Greencastle men produce feature-length film

June 25, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |

Koran Dunbar wasn't much of a basketball player.

Growing up in Greencastle, Pa., he would sit on the sidelines joking with his friend Waylon K. Smith.

"We bonded on the benches," Smith said.

Though the two never became famous for tearing up the court, their banter helped them realize they had considerable aptitudes elsewhere. Namely, in the arts.

"We were two very artistic children who didn't have a place to vent out our talents and our hearts," Dunbar said.

The two played off of one another's ideas and humor. Over the years, they would talk out creative aspirations and sometimes write comedy sketches, they said.

Smith, now 29, became a musician. Dunbar, also 29, went on to perform in film and onstage. He has toured as a stand-up comedian, appearing on Conan O'Brien and on MTV.

Back at home in Greencastle, neither of the men was content to let their creative sides go dormant. Though Dunbar works full time at Bank of America in Hagerstown, he has spent the past two years writing a screenplay about a depressed father who is mourning his late wife's death in a rural American town.

Dunbar describes the work as a drama and a dark comedy. He turned to Smith for input on the story. Now as adults, the two are working side by side on the feature-length film "Greencastle."

Shooting for the film began earlier this month at locations around the Greencastle area and continued Saturday at AVA on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown. With Dunbar as director and Smith as assistant director, a cast and crew of about 100 people worked from 10 a.m. until late in the afternoon filming a club scene.

Actors dressed for a night on the town danced and partied it up, while Smith's original music blared and cinematographer Jonathan Austin angled for the perfect shots. Austin, a New York City-based cinematographer, was born and raised in Hagerstown.

Dunbar stars in the film, along with actress Nikki Estridge, who has worked in film, television and print, and actor Doua Moua, who appeared in the Clint Eastwood film "Gran Torino."

Working on a budget he describes as "sweat equity and savings," Dunbar called upon others in his social, professional and creative circles to work on the crew.

David Vanderveer, a friend of Dunbar's, manages projects for First Data in Hagerstown. Vanderveer put his organizational skills to use as production manager for the film.

Dunbar connected with Thomas J. Smith of Waynesboro, Pa., who has considerable film experience, through social networking. Smith assisted Dunbar with script editing and pre-production, and has plans to stay on board throughout the production.

"Most of the production crew have no film experience, but they are doing excellent job," Smith said. "It's really impressive."

Tiffany Vinson, 24, of Hagerstown, who works at Bank of America with Dunbar, took on the job of production coordinator.

"It's been a lot of fun and a great experience," Vinson said. "It's sort of unbelievable to work with these actors and actresses, and to watch the film all come together one step at a time."

Meghan Huston of Greencastle did theater with Dunbar in high school. Now, she is a stylist who owns Karma, a Greencastle salon. She is working as artistic director for the film.

"(Dunbar) got in touch with all his contacts to pull this together," she said. "I'm excited that with a mixture of professionals and amateurs, that everyone is working so well together. I think it will result in a final production that is amazing."

Erica Thomas, 22, of Greencastle, was an extra in the club scene.

"I thought this would be a really cool thing to do. To have a new experience, see what it's all about," Thomas said. "It's awesome to be here and see how it's done. It's kind of an adrenaline rush."

Moua, of New York City, said a friend sent him the script for "Greencastle." As an aspiring writer himself, Moua was impressed with Dunbar's work.

"It's inspiring to see a first-time writer write something this amazing, so I got on board," Moua said. "And it's cool to see him see it through, with his own vision, his own eye. The crew is like a family with respect for each other. They all believe in (Dunbar) and his story."

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