Mi­crocin­ema creeps into Cov­ing­ton

Lo­cal film­maker cre­ates hor­ror out of small-town life

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Watt

With the re­cent slew of small-town slasher re­makes re­leased by the film in­dus­try, it’s lit­tle won­der Cov­ing­ton’s Daniel Heisel picked his own home­town as the set­ting for his re­cent ghoul-in­hab­ited fea­ture.

For this bud­ding film­maker, as well as dozens of more prom­i­nent direc­tors, the quaint south­ern charm af­forded by the his­toric square and sur­round­ing an­te­bel­lum homes seemed to make Cov­ing­ton an ideal shoot­ing lo­ca­tion.

And with Heisel’s latest project, this en­tails an in­fes­ta­tion of the un­dead.

Along with his wife of seven years An­drea and their two-year-old son Miles, Heisel moved to New­ton County two years ago from Clark­ston. And since their ar­rival, he hasn’t stopped pur­su­ing his pas­sion for film.

“I def­i­nitely have a love for movie mak­ing,” said the 32year old.

Heisel said he first re­al­ized he wanted to get in­volved in film pro­duc­tion when he was 17.

“That’s about the point where I got more in­ter­ested in the tech­ni­cal as­pect,” he said. “I al­ways loved movies but the idea of mak­ing one seemed so unattain­able. Then I met a friend who had been do­ing it for quite a while, and I saw how easy it was and how much fun he was hav­ing.”

Af­ter that, things just fell into place.

“My par­ents had al­ways been very sup­port­ive of any­thing creative like this,” Heisel said, “and I can re­mem­ber my dad try­ing to get me more in­ter­ested in com­put­ers and videog­ra­phy. I guess it worked.”

Though Heisel says he loves Cov­ing­ton pri­mar­ily for the sense of com­mu­nity it fos­ters, its aura of small-town in­no­cence can’t help but ap­peal to a hor­ror film­maker’s darker in­stincts.

As a re­sult, Heisel has taken full-ad­van­tage of his sur­round­ings. With the sup­port of fam­ily, friends and lo­cal res­i­dents, he’s thrown him­self head­long into his in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­tion com­pany Shy­by­day.

“My friends and I are in a cat­e­gory we call ‘mi­crocin­ema,’” he said.

Mi­crocin­ema, Heisel said, refers to a type of film pro­duc­tion where the par­tic­i­pants rely pri­mar­ily on in­ge­nu­ity and cre­ativ­ity in the ab­sence of a sub­stan­tial bud­get.

“Un­for­tu­nately, it in­curs a lot of out-of-pocket ex­pense,” Heisel said.

The perk, how­ever, is that with a lim­ited bud­get comes artis­tic li­cense.

“Luck­ily with our bud­gets,” he said, “we don’t have to worry about pleas­ing ev­ery­one else.”

Com­ing in at a bud­get of a mere $700, Heisel’s latest ef­fort, “Je­sus H. Zom­bie,” has raised more than a few eye­brows.

“The sub­ject of the movie has brought about some great dis­cus­sions about re­li­gion, which was my in­ten­tion,” he said. “When I wrote the movie, I wanted to make a com­men­tary about how eas­ily peo­ple fall into the trap of not think­ing for them­selves and push­ing their views unto oth­ers.”

And ac­cord­ing to Heisel, the mes­sage wasn’t lost on the crew.

“The movie is not in­tended to be crit­i­cal of re­li­gion,” he said, “only crit­i­cal of those who abuse it for their own gains. The ma­jor­ity of the cast and crew are de­vout Chris­tians, Mus­lims, Bud­dhist and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. Each one read the script and got the mes­sage right from the start, which made me happy.”

As far as the ti­tle goes, how­ever, Heisel read­ily ad­mits he chose it just for shock value.

“I re­ally just wanted to choose some­thing that would make peo­ple want to talk about the movie and its sub­ject mat­ter,” he said.

With the help of fam­ily, friends, and neigh­bors, Heisel has man­aged to over­come nu­mer­ous pro­duc­tion chal­lenges rang­ing from prac­ti­cal con­cerns such as fund­ing to the anx­i­ety he en­coun­ters dur­ing the pre-pro­duc­tion phase.

“My fam­ily’s been good,” he said. “They’ve al­ways pushed me to do more stuff like this.”

De­spite Heisel’s com­mit­ment to cin­e­matic ter­ror and gore, when it comes to his hob­bies, he lists “fam­ily time” right at the top.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Be­hind the cam­era: Lo­cal pro­ducer Daniel Heisel of Shy by Day Pro­duc­tions pauses in his Cov­ing­ton home with his Mini DV Cam­era that he uses to film his pro­duc­tions.

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