GENOA – With $6,000 and a lot of passion, Alexandar Wagner hopes to get his foot in Hollywood’s door.
Wagner, a 2009 Genoa-Kingston High School graduate, is coming home this summer from Columbia College in Chicago to direct his first feature-length movie with the hopes of landing film festival screenings in Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Genoa native, who once engaged his hometown with videos of high school sporting events, is ready for his biggest challenge after tasting success with a series of short films the past few years.
Wagner plans to shoot the film over the course of a month at local places such as Genoa-Kingston High School, Robert’s Drive-In, Joe’s Pizza, Genoa Skate Park and Hopkins Park. There will not be any paid actors or special effects, but Wagner said he believes the dedication to complete four weeks of 10-hour workdays with no pay can compete with the million-dollar projects featured at prominent film fests.
“The main goal is just the exposure,” Wagner said. “You can make a film for really cheap and still make it a film that can stand out.”
The film, titled “Deer in the Headlight,” is inspired by Wagner’s short-film “Avoiding Forever,” which is based on Wagner’s experience growing up in a small town with the desire to “escape” to something bigger and better. But just as Wagner did, the characters discover it is up to people to make anywhere the best it can be.
Katie Lanigan, who worked with Wagner in “Avoiding Forever,” stars in the film and serves as a producer, which is a new experience. She is fresh off of starring in a feature film that won best drama at a California festival and said Wagner’s project has been as good as any she has worked on.
As producer, she has loftier goals than major film festivals, hoping to have the film picked up in a distribution deal and shown in theaters.
“It’s definitely a heart and soul project,” she said. “If I didn’t believe in it, I would have never taken it on.”
Wagner said he hopes to get local support. He is coordinating fundraising efforts where donations will give people a spot on film credits and other perks. He also will conduct auditions for extras and speaking roles and sign up volunteers July 14 at the Genoa Park District.
Caleb Fortune, co-star of the film and screenwriter, said he is excited about the project and the chemistry he has developed with Wagner over various projects. While the month-plus work with no pay will be tough, he said it is an exciting opportunity.
“We’ve been around each other for so long that I think it will be like a vacation for a month and something really fun to do,” he said.
• Contribute to the effort at www.indiegogo.com/deer.
• For more information on the film, visit www.facebook.com/deerintheheadlight.
• To view the official IMDb page, visit www.imdb.com/title/tt2400321.
• Get involved with the film by going to the Genoa Park District on July 14 from noon to 4 p.m.