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Columbus Filmmaker Spotlight: Paul Rowe of Last Caress Productions

Written by Edna Richardson Images courtesy of the artist

The Georgia film industry has been taking off for many years now, especially in and around the Atlanta area. In recent years, with the construction of Flat Rock Studios and the formation of the Columbus Film Commission, our little city has started to reap the rewards of the film boom. What some might not know is that we have a very active, homegrown, independent film community which we saw out in force for the No Shame Film Festival. We spoke to Paul Rowe, co-producer of the festival, about his next endeavor of producing a feature length film, A Southern Horror, right here in Columbus.   

Q: We recently chatted with Kevan Baxley of No Shame Theater prior to the No Shame Film Fest. 

How was that partnership experience and did the festival feel like a success? 

A: Partnerships are always easy when you generally have the same goal in supporting local creative endeavors. It’s made even easier in an egoless environment. The festival was an undeniable success: the turnout, energy, talent, quality content - everything. The No Shame folks, from Kevan to Chelle Leary. The entire staff did an amazing job!

Q: Would you like to do it again next year? 

A: No question. 

Q: What made you want to start Last Caress Productions? How long have you been making films?

A: I didn’t always want to be a filmmaker. I started out writing screenplays about five years ago with the intent to be a full-time screenwriter until a now-good friend, Ken Merritt (Off the Rail Productions), asked if I’d write and direct for one of his episodic series. He said it would be easy to direct. I knew better, sort of, and agreed anyway, “just this once.” It was as difficult as running multiple teams in IT management at TSYS (Global Payments) but at 400 times the speed… I was hooked. I'll always be a writer first, producer, and director next, but I love every bit of it. Last Caress Productions was a natural creation from there.

Q: Can you walk us through your process of taking a film from concept to completion as an independent filmmaker? 

A: Easy - you become a production line of miracles. Churning them out, one right after the other. Making a film of any length is a miracle: the script, pre-production (planning), production (filming), and post-production (editing). It's only possible by having a really good, passionate, egoless team with you and it gets easier the more you do it, like anything else in life.

Q: Have you worked on any of the big studio films that have been filmed in Columbus? As a local filmmaker how has seeing the Georgia film industry explosion affected you? 

A: Honestly, I was too busy writing and working on our own local productions and participating in a local filmmaking tribe that consistently produces films to take advantage. It's just a matter of where I wanted to focus and my capacity. I would have loved to otherwise. While I am most concerned with the Columbus, GA film industry explosion that we’re trying to ignite, Georgia's strategy has worked and continues to work to pull more industry and thus jobs into our state. There’s no reason Columbus, as the second-largest city in the state and a short drive from Atlanta, can’t take more advantage.

Q: You primarily make horror films, right? What is it about the horror genre that speaks to you? 

A: Our tagline is "Horror with a Heart." There's always a deeper meaning, layers, and a 'heart' to what we do and that's the kind of horror films I personally enjoy to watch. One of my favorites, Silver Bullet, is a werewolf movie, right? But it doesn't work without Marty Coslaw (Corey Haim), a paraplegic, and the conflict with his overprotective parents and Uncle Red (Gary Busey) who thinks Marty should be treated like any other kid. It's a mystery and melodrama as much as 'horror.' Horror films allow us to explore the dark, scary parts of humanity from our living rooms and contrast that with how good can overcome the insurmountable or what happens when it fails to do so. It's an exploration of humanity and moments in the human experience for me - the werewolves, poltergeists, and vengeful spirits are pretty cool, too.

Q: You’re currently fundraising for an anthology project called ‘A Southern Horror.’ What can you tell me about it so far? 

A: This is our first feature film after strategically working on increasingly larger projects through the years. The intent has always been to start making our very own feature-length films instead of relying on outside production companies to come to town every so often. We want to help fill that gap, provide opportunities, and develop and maintain skills and experience right here in our hometown. We're not the only production company in town with the same intent: Story Mill Entertainment, Strongland Productions, Deathkiss Productions, MUD Films, and more

Q: Can you tell me a little about the cast and crew and what it’s like working with other local filmmakers? Can you discuss the importance of networking and building relationships within the independent film community?

A: Most of us have worked together for years, it's like family. There's trust. Care. It is, in a way, like going to war together and coming back: survivors and victors. I have a rule about egos as you might've already noticed. It's not about you, it's not about me, it's about what we're creating. We do a lot of collaboration and while we're always pressed for time, we hear it out. A decision has to be made and it won't always be your idea but you're gonna hear it straight and with respect. Networking and relationships are everything - we are social creatures to begin with, to varying degrees. It's important that if you want to work in the indies or even in big budgets, remember this: the industry is a lot smaller than you think. Be a good person. It's so much more fun and fulfilling. And... leave your ego at the door.

Q: How do you market and promote your films without the backing of a major studio? 

A: When we distribute on a streaming platform we will have worked with local and indie film critics and social media marketing platforms. The horror genre community, more than any other, is vast and extremely voracious. We intend to distribute on Amazon first, and then on AVOD (advertising video on demand) platforms next - that is if we're not bought by a platform such as Hulu, Shudder, etc.

Q: What would you like Columbusites to know about our local indie film community and about ‘A Southern Horror’? 

A: If you want to be a part of it you don't have to know about filmmaking. You don't even have to like movies. It's enough to want to see your hometown thrive. Filmmakers can possess a myriad of qualities, but one thing they must possess is perseverance. Grit. No quit. We’re going to make this happen because we cannot ‘not’ make movies and tell stories. Do not help us become Atlanta's little sister in the film industry - help us to remain uniquely Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley with our very own flag planted in the industry. 

Another way Columbusites can be a part of the film community is by donating to the Indiegogo fundraising campaign for A Southern Horror and by following them on social media for updates and insights into their filming process.


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