Avon filmmaker Brian Smith has the shot to turn his Atlantian Films independent movie, Mindscapes into a science fiction saga with Hollywood potential thanks to Enfield-based financier Worldwide Asset Group and a Collinsville visual effects guru.
“We’re going to start a new Farmington Valley Hollywood East,” said Smith, known as in the film world.
Melissa Torriero took interest in the movie after seeing its trailer at a local film festival. She and Attorney John A. Tatoian, both of Worldwide Asset Group, are partnering with Atlantian Films as executive producers to fund Mindscapes as the first in a series of possibly four.
Spectre, also the film’s director, hopes to move Atlantian Films out of his home studio into a larger Farmington Valley facility for the bigger production. He said his goal is to shoot at least half of the film in Connecticut, including area towns like Avon, Collinsville, Granby and Simsbury.
In Mindscapes, a CIA agent with telepathic abilities — a Mindscape — enters the mind of Scarlett, a senator’s daughter, to revive her from a coma.
If James Michael (Spectre) doesn’t do so before Gerth (Steve Emirzian, of Canton), a rogue Mindscape, finds a secret code stowed Scarlett’s psyche, the whereabouts of all Mindscapes will be revealed, compromising their safety.
“Mindscapes is really a graphic novel,” Spectre said. “It’s going to be almost like a Marvel-type movie.”
Spectre began writing Mindscapes as a way to keep busy while undergoing chemotherapy. Scenes in Scarlett's mind when he's dressed as a knight fending off monsters symbolize his 20-year battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Spectre said.
“That’s your life. You just put it in the film and disguise it a little," Spectre said. “Even the death of my fiancée is in hidden pieces in the film.”
The new financial resource will also allow him to shoot locations he couldn’t afford before, cast a few big-name Connecticut actors and include higher scale special effects.
“When we get into doing a Hollywood-style film, we are going to need ceilings that are like 27 feet tall and green screens of giant scenics,” he said, as well as stunt wires.
Canton resident Doug Tubach, who is freelancing at San Francisco-based Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) on The Avengers, has signed on as producer and visual effects artist for Mindscapes. Tubach is also known for visual effects work on major blockbusters like Star Wars: Espisode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Space Jam, according to imdb.com.
Added special effects will extend the abilities of the Mindscapes, who can manipulate objects like Jedis and control people’s cardiovascular systems. Now they’ll be able to jump 15 feet or fling cars, Spectre said. The production team can use green screen technology to add giants and other creatures instead of relying on costumes.
Despite the higher budget production, Spectre hasn’t lost sight of the roots of his project — to raise money for cancer research and give cancer patients the same creative outlet he discovered. Part of the proceeds will still benefit children without insurance who have cancer, he said. Many people affected by cancer in some way are involved in the film.
"Whether it's his can do attitude, or getting his film in the can, Brian Spectre puts the can in cancer,” said New Hartford resident Laurie Comstock Ferguson is doing public relations and script supervision for Mindscapes; her husband died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In addition to Tubach, Spectre has a wealth of local talent on board. Akis Yerocosta, a Collinsville musician and photographer, will film Mindscapes alongside a Hollywood cameraman. Actor Craig Murphy, of West Hartford, will be doing the makeup.
Another local talent he's tapped is production manager Emirzian, a Canton writer, actor and filmmaker in his own right.
"I've been an actor for more than 20 years and it's nice to finally get a meaty role on a big budget production," Emirzian said." The added bonus is that I don't have to leave my neighborhood to be in a Hollywood style film. We intend to hire many locals in front of and behind the camera. I think the Farmington Valley businesses will certainly benefit when production gets underway."
Emerzian also connected with the filmmaker for personal reasons, as cancer has touched his life as well. He said he respects Spectre and admires his work ethic and the fact that he never complains about his own pain.
"Brian is a generous filmmaker who is open to suggestions and ideas," Emerzian said. "He's always looking to offer parts to those who show passion for what they do. I really feel a bond with Brian, especially with his cancer struggle. I lost my own sister to cancer six years ago when she was just 40 years old."
“We want to get local people involved because we want to give people a chance out here,” Spectre said. “We don’t want it to have that Hollywood vibe because that Hollywood vibe is kind of poisonous… You want it to be fun. We want to laugh at our mistakes and say, hey, ‘let’s just do that take again, whatever.’”
Worldwide Asset Group will simultaneously be shopping a reality television show about the rise of up-and-coming actors and filmmakers to cable networks that includes behind-the-scenes footage of Mindscapes.
Spectre also has another feature film in the works called The Wolven. If you’re a Twilight saga fan, there are werewolves. An isolated man raised by wolves may be the only hope to save a village from Vikings that torment anyone who won’t worship their troll god, Spectre said of the storyline.
Members of Spectre’s production team wear necklaces with a wolf charm, reminders that they’re like a pack.
“We’re the misfits. We are. We’re the underdogs,” Spectre said.
Yet, like with cancer, Spectre never stops trying. He said he hopes to start reshooting Mindscapes this summer.