PORTAGE — Don’t let the chimpanzee masked gangsters running around town get you worried — that’s probably just the feature film “The Cran,” being shot in the Bowling Green area.
The location is not the only thing local about the movie. Writer and director Tyler Savino is finishing up his last film school course at Bowling Green State University, where he has mined local talent for both production and acting roles.
“Yeah, I feel young and unprepared, but I kind of trust in the words on the page, the people that I work with. I’m in a good environment where I can embrace being a goofball and use that as a vehicle for telling something a little more honest,” Savino said. “I definitely made the right choice by going to film school. Some people will say don’t bother and some will say ‘go make a movie’ and that’s your film school.
This is a big production. There are real stunts, with a safety coordinator and a set medic.
Then there are chimpanzee masked gangsters.
“We deal with some complex stuff. We deal with some social stuff. We’ve got Nazis. We’ve got cults,” Savino said.
Savino describes “The Cran” as a dark comedy and early 2000s period piece about a failed comedian who reconnects with an ex and “becomes complicit in an absurd revenge crusade that puts him in the cross-hairs of a rural cult.”
“I like to keep things flip-phone era, because at a certain level of technology all of your plot holes sort of solve themselves,” Savino said. “You have GPS on your phone, etc. I take it back to where people can talk to each other over the phone, without having to be on a landline, but not enough so they can solve all their problems on a touch screen.”
Chase A. Crawford is the executive producer of the Bucketnaut Films and Four by Three Productions and the movie stars SAG award-winner Joe Chrest (“Stranger Things,” “Ant-Man”), Matthew Alan Porter (“Utopia”) and Port Clinton native Marlee Carpenter.
They have shot scenes along local roads, at L. Marie’s Laundromat, Reverend’s Bar and Grill and Grumpy Dave’s.
This is Savino’s first feature film. He has done “a handful” of shorts that he has produced and written through film school at BGSU.
The timing for filming is somewhat strategic. His student status qualifies the finished product to be entered in the “student film” category for some of the festivals.
“We’re in an era where anyone can film a feature on an iPhone, but to operate at this level, for example we had this truck, towed on a trailer, with a cameraman in it. We had monitors. We had an actor from ‘Stranger Things,’ here last week. We had a whole host of relatively well-known Ohio actors come in and essentially do character parts. I’d say operating at this scale, we have genuine stunts, we have insurance,” Savino said.
Ohio figures throughout the movie, from the fictional rural location to local faces. Savino has essentially “pulled in every favor” and “relied on the good will of everyone he’s ever known,” so he can make the production become a reality. That includes bit parts for fellow students and some area residents, like Duane King, the owner of L. Marie’s Laundromat and long-time Savino friend.
“I really liked the professionalism, the camera work and set location work. I do have a bit part, as long as it doesn’t get cut,” King said. “Movie film work is not what you think … like they have light set-ups outside.”
Look for other local faces in the movie, which has an expected release around summer 2021.
Behind the scenes is set medic and BGSU Health Service Administration major Kathryn Dobbs. She and Savino have known each other for more than six years.
Savino knows the importance of star power. Chrest has the recent success of “Stranger Things” under his belt, and more than 100 acting credits in his career. Porter has years worth of credits to his name, some of which are as a stuntman and body double.
“This entire thing has been built on the shoulders of my two leads, Matthew and Marlee, especially Marlee. She has basically given 110% day to day and worked herself to the bone for what she believes this character to be,” Savino said.
This is also Carpenter’s first feature film. She and Savino met during the filming of one of his short films, “For Audrey,” that was a submission in a BGSU 48-hour film festival.
“I play Hannah. She is kind of the cyclone in the middle of this story,” Carpenter said. “A the center of the film it’s more about toxic relationships and how we, as humans, can be manipulative, whether or not we mean to and people end up getting hurt.
“I got to be a part of the development of this character, in the script process, in what she has become. That was a really rewarding process for me as an actor. It’s rare when you get to do that.”