Missouri’s Underground Filmmaking Community

Typically when people think of the act of ‘filmmaking’ we visualize classic images of Hollywood - big stars, bigger sunglasses, palm trees, California sunshine, etc. Who can blame us? Hollywood is everywhere. Every year we’re bombarded with movies and television shows about, well, making movies and television shows. We can all picture the iconic ‘director's chair’ right? 

But that’s only half the picture. 

 
Shot Reverse Shot founding member Bobby Kay poses with a slate on set of  Grand Theft Autumn .

Shot Reverse Shot founding member Bobby Kay poses with a slate on set of Grand Theft Autumn.

 

Filmmaking is everywhere, and both around Missouri and in Jefferson City in particular, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a wonderful and largely invisible community of independent artists and filmmakers. Today, I’d love to pull back the curtain. 

First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Alex Hausman. I’m a former Wardsville kid - a student of the Blair Oaks School District and then a Mizzou tiger. I graduated in May of 2019 with a degree in Film Production, credits on two television and web series’, multiple short films (even one that won multiple Campus Movie Fest Jury Awards and sent me and my friends to compete in a nationwide film festival in Atlanta!) and a feature-length film due to be released in 2020. All of these projects were created and shot entirely in the state of Missouri. Ten days from now I’m going to be living in Los Angeles, and I know that despite this transplant being a lifelong dream I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities that the community I grew up in offers to people like me who have an inherent need to make art and flex the creative muscle. This is the story of how all that happened, and the incredible benefits Missouri offers to independent filmmakers:

 
Alex Hausman directs the 'God Squad' - a team of super soldiers - for a scene in  Jonah and the Whale.  Also pictured: Jonna Wiseman as the film's antagonist 'Ms. Bryant.'

Alex Hausman directs the 'God Squad' - a team of super soldiers - for a scene in Jonah and the Whale. Also pictured: Jonna Wiseman as the film's antagonist 'Ms. Bryant.'

 

I began my senior year at Blair Oaks High School, like many others, not knowing what I would be doing once the year ended. Because I always had an interest in visual arts and a love of making videos with my friends, I took a class called Desktop Publishing that taught a video editing software called Adobe Premiere - and that changed everything. Having had previous video editing experience and a knack for (passion for?) learning as much about it as I could, I finished the course materials pretty quickly and that class became a time when I would do freelance video projects for the school. This was my ‘aha moment’ - and I knew I needed to go to film school once the year was over. (Interestingly enough, my Spanish teacher at the time Sarah Bohl, along with her business partner Missy Creed McFerron, would later hire me as a video producer for their social media management company, Dogwood Social, during my senior year of college.) 

During my second year at the University of Missouri I was invited to collaborate with other student filmmakers on an original series made for the school’s television network, MUTV. A small group of us founded Shot Reverse Shot Productions, the university’s first ever student-run serialized scripted-television production organization. Our first limited series, a dramatic comedy called Grand Theft Autumn, ran on the network for five episodes. We created, wrote, and produced this series entirely in Columbia, Missouri. The following year we made a six episode limited series called Down The Rabbit Hole - a college murder mystery thematically based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was filmed in Wardsville and in Columbia. As of the summer of 2019, Shot Reverse Shot is in pre-production for a third limited series, this time a political comedy, to be released on MUTV in 2020. Having been a part of creating this organization and seeing its staying power on Mizzou’s campus, even after I and others who founded it have left, is one of my proudest accomplishments. 

 
Caroline Apel plays Autumn in  Grand Theft Autumn . Featured: Bobby Kay, Alex Hausman, Caroline Apel, Braden Kobeski, Andre Steward, Zoe Shedd.

Caroline Apel plays Autumn in Grand Theft Autumn. Featured: Bobby Kay, Alex Hausman, Caroline Apel, Braden Kobeski, Andre Steward, Zoe Shedd.

 

Upon graduation and dozens of short films later, I was asked by one of my best friends and closest collaborators Kendrick Smith to produce a feature-length* independent film called I Love You, Elliot that was written by him and our friend Marcelese Cooper, and directed by Kendrick. Obviously, I wasn’t going to turn that down. We shot the film in Jefferson City, Linn, and Columbia. Elliot is set to be released in 2020. 

(*Feature-length: For non-film people, excuse the jargon, that technically means a film that is 40+ minutes long but typically is used as shorthand to describe a film with a runtime of around 90 minutes or more.) 

As a producer on I Love You, Elliot one of my jobs was finding locations for us to film. One of the best things about producing independent work in Missouri is that state law allows for filming in public spaces (so long as you don’t prevent the public from using the space.) Had we filmed in, say, California or New York, we would’ve had to buy a permit to film in public. Which for independent films with non-studio budgets (read: shoestring) would’ve been… Let’s say, challenging. Thanks, the state of Missouri! 

With this knowledge, I was tasked with finding a bridge for the main character Elliot (played by co-writer Marcelese Cooper) to dramatically reflect on. Preferably, according to the director, a scenic bridge overlooking some large body of water. 

And boy did an idea jump out at me!     

 
I Love You, Elliot  shoots on the Missouri River Bridge. Featured: Marcelese Cooper, Evan Reardon, Kendrick Smith, Bryan Brayton.

I Love You, Elliot shoots on the Missouri River Bridge. Featured: Marcelese Cooper, Evan Reardon, Kendrick Smith, Bryan Brayton.

 

So on June 2nd, if you were driving along the Missouri River Bridge around golden hour* you might’ve seen a film crew shooting a young man, lock and key in hand, pensively overlooking the river. We were able to get some really beautiful shots, for free(ish), thanks to the natural picturesque quality of this wonderful part of the city, and state laws that allow independent artists the freedom to stretch their abilities as far as they can. 

(*Another jargon moment: Golden hour is the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. TLDR; it’s the time of day that looks prettiest on camera.) 

 
The first day of production on  Grand Theft Autumn . Featured: Jonathan Janas, Bobby Kay, Kendrick Smith, Josie Latino, Brandan Haskell.

The first day of production on Grand Theft Autumn. Featured: Jonathan Janas, Bobby Kay, Kendrick Smith, Josie Latino, Brandan Haskell.

 

Running around the state of Missouri with a camera and making independent projects has created some of the most formative experiences of my life and allowed me to curate the skillset that I’m taking with me cross country as I start a new chapter of my life and career. I cannot stress enough that although my aspirations are taking me away from the independent film scene here in my home state, it will continue to thrive right here under our noses and is wholly deserving of every ounce of community support it receives - and more. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the kindest, most creative and talented people I’ve come across in our little industry here and I highly encourage anyone who can to give local filmmakers your patronage, see what’s out there, and maybe pick up a camera and shoot something of your own. You have a really beautiful backdrop readily available for your hometown scenes and a community of artists with incredible drive and passion. I also want to say that this essay is by no means exhaustive! Google the True/False Film Festival and Citizen Jane Film Festival. There’s a LOT more happening than what I’ve been able to squeeze into these thirteen-hundred words.   

My short film, a science fiction narrative called Jonah and the Whale, will be playing Thursday, August 8th in an event from 5pm-7pm in Capitol City Cinema alongside my friend and colleague Andy Ramirez’s dramatic short film Chamomile. We invite you to come see some of the fruits of the independent film scene, talk to us more about filmmaking, and enjoy snacks and drinks! Then head out for Thursday Night Live festivities! Support of independent art is both essential for artists and rewarding for patrons. It’s a win-win for us all!  

 
Title card for Alex Hausman's sci-fi short film  Jonah and the Whale.  Performers: Steven William Moore, Jane Kilen, Clotilda DeMauro, Rob Hoffman.

Title card for Alex Hausman's sci-fi short film Jonah and the Whale. Performers: Steven William Moore, Jane Kilen, Clotilda DeMauro, Rob Hoffman.

 

See you Thursday, August 8th from 5pm-7pm at Capitol City Cinema, and be sure to keep an eye out for I Love You, Elliot in 2020!          

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