When negotiations with Hollywood for Avon filmmaker Brian Smith's Mindscapes science fiction trilogy boiled down to a choice between selling the script but not being involved and keeping his local actors and crew, the choice was simple.
"When it came down to negotiating with the major film studios, I had to say, 'no' because they basically said, 'because you have a cancer history, we're not going to insure you guys,'" said Smith, who goes by Brian Spectre in the film world. "And also they finally said, 'We'd like to just buy your script. We're not going to bring your crew and you to Hollywood,' which was the overall plan in the first place. So I had to make a decision and the decision was no because my crew and the people I work with are more important to me."
The Hollywood studios also wanted to take the film outside of Connecticut when he and his Atlantian Films, LLC production company staff "wanted to have it here."
While Spectre said the major studios "wanted to make more of a franchise" out of his Mindscapes trilogy, he decided in August to "go back to the indie route."
“We want the people, especially in the Northwest corner, to feel like they're a part of this," said Steve Emirzian, a Canton resident and Spectre's colleague at Atlantian Films.
Spectre previously said he began writing the Mindscapes screenplay while undergoing chemotherapy during a 20-year battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In Mindscapes, James Michael (Spectre), a CIA agent with telepathic abilities — a Mindscape — enters the mind of a senator’s daughter to wake her up from a coma. He races to find a secret code hidden in her psyche before rogue Mindscape Gerth (Emirzian) can harness the Mindscapes' power for evil.
Many people involved in the film are cancer patients or survivors or cared for a loved one with cancer. Spectre wants to give them a creative outlet through the film and, in doing so, hope.
Back at the indie level, Atlantian Films is requesting donations to help fund the production of the film and raise money for a new Sony F5 video camera to shoot in the dark. Donated equipment is also welcomed, Spectre said. As of Feb. 15, Atlantian Films had reached $950 of its $10,000 goal on its indiegogo.com fundraising page.
Atlantian Films, which recently relocated to New Hartford, reached a film distribution agreement this week for Mindscapes with a Los Angeles-based company that "distributes worldwide," Spectre said in an email.
Avon's Maura Fitzgerald and Nancy Anstey are now the producers of Spectre's feature film and the production company is looking for an executive producer.
Atlantian Films has already "shot quite a bit of footage," Production Manager Laurie Comstock Ferguson, of New Hartford, said. Spectre and Collinsville resident Akis Yerocosta, second unit director of photography, said they plan on reshooting Mindscapes in high-definition. Yerocosta said the project is moving in a good direction and that "we’re a little anxious to get filming."
"We'd like to be shooting in March," Emirzian said.
Hollywood or not, Spectre's original mission has not changed. His focus is still on making a film shot mostly in Connecticut using local talent. He plans to film in towns spanning from Avon and the Farmington Valley to Danbury, as well as some out-of-state locations like New York, Maine and possibly Florida.
As a cancer survivor, Spectre has long planned on donating a portion of the proceeds from Mindscapes to combat cancer. So, Fitzgerald said that she is working on obtaining non-profit status for Atlantian Films by the end of the year.
Spectre also has plans to open a film school, including cancer survivors and patients, to teach the art of film in conjunction with the Mindscapes project. But the opportunity will be open to anyone. The program is currently running on an informal basis, by request, and is presently free of charge.
Atlantian Films is also seeking volunteers to be involved in the film for everything from extras to behind-the-scenes roles to help with tasks like catering, costuming, lighting and seeking filming locations, Fitzgerald said. Anyone interested can contact Fitzgerald at 658-7099 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Fitzgerald puts it, Good Will Hunting was an independent film shot in the Boston area.
“Why can’t we do that here in Connecticut?" she said.
You can donate to Atlantian Films for the Mindscapes at www.indiegogo.com/projects/mindscapes or send donations to Atlantian Films, LLC at 34 Tamara Circle, Avon, CT 06001. A short video with information about the project is also available on the indiegogo.com page. You can also donate through www.paypal.com or email Atlantianfilms1@gmail.com for more information. Atlantian Film's Facebook page is www.facebook.com/Atlantianfilms.