By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Next week, Front Royal natives and others will have a chance to see the small town on a big screen.
Mirandum Pictures, a film and video company based in Front Royal, will present "Filmed in Front Royal," a one-night showing of short films by local filmmakers Colin Mason and Mike Powell, on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at Royal Cinemas.
"These are actual real looking movies that are made here at the gazebo, at the school," Powell said. "That should be every bit as exciting as it sounds."
The festival will include four short films, which range in length from about 12 minutes to 20 minutes, a few movie trailers and a short, promotional film about downtown Front Royal, Mason said. Businesses can buy time in the promotional film, he said. The whole event should last about an hour and a half, he said.
The showing will include "Cube Root," "Out the Door," "The Living Day Lights," and the pair's new short film, "Immortal," which will premiere at "Filmed in Front Royal."
"With very few exceptions, just about every shot of these was shot in Front Royal," Mason said, and most of the actors are local. "So, you'll recognize the locations, you'll recognize some of the people."
"Cube Root" was filmed on one set, Powell said, and tells the tale of a woman who's trying to talk to someone and is interrupted by a series of increasingly exotic and random people.
With "Out the Door," the shortest of the four films, Powell and Mason "tapped into an easily identifiable theme," a family trying to leave the house for a trip, Powell said. Because everybody involved was in school or had to work, he said, they filmed the movie between 7 and 8:30 a.m. every day for a week.
"The Living Day Lights" is a soap opera spoof, Mason said, which is "why the poster's cheesy." The pair vetted the film with people who had extensive experience with daytime soap operas, Powell said.
Unlike the three films that will precede it, "Immortal" is "quite serious," Mason said. "Immortal" is the first film that "we both sort of really wrote," he said; Mason mainly does the photography, editing and sound work on the films, he said, while Powell does most of the writing.
For their comedies, the duo tends "to like to go for a spirit of joyous excess," Powell said. The comedies are less like "The Office" and more like "Arrested Development," Mason said.
"Our dramas are sort of the inverse of that," he said. They tend to deal with a "very kind of naturally bound look" at everyday life and "how people find the joy beyond that gray patina," he said.
Powell has a background in theater and directed plays while he was a student at Christendom College, he said. During his senior year, some of his friends decided to host a film festival at the school, he said.
The last entry was "this sort of spoof movie preview," created by Mason and his brother, who were freshmen at the time, Powell said. The short film and its creators echoed thoughts he'd already had about film, he said.
"You can make movies without a lot of money if you put them together to look like movies," he said.
In the meantime, "we've made a business out of it," Mason said.
In 2006, the pair collaborated on "Chorus," a feature-length film they shot in and around Front Royal, Mason said. The film's premiere, at Royal Cinemas, was the first in town in 50 years, he said.
"We did kind of kill ourselves on 'Chorus,'" said Powell, who started his first teaching job the day after the film's premiere. He appeared at his first class still wearing the tuxedo he'd donned the night before, he said.
"I had hair when we made 'Chorus,'" Mason said, laughing. "I no longer have any."
The "Chorus" experience is "also kind of where the short film idea came from," Powell said.
"We've been trying to refine our technique," he said. "We have a lot of ground we need to cover technically and artistically."
Covering that ground is "a lot more manageable and cheaper if we use these short projects," he said.
The two have also been trying to "revamp" the business end, Mason said. The screening is an opportunity for Mirandum Pictures to introduce itself to area businesses and try to attract clients, he said.
"People aren't going to be used to the idea of a film company being a local business," he said, and the idea is to introduce people to that.
When asked about which filmmakers had inspired them, the two conferred for a moment before answering.
"About the time we met in 2004," Powell said, "one of the big inspirations from a practical standpoint was M. Night Shyamalan."
"Who's since reverted to making crappy movies," Mason added.
But, at that time, "his movies were very kind of personally idea-driven and locally made," Powell said. "He was from Pennsylvania, he made his movies there."
Similarly, he said, he and Mason "don't want to be Californians."
"We like California, but we're not from there," Mason said. "There's a reason why every movie's set in [Los Angeles]" -- most movies are made there, he said.
"We actually like the place that we're from," he said. "We think it's a beautiful place."
For video clips, tickets or for information on how to participate as a business, visit www.mirandumpictures.net.