MOVE OVER STEVEN SPIELBERG
Sam Ramsey might not be ready to take Spielberg's place right now, but he shares the filmmaker's dream to see a feature film of his playing in theatres across the country one day. It was that dream that motivated Spielberg to jump the fence of the Universal Studios lot as a young man, and the same kind of dream pushed Sam to create his first short film, The Photographer, which premiers this Friday and Saturday at the Trails Country Centre for the Arts in Winnsboro.
The film was shot in and around Winnsboro and has a cast of local people, including many of Sam's family. "You could say this is an in-house production," he said. "It helps to have a big family."
It also helps to have a big family with lots of talent. His sister, Emma, wrote the script with him and she plays Leah Aston in the film. Sam's father, Cary, who is a woodworker and musician, also has a sound studio, so all the music was laid down there. Sam wrote the original sound track, and his sister, Grace, wrote two piano pieces for it. Mom, Bonnie, made all the costumes, getting authentic patterns from the 1920s. James, a brother, rebuilt the engine of the classic car used in the film, and another sister, Sarah, played a little girl. "I've got another brother, Matthew," Sam said. "I should have used him in the film, too."
The 1930 Model A Roadster on the right belongs to Scarecrow Willis, a friend who played a role in the film. The bad guys drove that car, and the good guys drove the 1926 Chevy 4-door, that belongs to the Ramsey family. Pictured below by the car are Bob and Kathy Schepis, neighbors of the Ramseys, who attended the show Friday. "We met them at a block party where they entertained," Kathy said. "And we heard about this movie, so we thought we'd come and check it out."
The classic cars were necessary because the story revolves around experiences of a police photographer in Texas in the 1920s. All the costumes were authentic down to the last detail, as were all the set dressings. Sam explained that he was interested in the period because it was so turbulent and he was drawn to a character who is trying to find justice in a tormented society. "This was the era of bootlegging, Al Capone, and all that."
There was a standing room only crowd on Friday at TCCA for the first showing, and the audience was not disappointed. The film is well done on all levels, showcasing the talent of an amazingly creative family. The film was shot on an extremetly low budget, something like $18,000. A low-budget feature film is right around a million dollars and runs between 90 and 120 minutes. The Photographer runs about 55 minutes, so to shoot all that with less than twenty thousand called for some great creativity and ingenuity, as well as a committment by the whole family to this project. "I couldn't have done it without them," Sam said. "There was no way."
Sam, who lives with his family near East Point, was home schooled through elementary and high school, then went to Tyler Junior College, where he studied photography. "That's when I really got interested in the Depression Era," he said. "And I tried to recreate it in my photographs."
Also available Friday and Saturday nights was an assortment of stills from the movie, as well as props and other memorabelia. They also had DVD's for sale. Julia Settera, a friend and neighbor, assisted guests with the sales, with Scarecrow Willis helping out.
Yes, that is his real name. He said he grew up tall and lanky, so he was given that nickname and it stuck. "I'm even listed in the credits that way," he said.
Sam has entered the film in a Film Festival in San Antonio. He said he would like to pursue filmmaking on a grander scale, but said he'd have to see how the film does in San Antonio. On Friday, Sam announced that the film had made it to the semi-finals and they will go on to the finals late in October.