'Greencastle' filmmaker wins at California film festival

January 23, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER |
  • Koran Dunbar is the director and star of the movie "Greencastle." He is a resident of Greencastle, Pa., and works in Hagerstown.
By Roxann Miller/Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Winning an award for best sound and a nomination for best screenplay at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema in California for “Greencastle” was somewhat of a miracle for homegrown filmmaker Koran Dunbar.

“We’re pretty much a bunch of nobodies,” Dunbar said. “This is our first film and rarely does your first film make it to a film festival — let alone win an award.”

John Avarese and Matthew Datcher won Best Sound, Feature or Featurette for the movie “Greencastle” at the independent film festival held Jan. 12 to 15. Datcher is from Waynesboro, Pa., Dunbar said.

Made on a shoestring budget — less than $100,000 — compared to most multimillion-dollar independent films, Dunbar, 30, of Greencastle, said he’s proud of his first attempt at filmmaking.

“We received rave reviews, and we were up against hundreds of films with million-dollar budgets,” said Dunbar, who wrote, directed, produced and acted in “Greencastle.”

Even though the movie lost the best screenplay-feature award to “Paradise Recovered,” Dunbar was unaffected.

“We came to inspire people. I saw a woman come out of the film crying,” Dunbar said. “She said it was the best film she has seen in 10 years.”

He submitted “Greencastle” to 21 film festivals competing against independent films shot on $10 million budgets.

In the film, Dunbar plays Poitier, a pet shop worker who is stuck between hope and despair, and is just going through the motions of life.

Dunbar said the moral of the quirky drama is, “if you never take chances, then you’ll never have opportunities.”
How it happened

In some ways, the film parallels Dunbar’s life.

Dunbar dreamed of making a movie since he was a student at Greencastle-Antrim Senior High School.

Dunbar and high school buddy Waylon Smith became friends in eighth grade while they warmed the bench on the basketball team.

They dreamed of one day making a film.

In 2001, Dunbar started squirreling away his own money for his production company, Rags to Riches.

In 2009, he and Smith began kicking around ideas for a script as they sat on Dunbar’s deck.

“I didn’t expect this to go this far. I had no idea,” Dunbar said.

With 50 actors and about 250 extras, “Greencastle” was shot from June to August 2011.

Some shoot locations include Ava’s and Nick’s Airport Inn in Hagerstown, The John Allison Public House and Sunnyway Diner in Greencastle, and Funcastle off Pa. 16 in Waynecastle.

Most of the main characters in the film are not professional actors, Dunbar said.

Smith, 30, of State Line, Pa., is a landscaper by day and a filmmaker by night. He was the script consultant/assistant director on the two-hour film.

“I’ve always been a fanatic of cinema,” Smith said. “I would love to see it (the movie) rocket to the moon and everybody make a billion dollars, but honestly, I think it’s awesome that a bunch of amateurs were able to put a quality story together and have it go this far already.”

Why ‘Greencastle?’

David Vanderveer of Falling Waters, W.Va., works at First Data in Hagerstown.

Vanderveer, the film’s production manager, explained how the name “Greencastle” came about.

“The film wasn’t titled when I first saw the script, and as the film progressed, it just made sense to call it ‘Greencastle.’ I said, ‘We’re filming it in Greencastle. We mention Greencastle. Why not just call it ‘Greencastle?’” Vanderveer said.

Ralph Mauriello works at First Data and plays the owner of the pet store in the movie.

During a private screening of the movie at Dunbar’s house, Mauriello sat transfixed on the screen for the first 10 minutes.

The scene was set during breakfast between Mauriello and Dunbar’s character at Sunnyway Diner.

After the scene, Mauriello fist-bumped with Dunbar.

“I got a little emotional; I was really pleased with it,” Mauriello said. “I’ve wanted to be an actor all my life, and making something that people enjoy is a major motivating factor.”

Dunbar said people are shocked when they see that small-town people can score music and act in a film like “Greencastle.”

“There’s a lot of talent in this area,” he said.

Dunbar is proud of his hometown.

“Every time I go on the road, I represent where I’m from. We made history by producing a film. It’s on Wikipedia,” Dunbar said.

See the trailer on YouTube:

On the big screen
A local screening of “Greencastle” will be Saturday, March 31, at The Maryland Theatre. Tickets are available at

The Herald-Mail Articles