Filmmakers with local ties premiering movies

Three movies from filmmakers with local ties are having premieres.

One that already made a splash in Michigan is Jennifer Bechtel's "Scary Normal."

The others are Kimberly Conner's "Jump In," which premieres next month at Springfield's Hoogland Center for the Arts, and Danny Hill's local zombie move, "Infection," which just had its premiere at the Art Theater.

Bechtel, a Champaign resident, wrote and directed the gay-friendly "Scary Normal"; earlier, she co-wrote "Leading Ladies," which had success at film festivals and secured distribution.

Shot mostly last June at Champaign-Urbana locations, Bechtel's comedy stars Laura Welle as Chelsea Hart, April Cleveland as Danielle, Finn Dallas as Matthew Hart, Mike Trippiedi as Joe Hart, Chris Taber as Ginny Hart and Jaysha Dunn Lowery as Kaneetra Martin.

She describes it as "a family coming-of-age comedy about Chelsea, a teenager who just wants to be seen as normal. However, with the strange lifestyle that her family lives as her stepdad completes his indie horror movie projects, she spends much of her time frustrated and embarrassed by her family.

"Then, along comes Danielle, a sometimes brash, almost always self-confident young lesbian who has been kicked out of her own family because of her sexuality."

Family and friends played important roles on- and off-screen, Bechtel said.

The local premiere features two shows, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Art Theater, 126 W. Church St. Tickets are $7 in advance, $8 at the show.

Bechtel said most of the proceeds will go to high school Gay-Straight Alliances and to the Up Center of Champaign County.

The film had its national premiere Feb. 9 at the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference on the Michigan State University campus, billed as the largest such college conference in the nation.

"We had a good number in attendance," Bechtel said. "People really enjoyed it — it was great watching people watch it. At one particularly flirty moment, an audience whispered 'Kiss her!' People were getting involved in the story."

Bechtel said Hot Diggity Productions has submitted the film to several festivals, including college campuses.

"Our goal is to have at least one screening in every state before the end of the year," she said.

A DVD release is likely in the fall.

Urbana High graduate Hill's "Infection" also used local actors and locations for the 30-minute short.

Stars William Rose II, Lamar Lee and Ferrin McGinnis are chased by zombies through area locations, including cemeteries.

Hill described it as sort of a buddy film about two men, one an experienced hunter, surviving a zombie infection after one of them loses a significant other.

Because he uses songs without copyright permission, he won't show the film commercially in theaters.

Instead, "Infection" will appear on Internet sharing sites such as YouTube or Vimeo, Hill said, as early as next week.

Conner, a Champaign native and Central High graduate whose "Jump In" is set to premiere next month, didn't return an interview request last week.

The latest film by Predestined Arts & Entertainment includes a myriad of themes, including love, forgiveness and risks.

According to its website, "Jump In" is about "three couples, plus one. 'If two's company and three's a crowd, what are three couples, and an eligible bachelor?'" the movie asks.

A 6 p.m. red carpet event and a 7 p.m. screening of "Jump In" are scheduled for March 2 at the Hoogland Center, 420 S. Sixth St., Springfield. Tickets are $10 and will benefit Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

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