With the screenplay jelling, Avalos named a date certain for production and set his sights high. The film would be shot on digital video, but the mission statement was to push the edge of the usual DV filmmaking process, particularly as it pertained to special effects. With his significant other busy producing another independent film, Avalos was going to handle the bulk of the production on his own.

However, as if plagued by evil spirits, hassles multiplied — a hard drive crashed, the originally scheduled director of photography quit and that start date was approaching rapidly. With progress on her other film slowing down and engaged by what she calls her boyfriend’s “heroic approach,” Connor decided to join on as full-time producer.

Soon, shooting was underway with mostly professional crew members working on deferred salaries, including cinematographer Lukas Ettlin, and a cast featuring film-school friends Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, the documentarians behind “Lost in La Mancha.” The little house quickly became cluttered with filmmaking equipment, props and costumes. At night, neighbors could see the eerie glow of heavy-duty film lighting, shining from Connor and Avalos’ backyard.

Despite some excessively long days and extensive re-shoots, principal photography was finished in the winter of 2002 and the post-production phase could begin. Along with the usual chore of editing and sound, that meant special effects — lots of them. And not just the obvious ghostly visitors to the neighborhood, but atmospherics, like clouds, digital day-for-night, and even cyber-erasing the occasional errant microphone or light stand.

Still, it’s the scare effects that get the attention, and these are mainly the work of Scott Hale, a gifted young SFX genius fresh from the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. The effects in “Ghosts” are unusually vivid and imaginative, even for a mainstream production. These are appropriately haunting and eerie apparitions that linger in the memory but never overwhelm the story.

Overall, “The Ghosts of Edendale” turned out to be a superior example of mainstream indie filmmaking, a frightfest with a sense of humor, and an enjoyable left-handed salute to the legacy of Hollywood. But along with the usual long nights of work for all concerned, there were occasional moments of real-life creepiness along the way. There was that trio of black cats who suddenly started lurking in the couple’s yard when Avalos was finishing the “Edendale” screenplay. And, far more worrisome, a mysterious handprint. (Which is scarier – evidence of a dead cowboy, or a trace of an all-too-alive prowler or peeping Tom?)

Connor and Avalos are back home in Pennsylvania this week. And, with their movie opening for special runs at the County Theater in Bucks County and at the Ambler Theater in Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia, they’re hoping that lots of their fellow Pennsylvanians turn out in healthy numbers for their (un)true Hollywood story. Especially since they have to sleep in a haunted house when they return.

“The Ghosts of Edendale” plays at the County Theater on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 28-29 at 7:00 and 9:15, and on Wednesday, November 5th at 9:15. It will screen at the Ambler Theater on Thursday, October 30 at 7:00 and 9:15 and Sunday, November 2nd, at 4:15. The filmmakers will be in attendance at the first screenings. Naturally, there’s a website: it’s www.ghostsofedendale.com.

Also, the uber-creepy “The Last Broadcast” is having its basic cable premiere with IFC TV’s “Indie Screams” hosted by Tom Savini. Check your local times and listings for more information or go to www.ifctv.com.

Posted on October 27, 2003 in Features by

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