Chattanooga-based filmmakers shoot latest project, 'Beast of Eden,' here

Chattanooga-based filmmakers shoot latest project, 'Beast of Eden,' here

September 20th, 2018 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Eleanor Epstein, a production designer, works to get the set ready for recording a scene for "Beast of Eden" while Elliot Worth, the director of photography, and David Marmer, a lead actor, go over lines at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Monday, August 27, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Epstein is a Girls Preparatory School graduate who has been part of a 17-person crew with people from various parts of the world filming a feature-length movie in Chattanooga.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Gallery: Filmmakers shoot full-length film in Chattanooga

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Anyone who has ever tried to capture a moment with a video camera or a phone has learned that sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't. There are things you can control, and some you can't, and things you can plan for and things that just happen.

It's even trickier when you are trying to make a feature-length, independently produced film and you are shooting on location. If the script calls for a rainy day, or sunshine, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

But what do you do if the actor playing the lead character misinterprets the script and shaves off his beard with three days of shooting left? You adapt.

Cast

David Marmer - Thadius

Caleb Phenom - Diddley

Cristan Caridad - Cal

Phillip Cook - Ramone

Dan Tippen - Lenny

Seth Martin - Shaun

Adam Kirby - Mickey

Bob Kuhn - Paul Swirsky

 

"He thought it would be good for his character, so the director had to rewrite all of the scenes for continuity," says Eleanor Epstein, a 2010 Girls Preparatory School graduate and the film's producer, casting director, production designer and costume designer.

The movie is called "Beast of Eden," and it was shot here in Chattanooga in 13 days in August and September. Epstein says Elliot Worth, the movie's writer and director, had to adapt on the fly to make the final scenes make sense and even wrote in a scene where actor David Marmer, playing Thadius, is lathered up in shaving cream talking to another actor in the next room. A couple of scenes were shot from behind the actor, and another was shot as a conversation between two actors in separate rooms, Worth says.

"In the [Chattanooga] Choo Choo, we had to shoot a tracking shot of their conversation from behind," he says.

"Then when they were supposed to enter the train car together, I had the lead walk into the train car alone while the co-star waited outside and finished his cigarette. And then when he went inside, the Thadius character was in the bathroom, and it's revealed that he's just put on shaving cream. They have a conversation between two rooms while [he] is shaving."

"It all worked out actually," Epstein says.

Worth and Epstein live in Chattanooga, where they run a production company called The Golden Finger. About eight months ago, they realized they wanted to make the movie here. In fact, the beauty of the city inspired the two to want to make a movie here in the first place.

"We made a deliberate choice to cast local actors as well as shoot on location," she says. "Our goal is that this film will expose the many cultural, architectural and social worlds that thrive in Chattanooga."

The Chattanooga area has been used in films and music videos big and small over the years. The biggest and most recent were the Jackie Robinson biopic, "42," shot in large part at Engel Stadium, and the circus-set "Water for Elephants," with key opening scenes shot in North Georgia.

Filmmakers Geoff James and Christopher Flippo have made several independent films shooting in the Chickamauga, Flintstone and Rossville, Georgia, area.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum has worked with several films, including "Leatherheads," and Tim McGraw filmed the video for "Truck Yeah" at the old Scholze Tannery location on Broad Street.

"Beast of Eden" revealed Chattanooga to several people on the 17-member crew, some of whom came from around the world. Worth and his twin sister, Sabrina, are Colombian/American. She handled still photography and was second assistant director for the project.

Looking to make a movie here?

The Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Film Commission can help you with locations, crew members and other support such as who to call to get a road closed or to film on the Walnut Street Bridge. For more information, contact Chris Holley at Heritage House Arts & Civic Center, 1428 Jenkins Road, or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pg/ChattanoogaFilmCommission/about/.

Four crew members, including the director of photography, Tom-Ambroise Fenaille, are from France, while first AD Stela Arraes was born in Brazil and lives in New York.

"Beast of Eden" is about a washed-up Hollywood actor who has had enough of an industry that brought him both fame and misery.

As a child actor, he was abused by the producer who brought him stardom, and it is only years later, as the early stages of Alzheimer's creep in, that he prepares to speak out against his abuser. He drives across the country to escape but is pursued all the way to Tennessee, where things do not end well for him.

The filmmakers shot scenes all over town, including at The Honest Pint, Nikki's Drive-Inn, Taylor Funeral Home, the Flat Iron, a private residence on Lookout Mountain, The Chatt Inn, the Choo Choo and all over St. Elmo.

Worth is currently doing the rough edit on the film, and hopes to have it ready to submit to film festivals by March of next year, and they hope to screen it here, "but I don't know what that looks like yet," Epstein says.

Both say the footage they got is as beautiful as they'd hoped it would be.

For the most part, they agree, the moviemaking gods were kind to them.

"The strangest thing happened the week before shooting," Epstein says.

"Right before, there were these really really intense downpours, and we were really worried about that, but as soon as we started, it was beautiful. We had one or two days of some rain, and right after was this incredible thunderstorm. That was pretty great."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.


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