but most importantly, she believes in the cause.

She agrees that cancer patients are sometimes marginalized, which often comes amidst struggling with treatment, schedules, feeling sick, hectic family lives and sometimes depression. 

“There is discrimination, subtle and not so subtle, in the workplace, and in the health insurance industry, and people lose their jobs, or can't get hired, or can't get affordable health insurance because of the perceived risk and diminished expectations,” she said.

But Knowlton encourages those with cancer to keep the creative juices flowing.

“We're making this movie to show that cancer does not define you,” Knowlton said. “It's just something that you deal with, and though it can be very hard at times and very scary; life is indeed worth living. You can lead a creative, positive, extraordinary life.”

More about the film and Spectre’s Atlantian Films, can be found at its facebook page

And this week, area residents can see a new trailer for the film as part of the Farmington Valley Film Commissions Film Fete and Mixer.

The event takes place from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at , 41 Bridge St., Collinsville on July 22.

Brian July 21, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I just wanted to mention Jessica. She has done a great job playing the role of Scarlet in Mindscapes. I look forward to introducing some great new talent when the film is complete. (O:
Ellen Knowlton July 25, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Thank you for the great article John and for attending the Film Fete Friday evening! We received some generous donations that will go towards helping complete the film. Anyone who is interested in contributing or participating in any way can contact me at Ellen@EllenKnowlton.com, or through facebook at https://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Mindscapes/211607015524375

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