Independent movie to start shooting locally

By Caroline Klapper | Dec 04, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo Jesse Romine is writing, producing, editing and directing "Darkridge," an independent film, in Jackson, Haywood and Swain counties.

Filmmaking became a passion for Sylva resident Jesse Romine at the early age of 12, and it soon became a creative outlet for him when life took a dark turn in high school.

“Lots of people I knew got hooked on hard drugs,” Romine said. “There was a lot of resentment, you know, because a lot of my friends kind of drifted away from me because I didn’t want to get involved in that situation.”

Instead of giving in to peer pressure or giving up on his friends, Romine chose to focus himself on something constructive, and that’s when he got the idea for a film he named “Darkridge.”

“‘Darkridge’ became a way for me to stay focused and do what mattered to me,” he said.

Now 27, Romine is finally getting the chance to make that film.

In association with StellarMedia, Romine, the writer, producer, editor and director, is getting together the talent and funds to create “Darkridge,” which he plans to start filming in early 2013.

The plot centers on LD, a modern-day moonshiner, who takes justice into his own hands when he discovers a drug ring has moved into town. The ring is taking a devastating toll on the town, leading to corruption and lies even within the sheriff’s department. LD goes under cover to bring an end to the drug ring’s run of crime, but things get even more complicated as dark secrets are revealed.

Playing LD is Milton Higgins of Burnsville. Higgins grew up next to a playhouse and has been in acting his whole life. This will be his first feature film. Ricky Whitley, of Pensacola, Florida, will play LD’s best friend, and he will contribute to the movie’s soundtrack as well.

Cullowhee native Nick Searcy will play the sheriff in the film. Searcy is known for his roles in “Money Ball,” “Cast Away” and “Justified.” Sean Bridgers will play the sheriff’s son. Originally from Sylva, Bridgers has appeared in “Nell,” HBO’s “Deadwood,” “True Blood” and “Rectified.”

Frank Sivero is playing the FBI agent in the film, and he has appeared in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas.”

Tim Abell is playing Griggs, the villain of the movie. He has appeared on “We Were Soldiers,” “NCIS,” “CSI: NY,” and “CSI: Miami.”

Others working on “Darkridge” include Bear Allison, cinematographer and co-producer; Chris McCoy, co-producer and Robert Blair, film composer. In addition, Western Carolina University is allowing the crew to mix and record the music for the film, and the Grammy-winning group The Carolina Chocolate Drops have agreed to allow the use of one of their songs in “Darkridge.”

In his career, Romine has been creating commercials, wedding videos and industrial videos, and “Darkridge” will be his first true attempt at an independent film.

“I thought, ‘You know what, I started out making movies and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my career,’” he said. “I feel like the time is now. There are a lot more people and a greater network of resources to actually do the project the way I had envisioned.”

As to how he got some of the more well-known actors to sign up for the film, Romine said he used social networking sites, such as Facebook, to get in touch with many of them. Since most of the actors are from North Carolina, they were interested in joining the project, which Romine plans to film in Jackson, Haywood and Swain counties.

“We’ve got a lot going on,” he said, adding shooting on the film’s trailer will start this week.

A Kickstarter fundraising campaign is set to begin on Dec. 6. Donations will go toward film production and online donations can be made by searching for “Darkridge” at kickstarter.com. To view Romine’s Kickstarter profile, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/profile/44516499.

Romine said he plans to have “Darkridge” completed in time for ActionFest in Asheville in April 2013, and he has hopes of taking it to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

“We’re hoping to get it picked up and get it out there,” he said.

After the film premieres, Romine wants to go on tour to film schools throughout the country, showcasing the movie and having question and answer sessions with film students.

“This is a way to give back and show people that are interested in film what it took to make it happen,” he said. “That means so much to me since every dream has a beginning, and if I were to inspire just one person, then part of my mission in life is complete.”

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