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Cleveland filmmakers take on Torso murders in 'The Kingsbury Run'

The Kingsbury Run, based on the Cleveland Torso murders
The Cleveland Torso murders is a true crime tale at its gruesomest. The city is scarred by its dark legacy. Only the Sam Sheppard mystery (which was reimagined as The Fugitive) and the more recent escape of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight from kidnapper Ariel Castro possibly top it.

The Torso murders occurred primarily in the 1930s, though recent evidence suggests the serial killer - who was never captured or identified - took victims through the 1950s. Victims were drifters, often Depression-era working class folks who lived in shanty towns in Cleveland’s Flats. As the name implies, only the torsos of many victims were discovered.

Now a group of Cleveland filmmakers are retelling the story, set in modern day Cleveland. With a copycat killer on the loose, a private investigator (Deanna Sherman) teams up with a retired detective (B.R. Tatalovic) to stop the madness.

We caught up with filmmakers Kurt Broz and James Neyman to talk a little bit about The Kingsbury Run.

Midwest Movie Maker (MMM): How did you both get into filmmaking?

'Kingsbury Run' actress Deanna Sherman
Kurt Broz (KB): I always loved film, but in college James was kind of moving us towards it. Writing has always been a passion, so I wrote a few basic stories that James helped me co-script. We finally found one we could film without a budget, The Slasher, and that became our first movie. 

We jumped straight into features because we are insane! But it turned out ... decent. Everything went well enough for us to continue the insanity of indie film. Somehow it's been working despite the fact that I am in California while the rest of WLFK resides in Ohio! 

My influences are really varied. I love everything from vintage westerns (like The Good the Bad and the Ugly) to awful horror movies (like the kind you find on those '40 Movies' packs). 

I'd say I try to combine my understanding of what works visually from comic books with dialogue and character development from stage plays. I'd hope someone would refer to me as 'if Arthur Miller and Jack Kirby got really drunk and scribbled down their random thoughts'. Haha.

James Neyman (JN): I wish I had a cooler story than that, but it really boils down to loving movies and wanting to make them. And I wish I wasn't a complete stereotype but I am:  I love Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, David Lynch, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.  I love comics, Batman mostly, and a lot of my visual influences for movies come from what I see drawn in comic book panels.  

MMM: Tell me about The Kingsbury Run. What's your vision for the story?

'Kingsbury Run' actor B. R. Tatalovic
KB: James and I were talking about doing a time travel movie. Mostly as a joke. We both love good time travel movies, but we joke about making a stupid one. 

Around the same time I was reading something about the Torso Murders and it probably started as a, 'wouldn't it be funny if...' Now, that eventually turned into more of a serious, if still strange, story about murders being solved sort of accidentally. 

I don't want to give too much away! I will say I wanted to have a strong female lead. f people really enjoy it, and it moves us into the next step of film - maybe getting a decent budget - I will be happy.

JN: There may or may not be any time travel and space robots in The Kingsbury Run, I don't want to give anything away.  I will say that it takes place in the present day and it revolves around a strong female character trying to solve a series of murders that are modeled after the original torso murders of the ‘30s.  She seeks out a retired detective who was assigned the cold case of the original murders and together they work to uncover who is behind the new madness.

MMM: How will your story differ from other versions of the story, such as Cleveland native Brian Michael Bendis's "Torso"?

KB: I wanted to focus a lot less of the direct history than the ideas. 

It's hard to make a period piece without a big budget. Most of the indie films that try to go for a specific time period before 30 or 40 years ago start to look bad, and it's not their fault. 

I wanted to make a story that was fun, strange and claustrophobic. Above all else, I want this to be part of our 'signature style'. That's something I think James and I strive for that a lot of people on their way up in the arts really ignore. 

JN: Right.  Without a significant budget (or some crazy good resources) it's pretty tough to go back in time believably.  

But yeah, we're doing a story in present day, which is pretty much the opposite of any other movie about the Torso murders or Eliot Ness. Bendis' "Torso" is absolutely fantastic and a great fictional piece based on the actual history. Our story is a fictional piece inspired by the history.

MMM: Right now you're still in pre-production. Tell me a bit about how you're prepping for the feature and where you are in the process.

JN: Planning, planning, planning. Scouting locations, drawing up storyboards.
For me this is the painful part, because I just want make cool art. This is the part of the process that - I don't want to say we skimped on this in our previous movies, but we've always just shot them with what we had available to us. This time we're actually attempting to get more than what we already have.  

The "Proof of Concept" Trailer is up on the Kickstarter Page, for anyone who wants to check out what we're going for.

MMM: How are you raising a budget for this film? Advice for other filmmakers thinking of fundraising to shoot a feature?

JN:  We started with some simple fundraisers and are looking into more. We recently launched our Kickstarter to see if the crowd can help a little. 

In the past we've always relied on what we already had and that is my advice to anyone starting out. I don't have advice to give on fundraising because this is our first true attempt at it.  We don't know what works, we're finding out just like everyone else.  

Relying on what we already have has allowed us to completely finish five independent films now.  Are they masterpieces?  Of course not, but we were able to plan them, film them, and finish them.  

The "finish them" part seems to be the big challenge for a lot of filmmakers out here.  We've done a lot with very little.

KB: As a filmmaker, it's always frustrating to see the budget of a movie that isn't very good - and there are plenty of them - and see that someone got, what, $200 million dollars and couldn't make a decent film. 

We're asking for a tiny fraction of that so we can get better equipment, better props, and pay for talent or locations. Little things, like closing a street, can cost a lot of money. Heck, even getting the shot you want can cost a fortune. 

Our advice to aspiring folks? Do what we've been doing. Start by writing and shooting a movie you care about and can do without a budget at all. Make the best version of that film you can, get your name out, and then start to look for money. 

MMM: How can folks donate if they want to get involved?

KB: We have Facebook pages for both WLFK Productions and The Kingsbury Run. We also have Twitter: @thekingsburyrun and @WLFKProductions. We will be posting tons of info so. 

People are also more than welcome to add me on Facebook, Twitter (@kurtbroz), or instagram (wlfkfilms). We will have casting calls and tons of info soon. We're also happy to help promote quality work through our pages if others do the same for us!

JN: At the moment, Kickstarter it is. 

We can be found here:

MMM: Final thoughts?

KB: We feel really good about this film. It's funny to say for someone who hasn't made any more, but we are at a really good place with our movies. 

James and I are both motivated and work together well. It's a time for us to move forward, I think. It might be easier for us because we both have good day jobs, but anyone interested in film should just go do it.

If you love art, want to write or direct or paint a set, just go out and start. Joins groups (check out MeetUp or Craigslist for projects) and start. If you fail at one thing, try another. None of us working on these films are kids anymore. I'm not ashamed to admit I am inching past 30. 

Do what you love, even if it's just on the weekend, and don't stop trying. People have had success at 8 and 88. Oh, and be original. Even if you make a movie that's just plain bad, at least put your mark on it.


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