Last Modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.
What might have seemed a quixotic project four years ago will soon be projected onto movie screens. "Endure," a movie conceived and filmed in Polk County, is at last a coming attraction. The detective thriller has been accepted into three film festivals and will have its premiere screening next month in Tampa.
The making of the small-budget movie has been a long and sometimes agonizing process for writer-director Joe O'Brien and his fellow filmmakers, Rob Tritton and Jim Carleton of Lakeland-based NFocus Pictures. O'Brien conceived the plot in 2005 and began writing the script in 2006, and it took the company about three years to gather financial backing for the project, which had a budget of $1.2 million.
"Taking something from the very beginning, looking at the empty page, to the last step, it was well worth the anxiety and I don't even know what to call it over the last five years," O'Brien said. "I think we have a picture that's better than what we had anticipated, better than what we, I think, imagined it would be."
"Endure," starring Judd Nelson and Tom Arnold, was shot in just 16 days last spring in Lakeland and Bartow. The Ledger has reported on the project in an ongoing series since 2007.
The movie has been accepted to film festivals in Tampa, Sarasota and Nashville. The "Endure" team had submitted rough versions last fall, as the post-production process continued.
The Gasparilla International Film Festival was the first to respond. "Endure" is scheduled to screen March 20 at 7 p.m. at the Muvico Centro Ybor 20 Theater in Tampa. It will be the first time the completed version is shown to the public.
Tickets for the screening will go on sale soon at the festival's Web site, www.gasparillafilmfestival.com.
"Endure" revolves around the frantic search by small-town detectives for a young woman kidnapped and bound to a tree in the Green Swamp. Nelson plays Detective Emory Lane, who leads the case even as his wife (Joey Lauren Adams) is gravely ill.
Each member of the NFocus trio shepherded one segment of the project. Co-producer Tritton led the quest for financial backing from local investors, O'Brien oversaw the shooting and Carleton, the editor and co-producer, headed the post-production work.
Carleton said it was sometimes almost overwhelming to keep the project going while the three worked full-time at their video production company.
"Every part of the process feels like the most difficult while you're in it," Carleton said. "When in the early part you're trying to raise some dollars, you think ... once we get past this it'll be smooth sailing. Then we got into the production part, and it was, 'Wow,' and then in post-production it was like, 'Wow, this has got to be the toughest part.'"
For the final post-shooting task, O'Brien, Carleton and Director of Photography Stephen Campbell traveled to Atlanta to supervise color adjustments at CineFilm, a production company. Carleton said they aimed to create distinct moods for the movie's main locations - dark and eerie for the scenes in the woods, warm and intimate for scenes in Emory's home.
O'Brien, who moved last fall to the Washington, D.C., area, said the final product was a revelation.
"You're sitting in this small theater environment, and you're seeing your picture on a big-screen format for the first time ... so you're really getting a first peek at the impact it could have on an audience," O'Brien said. "We were pretty thrilled with it because we were able to get into the story, and if we who are intimately familiar with the details of each scene and how it was made, if we can still transcend all the technicalities and still get into the story I think we've met our expectations and exceeded them."
The screenings at film festivals will give "Endure" exposure that could lead to a distribution deal. The Nashville Film Festival, founded in 1969, is one of the nation's oldest. That one and the Sarasota Film Festival both take place in April.
Carleton and Tritton plan to attend all three festivals. O'Brien, who is at work on a new screenplay, said he expects to make Sarasota and Nashville but is uncertain about Tampa. The filmmakers said it is unclear whether any cast members will attend the festivals.
The "Endure" team still hopes to hold a screening in Lakeland at some point, possibly at the Polk Theatre, where some scenes were filmed.
With the movie complete, NFocus Pictures hired a Lakeland advertising company, Smart Creative, to create a motif for the movie poster and other promotional material. The motif features a green-tinged image of woods seeping from a black background, along with the title in block letters and the tagline, "Pray he doesn't find her first."
The filmmakers have posted a trailer online at www.enduremovie.com.
[ Gary White can be reached at email@example.com or at 863-802-7518. ]