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Editor’s note: this is the second part in a two-part series on Palmyra native, Brian White’s year-long film-making project in and around his hometown.
by Mark Cheffey
Having grown up in the midwest before moving to the west coast to get into the film business, Brian White would catch grief from both sides.
“People here say ‘It must be horrible to live in Los Angeles,’ and I say, ‘I love it. It’s pretty great. There are wonderful things there.’
Then, when I am in Los Angeles, its ‘How can you possibly be from somewhere like that?’ And I say, ‘It’s lovely. My parents live there, and my friends are there.’”
White said it is exciting to live in a county with 10 million residents, “an ocean of people” with so many of them transplants from all over the country.
“But I miss a lot of the community aspect of what I grew up with,” he said, noting people from both of his homes get caught up in their own prejudices.
“They miss the mark on community and everybody bubbles themselves off.”
Thus, it is one of the main motivations for White’s year-long effort to make a film with a true and honest depiction of life in the Midwest, something he finds to be rare in today’s media.
“So, through movies, I’m able to show what it is like,” White said.
People often refer to Missouri and other states between the two coasts as fly-over states.
In particular, one of White’s intensions in making Flyover is to show how life in the Midwest has changed with the introduction of technology, something he, himself, has witnessed since he was a kid.
“I’m in a generation that went from no dial up to high speed internet and everybody has a cell phone, the perfect generation to see all that happen in real time,” White said.
For good or bad, people don’t have to leave their house anymore to connect with like-minded people thanks to social media, and they don’t even have to know their next door neighbor.
“What excites me a lot is the gap,” White said. “Kids are doing things on TikTok and the internet, and their parents don’t even have a computer,” White said. “I love showing Midwestern young people becoming so capable online and modern.
“Technology can bring people closer together, or it can really isolate people and keep them from knowing someone in real life.
“And, I’m here to explore what that feels like in a community like this.”
After the success of his short film of the same title, Flyover, in 2018, White said there was strong momentum to take the plunge and make a full-length film based in Palmyra and Marion County.
“It’s gambling. Everybody who makes films is gambling,” said White, who with his two film-making colleagues, have sunk all their money into making Flyover.
White admitted he could have sought financing for the film while in L.A., but said outside producers often want lots of control on how the movie is made, such as who are cast as actors and the way the film is edited.
“I want to keep control over how the movie is made,” White said.
Besides, he said many producers would balk his “crazy” idea of taking 12 months to film a movie in the Midwest.
‘It’s kind of a free fall. I just jumped off a cliff,” White said. “But I believe in this thing, and this is what I want to do for the next three years.
“I may not have much money to my name for 36 months minium, but it’s important to do it the right way.
“It would be very strange and gross to me not to have the final say on this project that I made with my loved ones in my hometown.”
Having the trust, backing and help of his friends, Eric Colonna and Anthony Lucido, is important to him.
“It’s such a complicated business, that working with people you really trust, is so critically important,” White said.
The timing was also right to dive into the project.
“Imagine, I’m 32, I put enough money away to make this,” White said. “We can start over again later. I’m in the perfect time in my life to make this leap that I want to do, and we can put all of our money into something we believe in artistically that we think will connect with a lot of people.”
And, so, they packed up all their cameras and equipment, moved into a rental home here in Palmyra and have started shooting their first scenes for Flyover.
If you live in and around Palmyra and don’t ever see White and his crew filming a scene, you probably live a very sheltered life, according to how he is planning to work during the year he is here.
For one, thing, White is doing it over 12 months in order to capture life during all four seasons.
“Climate is a factor here,” White said. “The weather effects how people do things around here.”
White said he also wants to incorporate important scenes from the area, whether it is a clip of people working in an office or what’s going on at events like the Marion County Fair,
For example, soon after getting set up this spring, White and his crew worked with the park board in arranging to film a scene during the community Easter Egg hunt at Flower City Park, April 8.
“I hope you do see me all over the place,” White said. “I want to work with the community to capture what it feels like to be here.
“And, with my friends and family being here, I can include honest, Midwestern events with scenes inside of them,” White said. “It’s a fun blend of that. It’s almost documentary meets cinema.”
It also means having to be quick on your feet and having an ability to write scenes on the fly to accommodate the situation.
White utilized the local people, including one of his childhood friends, Tony Hudson, and his aunt, Janet Gash, in the short film.
And, he’s doing the same for the new film, but is not announcing his cast at this early stage.
“People will know who they are soon enough,” White said.
While filming here, White is also working to raise money to fund the completion of the film and prepare to take it to film festivals where it will receive important exposure.
To part of that end, White has set up a website, www.flyovermovie.com, where visitors can see the short film and, if they chose to, contribute financially to the new project.
What’s next for White’s film once he is finished shooting sometime in early 2024?
White said, with whatever money he has left and has raised while working here, he and his crew will go back to Los Angeles to edit the film to its finished form.
If all goes well, he hopes to begin taking it to film festivals by 2025.
At that point, the hope is the right people see it who are impressed enough to support the film’s distribution to an even wider audience.
“And, you’re off to the races,” White said.
That could mean going to theatres and/or entering the wild world of streaming, where there are opportunities as well as major pitfalls for budding filmmakers like White.
“I’m not the Walt Disney Company. I’m just a guy making my own art in that way,” White said. “But, now I can find an audience faster. Streaming allows that to happen.
“But, you can also get buried at the bottom of Netflix and never seen again. And that’s a frightening prospect.”
Ultimately, White said he wants the finished movie to be seen in the theatre.
“That’s very important to me,” he said. “Of course, having movies in home is amazing, and as someone who grew up loving them I think that’s wonderful.
“But I think the theatre experience, where your focus is on just what’s in front of you. You’re in a dark room. You’re there with a group of people.
“Also seeing it in my hometown with people I know and love in a place that I love rendered cinematically on a screen that size, I think there is something magical in that.”
“When I was growing up, that inspired me so much. And I know it’s going to affect other people the same way.
“If I can add to the cultural conversation of the midwest that way using my favorite type of art, I find exciting.”