By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Lights. Camera. Action. Havre may be a far cry from Hollywood, but lack of an exotic locale has not deterred amateur filmmaker Dennis Teigeler.
Teigeler, who made a film in Havre last year, is chasing down another. The U.S. Customs agent and aspiring director held casting calls Wednesday for "Bashin' Blues," which he plans to start shooting in November.
"I think the great thing is that we have great things going on right now in Havre," said Havre drama teacher Jay Pyette. "We have Dennis making films, we have Tolan Harber making films, and it shows people that maybe Havre isn't as isolated as people think."
Harber, another aspiring filmmaker, wrote, directed and produced "Burnt Sienna," which was filmed in Havre and the surrounding area.
"Bashin' Blues," as described by Teigeler, is a "dark comedy that follows the curse of a ventriloquist dummy and its affect on a mob family."
The movie holds special meaning for Teigeler - it is based on the first stage play he ever wrote.
"This all started when I was in college," Teigeler said. "I wrote a stage play based on Charlie (the lead character) and this ventriloquist dummy. Since then, it has gone through many transformations."
Wednesday's auditions did not receive the turnout Teigeler anticipated, but he was not discouraged.
"It's early in the process," he said, adding that the script will be revised once all the characters are cast.
"We'll do about another month of preproduction with the cast and work on the script to make it better," he said. "We need to smooth out some of the edges. Having a cast gives me nine or 10 more voices before we go into production."
One of the most difficult things about filming the movie will be the special effects, Teigeler said. Every scene that includes the ventriloquist dummy will have be shot on a blue screen, then edited onto the background where he will appear with other characters. Determining the correct lighting and actors' positioning will be crucial to making a smooth transition, he said.
Filming should start in about a month, Teigeler said. Shooting will likely take about 200 hours, and editing the film about three months,.
Teigeler's first flick, titled "Puppeteers and Marionettes," was filmed in Havre in May.
The movie tells the story of a college student and her relationships with her family and the characters in a story she is writing, Teigeler said. The girl, played by Julie Ann Schweigert, blames her father for her mother's death, and the two never reconcile before he, too, dies. Embittered, she enters a self-destructive spiral, drinking too much and alienating her boyfriend, played by Sean Williams.
"My character was a college student like myself," Williams said. "He was trying to help his girlfriend through the play, but she blew him off."
The girl's frustration is manifested in her writing, where she finds solace in her characters.
"One of her characters becomes aware of his existence and wants to become a real person," Teigeler said.
The movie ends with a subtle image that leaves viewers with the impression that one of the characters in the girl's writing got a chance at life.
Teigeler said he is not tremendously impressed with his first effort.
"I had some real mistakes," he said. "I was doing all the shooting myself. We had to do about a third of the picture in one day because of the schedule of one of the actors. The lighting was poor, and the editing took me longer than I thought it would," he said.
"I had a different vision of what it was going to look like," he said. "I think for what Dennis had to work with, though, it turned out pretty well."
Both Teigeler and Williams said filming the movie was a learning experience.
"I went into that one with the thought that it could be shot on a low budget, in Havre, with no special effects," Teigeler said. "I didn't want to use my best script with my first film. You want to get your first film out of the way, and make some mistakes, and learn from them. Then maybe someday you get recognized for your perseverance and hard work. That's the dream."
Williams and Pyette, a fellow Montana Actors' Theatre member who was also cast in "Puppeteers and Marionettes," said acting for a camera is different from performing for a live audience.
"It was quite an experience," Williams said. "I learned a lot. I do MAT productions, but it was a different experience than doing a play. It was kind of strange to see my face on the TV."
"Primarily, I'm a stage actor, and with a movie you do 10 scenes in a row, and that was very odd for me," Pyette said.
Teigeler said he first became involved with acting in college.
"I'd always written, but I had never acted before," he said. "I just kind of got hooked with the bug and wrote my first stage play. It got shown on stage, and it was such an incredible rush to see something I'd written actually performed."
Teigeler, a former Border Patrol agent, now works as a Customs agent at the Willow Creek port of entry. He has a wife, Judy, and two children, Alexandrea and Davis. His children had minor roles in the first film, and will in "Bashin Blues" as well.