October 31, 2014
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Camera, action and Warwick becomes the Wild West
Warwick Beacon photos
INING UP A SHOOT: Stephen Souza, Mandy Miller, Jamie Merz and Alecia Orsini-Lebeda go over the script at Something Fishy on Jefferson Boulevard.

The Wild West came to Apponaug over the weekend. Lots of shots were fired and there were plenty of cowboys, although they weren’t carrying guns, wearing jeans and hats or riding horses.

Actually, as this crew of 30 sees it, Apponaug and Warwick are as much a part of the Wild West as the rest of the world. That’s because the Internet is the Wild West of today.

“There were no laws in the Wild West and that’s pretty much the way the Internet is today,” said Alecia Orsini-Lebeda.

Alecia, her husband Scott Lebeda and Jamie Merz own and operate Good Natured Dog Productions of Medway, Mass. The company produces music videos, commercials and social media content.

But Saturday and Sunday the trio, plus others with skills and a passion for producing films, were on a not-for-profit job. Two other key players joined them: Stephen Souza, who teaches at the New England Institute of Technology; and Mandy Miller, who works for SHIFT Communications, a public relations firm in Newton, Mass.

Pulling them all together was the “48 Hour Film Project.”

It’s a competition, with about 30 teams vying for the bragging rights of producing Rhode Island’s best film. Over the past 12 years, more than 19,000 films have been made in competitions across the country.

Teams have 48 hours to write, cast, shoot and edit a film no longer than 7 minutes. If they miss the deadline, they’re out.

Seven minutes may not sound like much, and it surely doesn’t take long to produce if perfection is not the goal.

But perfection was the standard Saturday as the crew moved between locations, including Something Fishy on Jefferson Boulevard, the Music Street Café and the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce offices in Apponaug. Chamber offices were used for the editing studio where volunteers carefully clean noise from audio and went through take after take to bring together the scene they were looking to create.

So, how did they link the Internet and the Wild West?

The team was given the genre of “Western” and a character of “plumber” to build their story line around. They brainstormed and a plot of secrets being stolen through the Internet emerged and “The Plumber,” played by Jamie Ryan of South Boston, called in to track down the leaks. Like others who ended up on the crew, it was serendipity that put Ryan in Warwick this past weekend. Two weeks earlier, he met someone on the Nantucket ferry and they discovered they both knew cinema photographer Ben Chou. Ryan is an actor and filmmaker in addition to being an “I-T guy” who teaches computer programming to inner-city kids. He got a call at 10:30 Friday night and was in Warwick the next morning.

He was impressed by the size of the team. He’s done other film competitions and usually the teams number between five and eight.

“It’s like the Celtics,” he said of the group, “playng CYO basketball.”

Whether the team can pull off a win remains to be seen. The Good Natured Dog Productions has entered several 48 Hour Film Projects in the last five years and just recently came out with a second place out of more than 60 in Boston. It’s an accomplishment that had them charged up, and those on the team, who are pursuing careers in filming, are hopeful they could add such accolades to their résumés.

“We’re getting professional quality film; it will be overwhelming,” says Souza.

Souza did much of the coordinating of locations and paperwork, such as releases. He credited Chamber President Lauren Slocum with opening doors and making it easy. Chamber offices served as command central. The Chamber and Warwick businesses offering their premises at no charge had crewmembers praising Warwick hospitality.

After a quick free lunch at the Chamber, provided by the Texas Roadhouse of North Dartmouth, crewmembers went back to work. Many expected to be at it into the early morning hours.

They planned to shoot the final scene with the Plumber riding off into the sunset, but if there were no sunset, they would settle for sunrise Sunday.

Don’t forget; this is the magic of film.

Premiere screenings of the Rhode Island Films start today at Cinema World in Lincoln. The Good Natured Dog Productions film will be aired tomorrow. Screenings are from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The best will be shown at the Columbus Theatre in Providence on Aug. 17, at a time to be announced.


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