Local indie filmmakers bring big screams to silver screen
At Woodhaven Films, it’s not just about making movies; it’s about making them with local artists.
Founded by native Rhode Islander Chad Verdi, Woodhaven Films has shot three movies since its creation last year, and is preparing to release the first of the trio this month.
Verdi doesn’t have a background in film, but he has an eye for business.
“My background is in acquisitions and mergers,” said Verdi. “I have over 1,000 employees throughout the state working at various companies.”
When the life rights to boxer Vinny Pazienza’s story became available, Verdi jumped at the chance to acquire them. He thought the boxer’s tale would make a terrific film.
But before he could make a major motion picture, he needed a production company. So he started two: Woodhaven Films for low-budget and horror flicks, and Verdi Productions, for romantic comedies and films with budgets over $3 million.
Verdi didn’t want to dive right into the movie about Pazienza, so he decided to get his feet wet first, and undertook three films last year: “Loosies,” “Infected” and “Inkubus.”
“Inkubus” will be the first Woodhaven film to debut on the big screen, and is set for a limited release on Oct. 28.
“Inkubus” is a horror movie that takes place in a police station, where cops have just brought in a serial killer in hopes he’ll confess to all of his heinous crimes. What the police don’t know, but soon find out, is that the serial killer is no ordinary man: he is a demon on his last night on earth.
When Verdi decided on the project, he immediately brought Glenn Ciano on to direct.
Ciano, a Johnston native, has been in the film industry for 15 years in various capacities but has never had the opportunity to direct a feature film.
In 2005, he came close to getting his big break when he sold an original screenplay, but he lost out on the opportunity to direct the film.
“They ended up picking someone who looked better on paper,” he said.
Now Ciano has two directing credits under his belt for his work on “Inkubus” and “Infected.”
When Ciano and Verdi first began talking about “Inkubus,” they decided to go big or go home.
“I asked Glenn who the biggest [horror film] star was,” said Verdi.
Ciano said Robert Englund, the original “Freddy Kreuger” from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.
“It was like a wish list,” said Ciano.
But his wish soon came true when Englund signed on to the film.
“I swing for the fences,” said Verdi. “[Englund] fell in love with the script and with Glenn. It was unheard of.”
Verdi said that part of the reason for Woodhaven's success is that they're a fully funded production company, which means they don't have to rely on outside investors to make their projects come through. Their appeal to major actors is the fact that their films will be completed, and will then likely make it to the theater, something Verdi said not all companies are capable of.
“Only one in 100,000 films make it to a single theater,” he said.
“Inkubus” will play for a limited, one-week run in 12 different states. It will open on Oct. 28 and will play locally at Providence Place Mall and the Warwick Showcase. The movie's premiere will take place at the Rock And Shock convention at Worcester's DCU Center from Oct. 14-16.
Ciano said that a lot of the movie's special effects were created the “old school” way, without the use of computer-generated imagery.
“It's got the charm of old school horror flicks,” he said.
The entire movie was filmed in 15 days at the former Cranston Police Station on Atwood Avenue.
Cranston actor Tom DeNucci made his feature film debut in “Inkubus.” For him, being able to work on a major film in his home state is something he never thought possible.
“I certainly wouldn't be in Rhode Island,” said DeNucci, who admits were it not for Woodhaven he would have packed his bags for bigger cities. “It's almost impossible to get into film here.”
DeNucci isn't the only Woodhaven employee who feels lucky to have the opportunity to make films here in Rhode Island, where large productions usually stop to shoot and then pack up and leave.
“I never thought I'd get the opportunity of a lifetime here in Rhode Island,” said Ciano.
Production Office Coordinator Danielle Corsa studies film and photography at Rhode Island College but had a difficult time putting her degree to use in her home state.
“I applied for odd jobs, and did some freelance photography,” she said.
But it wasn't until she applied for an internship on craigslist that she landed an interview with Woodhaven. Although the internship she applied for was with a different company, Woodhaven found her resume and offered her the position. A year and a half later, she's still with the company, now as a full-time employee.
Another native Rhode Islander, Mary Earle Larsen, is grateful for the opportunity to work in the arts in her home state. Larsen got a degree in music education from URI and taught music for several years until her school’s program was changed. In search of a job, she contacted Verdi, an old family friend. In March, Verdi put her to work as the company's executive coordinator.
“I'm happy because I'm still able to work in the arts here in my home state,” she said. “It's a great opportunity.”
The company is adamant about using local actors, camera operators, editors and other production staff positions.
Verdi said that aside from the bigger names, all of the actors on set for “Inkubus” are from Rhode Island, as well as the majority of the 80 people who helped make the film a reality.
“We're keeping good people here,” said Verdi.
Verdi hopes he can prove that successful production companies can exist in Rhode Island.
“It's all about getting the bums in the seats,” he said, explaining that if “Inkubus” is popular in theaters, it will be extended, which will hopefully nab the attention of larger entities like IFC (Independent Film Channel.)
“No one knows anything about us in Rhode Island,” he said. “But they do in L.A. They’ve written about us in Variety.”
Woodhaven's other two films are slated to premiere at a later date. Verdi expects “Loosies” to come out in December, and has already sold the film to IFC. “Infected” is expected to premiere next Halloween.
For more information on Woodhaven Films, “Inkubus” or to watch the movie's trailer, visit www.woodhavenfilms.com/projects.