July 28, 2006
Red Velvet Cake Only Possible with Cheap Ingredients

A few weeks ago, a film completed shooting here in Ohio County, where I'm working for the summer.

I spent a few hours on the set of this indy film--Kentucky Digital Media's Red Velvet Cake--while writing a piece for the Don Wilkins, wrote a piece for the 08 June 2006 edition of the Times-News about these products, reporting about the changes in the movie industry that now make a $300,000 indy feature-length film possible.

Don says that director Aaron Hutchings estimates that the film would have cost $1.5 million a decade ago. However, because of new digital technologies such as HD video cameras and editing equipment at reasonable prices with sophisticated software programs available on lean budgets, producers like Hutchings are able to launch into filmmaking.

Hutchings is originally from Ohio County and has done quite a bit of work for Kentucky Educational Television, a branch of PBS here in the Commonwealth. Hutchings had always wanted to work with feature-length productions and now has the resources because of switching to digital, which eliminates the need for film stock and allows content to be viewed on the spot.

The movie cast an actress who has appeared in such films as The People vs. Larry Flynt and Tommy Lee Jones, Shirley James, to play the lead role in a film about an elderly woman who lives alone and struggles to survive with both the costs of living and the costs of prescription medicine.

Because editing can be done every evening and because the digital format allows for instant checks on quality, the filming time was cut from three or four months to one month. Now, Red Velvet Cake is in post-production, and the town is waiting for DVDs to be available in the area.

While I've long been aware of this technology and how it changes the industry, it was nice to see how this manifests itself in-person. The creativity and the energy on the set and the chance to make a niche film that wouldn't get significant attention any other way makes possible a regional film industry never before possible in the country due to expenses.

Red Velvet Cake may or may not be a success in national or international distribution--that's yet to be seen--but it's already become an important part of Ohio County folklore through its use of landmarks across the county and a significant number of locals in the film. While the market has yet to be fully explored, it makes me wonder if regional film industries may have an even more vibrant future than we realize, if marketed correctly.