Huntington, Ind.—Directors yelling in microphones. Prime camera lenses. A fight coordinator. A projected budget of $200,000. And a story line richly incorporating mystery, murder and mayhem.
Is this Hollywood?
No. This is a Huntington University student film titled “Nero Bloom: Private Eye.” Director and producer, Jason Eberly, and screen writer and producer, Nathan Hartman, have taken on this project with big dreams.
“We’re making this movie not for a class but for our lives,” said Eberly, a junior film studies major from Fort Wayne, Ind. “We’re making this for our portfolios. We wanted to make a film that could stand up in the real world.”
Although they are receiving credit for making this film, Eberly and Hartman are filming it on their own time. They say they have spent hundreds of hours on the project.
The 1940s-based plot follows a 20-something private investigator named Nero Bloom (played by Huntington University sophomore Phil Black) who is new to town. He is hired by a failing gambler’s wife, Veronica St. Claire (played by Huntington sophomore Bethany Edlund), to follow her husband. Bloom follows her husband to a hotel only to find him cheating on his wife. Later Bloom finds him stabbed to death in the hotel elevator. Then Bloom undertakes a dangerous investigation of the murder, seeking answers to the questions "Who?" and "Why?"
The story line was first inspired when Hartman, a junior film studies major from Berne, Ind., was touring downtown Huntington with his girlfriend one afternoon and saw the LaFontaine Center.
“I thought to myself, ‘How about that and Phil Black as detective?” Hartman said.
After seeing Black’s performance as “Bottom” in Huntington University’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Hartman knew that Black was a perfect for contender for the Nero Bloom character. Hartman had conjured this dark, debonair, private-eye persona his freshman year of high school.
After selecting Black as the star of the film, Hartman wrote the script accordingly, except he paid no regard to locations. “For once we didn’t base our script around locations,” said Eberly. “I told Nathan to dream big.”
And Hartman did, and so far, everything has worked out. He wrote in a fight scene, and now they have a fight coordinator. He included a scene with a historic steam engine, and after calling in a favor, they got one. They have filmed in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Coldwater, Mich.; Berne, Ind.; and Zionsville, Ind.
They shut down the entire Zionsville downtown for the sake of an aerial shot. With the camera mounted on a crane in a truck bed, they captured a shot that included scene presumably right out of the 1940s, complete with era appropriate cars.
“This is the shot that says this is not a student film,” Eberly said.
Another element that brings maturity to the technique of this film is the prime camera lenses, which are new equipment to Huntington University. Hartman and Eberly are the first to use these new lenses.
“Our camera is huge,” Hartman said. “It looks like a sniper rifle.”
With all of the on location shooting and advanced filming equipment, Eberly and Hartman concede that their realistic cost would exceed $200,000. However, they haven’t been shy to ask for favors, and people have been generous for the sake of stardom.
“Indiana just likes the attention,” Eberly said. “When we tell people their house will be in a movie, they get all star struck.”
Realistically, they have spent almost $300 and don’t expect their costs to exceed $500.
They say that their biggest expense would be the entry fee to film festivals after the project is finished. But if “Nero Bloom: Private Eye” wins just one festival, says Eberly, they more than pay for their expenditures.
While expenses have not been an obstacle for these amateur producers, scheduling has. Because the cast consists of students and adults donating their time, working around their lives has been a challenge, especially with the Huntington University production of “Music Man,” in which Black also starred.
Some of the additional crew responsible for the production of “Nero Bloom” include Alicia Bonham, makeup artist and costume coordinator; Jordan Steele, camera operator; and Jordan Wolf, sound designer. Local actors that have donated their time include Steve Rodenberger, Danna Christy Minnick, Mark Esch and Randy Neuman.
Eberly and Hartman are looking forward to releasing the movie for an audience.
“It’s good old fun,” said Eberly. “It always ended up better than we expected.”
“I rarely sit and watch something I’ve done and like it,” added Hartman. “But so far, I’ve liked everything we’ve done.”
They plan to finish the film in the next few weeks with a premiere event to be held in the spring.