Film debut: ‘A magical experience’

Local filmmakers screen first feature at the Ritz

  • Spencer Simmons appears on screen in his new film “He’s Coming!” as it plays Satur- day afternoon at the Ritz Theater in Clinton during its premiere. - G. Chambers Williams III

  • The cast and crew of a new feature-length film made in Clinton wait for the screening of their film to begin on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Ritz Theater in downtown Clin- ton. They are, from left, Sean Tallent, Austin Covington and Spencer Simmons. - G. Chambers Williams III

A pair of budding young local filmmakers screened their first full-length feature before a crowd at the Ritz Theater in downtown Clinton on Saturday, and one of them afterwards called it “a magical experience.”

Clinton High School graduate Spencer Simmons, 19, wrote the script, co-directed, acted in, and did much of the cinematography for the film, a psychological thriller called “He’s Coming!”

“This is my first feature film, and it was just a magical experience,” he said Monday. “The audience was responding in all the right places.”

Simmons and his best friend, Sean Tallent, 18, of Powell, worked on the production for about six months before getting it ready for its first showing before an audience of mostly friends and relatives at the Ritz.

“He’s Coming!” is about two young men who are abducted separately, and thrown together into a locked shed. They wake up from apparently being drugged, and start trying to figure out how they got there and how they’re going to get out.

The two are played by Simmons and Tallent. There’s a third cast member, Austin Covington, 18, whose role is of a police officer on the hunt for a serial killer, which leads him to the men locked in the shed. Covington is a senior at Clinton High School.

The film basically had no budget – Simmons and Tallent paid for most of it out of their own pockets, and Covington bought his own police costume and gear for his role. Most of it was shot in a shed in the back yard at Simmons’ home behind Clinton Middle School, using a Canon digital camera.

“We spent two months shooting it in my back yard, and then we reshot the opening for the next month and a half,” Simmons said. “Then it took me two months to edit it, all while I was also going to college at Roane State.”

The movie, with a run time of about 62 minutes, “took several cuts to get it to where we are now,” Simmons said.

He bought a Blu-ray DVD recorder to put the film on a disc so it could play on the big screen at the Ritz.

Simmons got permission from Ritz owner Dean Brock to have the film’s premiere at the Clinton theater, and he hopes to produce more movies to play there.

As for how the film came to be shown first at the Ritz, Brock said, “Spencer gave me a cold call about six months ago asking if I might be willing to show it, and I told him I would look at it. After I saw it, I decided I would do it for them. There was no profit in it; I was just trying to help them out as young people trying to get started.

“They did a good job, and put it together very well,” he said. “It was pretty doggone good for amateurs. I was impressed with them, especially because at first, I didn’t think it would be worth a hoot.”

Brock liked the film so well that he said he would be open to screening more films from Simmons. “He’s got potential,” Brock said. “He may be a big film producer someday.”

As for Tallent, who attended Karns High School, the film was a fun learning experience, he said. He directed the production as well as acted in it.

“I’ve had a lot of experience directing YouTube videos, but this was my first feature-length movie,” he said. “I started out just helping my friend Spencer, but the thing kept growing. I’m glad we did it, and we will be doing more.”

Covington, the third cast member, also shot some of the film in scenes where Simmons was on camera. He got to know Simmons while the two were working together at Clinton’s Food City.

“I got involved when he asked me to because I wanted to help support Spencer’s goal of becoming a film director,” Covington said.

Simmons isn’t sure yet what the future holds for his first film, but he’s certain he wants to continue making movies.

“This experience has been very encouraging so far,” he said. “We walked in there on Saturday very nervous, with a very low-budget film featuring unknown local actors. But after seeing how well the audience responded, it was like being on Cloud Nine.”