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Low budget movies continue to roll in the L-O-U community

September 22, 2011

– OXFORD TOWN

A new low budget feature filmed in Oxford this summer is expected to premiere in early 2012 after Ole Miss cinema minor and junior Benjamin Cunningham managed to film for less than $2,000.

Cunningham, is a psychology major in the honors college and growing up did not have cable TV.

“My childhood was spent watching and rewinding VHS tapes when I wanted to be entertained,” Cunningham said. “Movies have always been a part of my life, and as I grew up, I began to fall in love with the ‘game’ of it — convincing millions of viewers to believe in your piece of art.”

His favorite genre is comedy but he wanted to find a way to blend laughter with a message.

His film, “Roommates” is the answer to that.

“It is absolutely hilarious, but you feel like you’ve really connected with the characters and learned something by the end,” Cunningham said. “It’s 60 minutes of fast-paced fun. The idea for the story came from deep, spiritual, inner longing. OK, not really; I’ve always wanted a pair of handcuffs, so I wrote the story around cuffs to give me a reason to buy them. I tell people those are the most expensive cheap handcuffs anywhere. The story was perfect for the actors, and the chemistry clicked instantly.”

“Roommates” centers around Cole Martin who comes from a private school in Nashville and drives a coupe. Dwayne Cutter, also known as “Peanut,” grew up on okra and deer meat. The only things they have in common: They’re both freshmen, and they’re now roommates. Cole can’t take it, but his girlfriend made him promise that he would give it a week before he tried to switch roommates. Finally, he reaches his last nerve and drags Peanut to the housing department. The housing secretary is an eccentric lady who tells them that the switching deadline has already passed. She does have a little trick, however, that will fix their problems in 24 hours. They agree to try it, and before they can react, she handcuffs them together, telling them to come back the next day. The pair hesitantly accepts it, but suddenly realizes that today is Friday … and tomorrow is Cole’s first debate tournament! By the time they get back to the office, however, it’s closed for the weekend. They are now men on a mission, looking for the lady with the keys.

Cast includes Jay Barnhart as Cole, Samuel McKay as Peanut, Stormie McClelland as Sarah and Adebanke Alabi as Hasina. Cunningham served as cinematographer, Dan Cunningham was sound and gaffer and Stormie McClelland was costume designer. Cast and locations were free and props were the only expense.

“Film is a mission for me. Making movies without sex scenes and F-bombs usually doesn’t cut it in the indie film markets. But there are so many people, especially in college, who are begging for quality work that doesn’t compromise,” Cunningham said. “There are several projects on my desk that are going to help fill this void, but I mostly want to encourage others who are interested in this same concept to go full steam ahead with their ideas. “Family film” is Hollywood’s response, but it is usually boring and dry. I want to create an entirely new market for movies oozing with conscious passion and technical precision.”

“Roommates” was filmed on a Panasonic AG-DVX100B in August. It is expected to premiere in 2012.

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