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Monday, July 28, 2014

Locally-filmed TV pilot premieres in Wichita

By Rod Pocowatchit
The Wichita Eagle

Nicholas Barton is setting himself up. In a good way.

The Wichitan is the owner of Prestigious Films, a local company that has been getting recognition for its commercial work and music videos. But Barton’s real passion is film. And he’s been working a long time — and invested lots of resources — to be able to direct one.

His first long-form film project, “Gone,” is actually a pilot for a proposed TV series. Its world premiere screening will be in an event starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Century Plaza Banquet Hall (Second Floor), 111 W. Douglas.

“Gone” was made in Wichita with a cast of more than 25 local and national actors and a crew of more than 20 mostly local film professionals. It was shot in eight days last August.

The story follows a man named Ronin, who two years after the disappearance of his fiancee, Ashlynn, creates a vigilante private investigation firm to search for missing people. While he continues his search for Ashlynn, he accepts a job from a local entrepreneur whose daughter is missing.

Post-production on “Gone” took almost a year, and Barton says “We’ve sat on it long enough. It’s time to show everyone what they worked on.”

Local cast members include Briley Meek, Crystal Meek, J.R. Hurst, Kenneth Mitchell, Anna Farmer and others. The crew included John Olson, Chris Lollar, Ryan McGuigan, Alanna Arena, Alec Walterscheid, Steven Anthimedes and others. Local musician Jenny Wood scored the film.

Barton calls “Gone” a personal and professional achievement.

“I’ve been waiting to get that first feature under my belt and develop as a filmmaker,” he said. “It was the biggest learning experience I’ve ever had. There’s tons of things I would do differently now, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It’s been invaluable to me.”

He says the film wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Wichita’s film community and locally owned businesses, as well as the cooperation of local law enforcement.

“This really is a community that fosters independent filmmaking,” Barton said. “Now that people are showing some legitimate interest, now we need to form a community of people that are willing to invest in it.”

He says Wichita could be a thriving film mecca.

“Look at what people are doing with no money,” Barton said. “Imagine if they had a budget. There’s some really cool (stuff) happening here. The talent pool is already built. We don’t have to go outside the city. Everything we need is here.”

Barton says getting bigger production companies to shoot in Wichita shouldn’t be a challenge, either, once they see a burgeoning film scene. Barton says production costs could be kept low here, there is no need for a permit to shoot on public property, and people want to help and be involved. He also says Wichita can look like many different places.

“There’s a lot of variance here,” he said. “You shoot downtown and go two blocks and it looks like a completely different place.”

So hopefully “Gone” (which he says is being submitted to many networks) is another step toward building that ideal film community Barton is dreaming of. He’s already taken lots of other steps toward a filmmaking career. He owns all of his own equipment, including a RED high-definition camera, lighting kits and probably most everything needed on a production grip truck.

“My wife is unbelievable,” Barton said. “Every dollar we made we had to reinvest. She saw the future in this. Now, we have these things that rival big-budget studios. We’re shooting with the same gear that Peter Jackson shot ‘The Hobbit’ with. Amazing.”

Barton says all the hard work has been a labor of love.

“This is my passion,” he said. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is the best way to transition myself to be a filmmaker forever, and create jobs for other people here.”

Reach Rod Pocowatchit at rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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