Indie filmmakers stretch their resources in Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 5, 2012

SALISBURY – Benjamin Sliker and Matthew Bumby are making a full-length feature film on a $35,000 budget.
Let that sink in.
“Obviously,” Sliker says, “we try to stretch that.”
By stretching, the young filmmakers work with a much different time frame. On their current film, “ROM,” they are 22 months into a three-year process.
Sliker says by extending the shooting schedule over that length of time rather than, say, 30 straight days, they can make $35,000 look like $500,000.
The men also trade out their talents in production, photography and graphic design for things they need, including equipment and cash.
Sliker is a film editor in Charlotte for Speed TV, and Bumby is a freelance graphic and website designer in Wilmington.In addition, the filmmakers rely on friends and family to provide the settings for many of their scenes.This past week, Sliker traded on the good graces of his aunt and uncle, Leslie and Doug Black, who live on Mitchell Avenue in Salisbury. For three days Sliker’s film crew and actors shot several scenes in and around the Blacks’ home – places such as the driveway, breakfast nook, kitchen and basement.
The screened-in side porch was a good place for smoking and studying lines. Room was cleared on the dining room table for quick meals, such as Subway sandwiches Wednesday.
The invaders covered the living room floor with lights, cameras, cases, poles and bags.
Doug Black watched the movie-making process daily with admiration for the young people’s positive attitudes toward each other and “just an amazing amount of professionalism.”
They cleaned up well after themselves, Black adds, and crew members walked around the house with their shoes off, so as not to mess up the floors.
Lighting counts
Sliker and his wife, Marie, have often come to family dinners at the Blacks’ residence, so Sliker was familiar with the rooms and layout and how they might fit into “ROM,” which stands for Read-Only Memory.
“The light in this house is great,” says Sliker, who wears the hats of writer, director and editor. “You can’t fight with the sun – you lose every time.”
Of the feature film’s 65 scenes, 12 to 15 will take place in or outside the Blacks’ house, which Sliker characterizes as “magnificently cluttered.”
Sliker, Bumby and the crew plan to return for two more days later this month.
Because most everyone involved has other jobs, the filmmakers work around a lot of schedules, vacation time and days off.
Sliker says the most he’ll have on a set are 10 to 12 people at a time. For filming Wednesday, there were two actors and five crew members, including Sliker and Bumby.
Sliker, 28, has the most hands-on experience in film. He has been making short films – comedies, dramas, science fiction and horror – since his days as a communications/film major at the University of Wisconsin.
He actually made his first movie as part of a senior English project in high school. It was a 45-minute spoof on Hamlet, which borrowed from other spoofs such as Monty Python movies and “Spaceballs.”
There were even 15 minutes of outtakes. “It all ended up being pretty ridiculous,” Sliker says.
Later, a much more serious film he titled “In Pieces” won the 2007 Best Picture/Short Form award at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Film Festival.
“ROM,” the short film version in 2010, won Best in Show at the Lightfactory Filmmaker’s Showcase, Best Picture at the DVXuser Betrayalfest and was an Official Selection at the Cucalorus Film Festival, the Great River Film Festival and DVX Film Festival.
“Internal Affairs,” a 2011 short comedy, captured seven of 11 awards at the Made in Charlotte Film Competition, including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.
“I’ve done what I could do,” Sliker says of making shorts. Some were bad, some were good, he adds, but Sliker was ready for making a feature film with Bumby, who collaborated on the “ROM” short.
Bumby, 33, first contacted Sliker through a film-making website, and after messaging back and forth, talking on the telephone and meeting face-to-face, they joined forces on the original “ROM.”
Now they are tackling “ROM” as a full-length feature. Bumby says he possessed the strong desire to make movies, while recognizing that of many other filmmakers he had met, Sliker had the best work ethic.
“They really didn’t show that desire that Ben had,” Bumby says. “I’m kind of the dreamer, and he’s kind of the doer.”
The short film “ROM” was an inspiration point for the feature, but Bumby says, “it’s not really the same story at all.” It explores the three main characters – Daniel; his father, Thomas; and Samantha – in different ways and tries to communicate a new idea, Bumby says.
Sliker calls the film a family drama with science-fiction elements. Daniel, played by Tim Holt, remembers everything he has ever done, which makes him emotionally stunted.
Overall, the film looks at how memories affect the decisions people make through the three characters with interlocking stories, Sliker says.
The Blacks’ residence is the home of the Thomas character.
Sliker says he absolutely never acts in his films and has enough on his plate just with the directing, writing and editing. “I have help on those three things, too,” he says.
Sliker believes strongly in paid actors, saying the difference between professional and amateur actors can be light years.
Bumby says he and Sliker agree on certain principles, which include respecting the audience’s intelligence and making films that are multi-layered, so a viewer could see something new with each showing.
Who will be the audience for the film they’re making now?
Sliker says they made the philosophical decision not to worry who the audience is, where it will show and whether it will ever make any money until it’s finished and represents the movie they wanted.
“I don’t know who’s going to love this movie or who’s going to hate it,” Sliker says.
But he and Bumby know something for certain.
“We want to make movies for the rest of our lives,” Sliker says.
And that’s not a stretch.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or