Growing up in Fort Mill, all Ben Joyner wanted to do was make films. The South Carolina Film Commission is giving him the green light.
“Abducted,” a bad date gone worse story, likely will be filmed in the Fort Mill area in coming months. It will be up to a dozen minutes. The project reunites Joyner with Lancaster native and Waxhaw, N.C., writer Josh Barkey. It also could help others in the state looking at careers in film-making, through a commission grant designed to create training environments for crew, filmmakers and others in the business.
“The Indie Grants have garnered a major reputation among producers, writers, actors and all types of crew,” said Tom Clark with the South Carolina Film Commission. “Which is a way for us to show off the state’s talent, location and production value to the world.”
“Abducted” was one of three projects chosen. Joyner, 25, moved to Los Angeles for his career, but was still a high school student when he met Barkey, 38. It was a one-night shoot, in Charlotte, on a project Barkey wrote.
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“I met him but I didn't really remember him,” Barkey said. “He was best boy grip on that.”
By the time they next worked together, Joyner was director of photography on a project. Barkey liked Joyner’s work, and the former Fort Mill resident became a go-to when Barkey had a script he thought would make a good film. The pair actually had a couple of possibilities for the recent grant program, before choosing “Abducted.”
“We submitted a script,” Joyner said. “We’re filmmakers. We were looking to make this short film, and we saw this as an opportunity.”
They tried to get the one-time senior thesis film off the ground once before, but it wasn’t easy. The film grant provides money and other resources to help, along with a dedication to getting the project complete once it’s written and filmed.
“It's kind of a complicated one to pull off,” Barkey said. “There are some special effects that are kind of expensive to get just right.”
Barkey locked the script. A producer from Fort Mill and casting director from Atlanta will help. Grant winners also employ Trident Technical College film students for a variety of roles.
“It’s still an indie film, but they want to give students the experience of what it’s like to be on a real set,” Joyner said.
As for film details, folks will have to wait until it’s finished. The film commission describes it as about a person named Jen, a young professional, going out for drinks with a man she met online, amid news of strange disappearances.
“It’s a little sci-fi about a first date gone wrong,” Joyner said.
Most times small, independent films tend to be projects among friends. Barkey likes how the film commission “tends to treat writer-director teams as teams,” compared to a more employee-like role for writers in big budget films. The friends hashed out a creative difference or two, but get along well. Barkey said ultimately final calls goes to Joyner as director, something the West Coast filmmaker dreamed of growing up in Regent Park not too long ago.
“I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid,” said Joyner, a Comenius School for Creative Leadership grad who went to film school in Georgia. “I’ve always wanted to make films.”
The state grant program isn’t just for hobbyists. Indie grant shorts have been selected to film festivals like Sundance, Slamdance, Palm Springs, Austin, Stiges, LA, Cucalorus, DragonCon and Tallgrass, among others. Barkey said most indie films are a “mini-miracle” when they work out, with so many possibilities from writing to sound to filming, that can go wrong. He’s eager to the have film commission this time handling “a lot of the practical issues that would normally be stressing you out.”
“They’ve been extremely supportive,” he said. “All the people involved have been involved professionally. They know their stuff.”
Allowing the two friends, with local ties if often separated by a whole country, to do what they do best.
“The goal is always to make the best possible version of the story we’re trying to tell,” Barkey said.