*** Published Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
ABINGDON, VA -- Lights, cameras ... action!
So go the hopes of Jerry Sword.
Sword's film directorial debut, Brothers, will show at Abingdon Cinemall from Aug. 16-19, 2010. Though only 35 mintues long, "Brothers" was filmed last fall at such locales as Sugar Hollow Park in Bristol, Va.; Machiavelli's in Bristol, Tenn.; and Painter Creek Marina in Abingdon, Va.
"We told a story in 35 minutes, more of a story than some films tell in an hour and a half," Sword said moments after previewing the film at Abingdon Cinemall.
Lance Blaylock and Michael Schuette star as the Davis brothers. They appear on the verge of confrontation. One seems to be cheating with the other's girlfriend.
" 'Brothers' is based on a dream," Sword said. "I had to write about it. So I drove down to South Holston Lake, sat by the water and thought about it. For better or worse, I think it turned out well."
Indeed. The movie flows quickly as the story grasps, builds and then exposes an unexpected twist.
"That was my first lead role in a film," Blaylock said. "I work for my dad's plumbing business. I'm a plumbing slash actor. I think "Brothers' was the best learning experience. I did theater at King College, but "Brothers' was the learning experience."
Unsuspecting moviegoers may see "Brothers" and think small. It's only about a third of the length of a typical feature film. However, Sword's little film that could indeed may provide the spark of much bigger things.
Intentions? Sword has them by the truckload.
"I wrote "Brothers' in June of last year," he said. "I told people, "I will make this movie. I will show it at Abingdon Cinemall. And then we'll show it around the country.' I've been true to my word."
Next up for Sword, a feature length horror film.
"I am going to make this horror film, and I will get distribution for it," he said.
Sword plans to finish the script this fall. Filming for the untitled horror film will begin next spring.
"It will have all of the elements," Sword said. "I'm a fan of older horror films. There's a lot of blood, a lot of gore, a lot of violence and a lot of sex. Anyone who wants to be in my horror film needs to contact me via my Facebook page."
Sword said he hopes to release the film by October 2011.
"I'll do it or die trying," he said.
Oh, but Sword has even bigger plans. He hopes to not only bring movies to the Mountain Empire but to make movies here via his own studio.
"I want to build a fully operational motion picture company right here in Southwest Virginia," Sword said. "This ["Brothers'] is the beginning of that. We won't build this company and then take it away to Hollywood."
Sword grew up here. Though born in Orlando, Fla., he graduated from Lebanon High School in 1992. He said he sees a large pool of untapped talent in and around his hometown.
Take Blaylock, a fellow graduate of King College. Sword sings his praises mightily.
"I can tell you that in a year I will not be able to afford Lance Blaylock," Sword said. "He is a talented actor. He goes above and beyond to accomplish anything he wants. He is a very driven man."
He isn't alone. Characters, though perhaps not on the acting par of Blaylock, are plentiful in the region, Sword said.
"There is a wealth of talent here," Sword said. "You don't have to be a trained actor or actress to have my interest. If anybody wants to talk to me, they should message me on my Facebook page. If you have a story, I would like to talk to you."
Open minded on screen and off, Sword said there's no reason why a film company can't thrive in the region.
"I have this vision, and it is pretty large," Sword said. "I have high expectations."
Yet the current employee of Bristol Metals needs more money. He neither had nor broke anyone's bank in making "Brothers," which cost a paltry $35 to make. You read that right, $35.
Sword said that it was so cheaply made because everyone worked as volunteers. Cameras and equipment were already owned, locations were secured for no cost and so on.
Moments after he watched "Brothers" in full for the first time, the film in which he was in the lead role, Blaylock was amazed.
"To see it on the big screen was really cool," Blaylock said. "Like, wow, there it is. I can't believe how good it looked for $35."
Cool, yes. Good, definitely. But if Sword's dream of a movie theater is to materialize, he of course will need much more than $35.
"You give me $10,000," Sword said, "and I'll give you a masterpiece."