‘Head Trauma’ changing indie cinema

Featured — By on October 14, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Writer/director Lance Weiler rewrote the rules of independent cinema with his first film, and with his second, “Head Trauma,” Weiler may very well have started the next revolution in independent film right here in Scranton.

Weiler’s first movie, “The Last Broadcast,” a low-budget horror film shot and produced digitally in 1998, broke the ground that “The Blair Witch Project” would be hailed for blazing nearly a year later. And, many say, Weiler’s film was more deserving of the hype that surrounded the release of “Blair Witch.”

His follow-up feature, “Head Trauma,” filmed in Scranton’s hill section, has become the center of a multimedia experience that is redefining the way filmmakers involve an audience in their movies.

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Weiler discovered Northeastern Pennsylvania through his co-producer John Stefanick whose relatives live in the Gouldsboro area. “I told him I wanted to shoot in the mountains. I wanted it to have that timeless feel to it. He said, ‘You should go to Scranton,’” Weiler said.

He scouted locations in Scranton and the Poconos, finally settling on a house in Scranton’s hill section that would provide the right atmosphere for his horror film. “Scranton was perfect for what I wanted to do with the movie.”

“I ended up finding they had a really great talent pool there and cast several local residents in the movie — even speaking parts,” he said. “I had nothing but positive experiences with Scranton.”

The house plays a prominent role in the film, providing a backdrop against which Weiler’s hero, George Walker, will struggle to make sense of the frightening visions that intrude upon his daily life. Weiler knew he had found the right location when he walked into the Prescott Street home. “When you walked into it, it was perfect. It was a very creepy place – incredibly creepy,” he said. “It set the vibe very well for the movie.”

“I had a lot of large guys on the crew and no one wanted to go up to the third story. You didn’t want to be the last one to lock up at night.”

The story of “Head Trauma” emerged from Weiler’s own experience. A serious car accident many years ago in which he skidded on black ice and collided with a garbage truck, left Weiler in intensive care with head injuries. During his recovery, Weiler was troubled with “crazy nightmares of the crash.” “I filed that away,” he said.

Weiler was fascinated by the concept of “the fragmentation of memory” and it became the seed that spawned “Head Trauma.” After a disappointing stint in television during which a show he pitched to Fox went all the way to the pilot stage before being abandoned, Weiler decided to finish writing “Head Trauma” and begin filming.

Now the film is finished and Weiler has embarked upon a marketing campaign that includes live shows that feature live music, theatrics and cinematic games for an immersive experience. Attendees can leave their cell phone numbers and receive communications from characters in the film. “The movie follows them home.” Weiler has created an online game carried out across multiple websites. The latest clue he offered is www.hopeismissing.blogspot.com.

Fans can also remix the film at www.eyespot.com. “The movie is always evolving. It’s very organic. The audience becomes collaborators.” Weiler believes this cross-media approach could represent the future of independent cinema. “We’re moving toward on demand culture,” he said and the benefit of this technique is “you get people entering from all different directions.”

Weiler is currently looking at three different scripts for his next project. He would love to film in Northeastern Pennsylvania again and hopes to start shooting a project he described as “‘Lord of the Flies’ meets ‘28 Days Later’” in the spring in the Poconos.

The video-on-demand release of “Head Trauma” through Warner Brothers is set for Oct. 23. And Weiler also submits material for the open source site workbookproject.com geared toward filmmakers.

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