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Scaring up movie magic: Filmmaker brings horror to Cochise County

It should have been a normal day of shooting for up and coming vlogger Christina. With the backdrop of Cochise County behind her and her fanbase watching her live feed of iconic locales in southern Arizona, the young woman begins to have a sinking feeling that she’s not alone. Has she been researching too many ghost stories, or is one of her subscribers playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with her?

The fate of Christina is something that audiences will have to wait to discover in an upcoming, independent horror movie that will soon begin shooting here in Bisbee, Sierra Vista and Naco.

“Subscribe,” the latest work by independent filmmaker Jacob Stuart, will use the landscapes of the area as the setting of a modern day horror thriller about a YouTube star being followed by an obsessed fan.

Stuart came up with the idea after moving to the Sierra Vista area for a change of pace with his fiance. At the time, he was in the talks with some producers in El Paso about making a film, but a lack of clear direction prompted him to produce a different work himself.

“What they wanted was going to be a bigger budget than they had and I decided, I can do that story, self finance it, shoot it on my own and do it here,” he said. “As I was location scouting and writing for it, I wanted to do something that was a little bit easier to shoot, required less actors and was something as simple as 80 percent of it being shot on a phone and the other on a camera.”

“What can you do, you can do something like a found footage or ‘Blair Witch Project’ or ‘Paranormal Activity.’”

Though the original plan was to make this a short movie to familiarize himself with shooting in Cochise County, he’s going all in and turning it into a feature film he plans to bring to the festival circuit.

“Subscribe” will take a low-budget approach, utilizing a small cast, locations contained in the county and a mix of mobile phone filming and traditional camerawork.

Stuart specializes in screenwriting and attended The Los Angeles Film School where he learned every aspect of filmmaking. He lived in L.A. for five years and has been making films for 11.

Along with a resume that includes shorts, production credits, screenwriting and directing, Stuart founded screenwritingstaffing.com, an online hub for connecting producers with writers.

Though this is his first horror movie he will be writing, directing and producing, he’s learned how to make a small budget work throughout his career.

“You got to keep character count down, more characters, more mouths to feed, more people to transport,” he said. “Keep the location count down, utilize natural light, shoot outside and try to shoot on weekends if you’re not paying a lot because people have day jobs.”

“The trick on getting people interested in low budget stuff is you can’t really win them over with explosions and car chases, so it’s the story; if you don’t have a good story, it won’t matter.”

Casting call

The film will use sites like the San Pedro River, The Lady of Shrine cross, Old Bisbee and areas of Naco. Along with the local settings, Stuart hopes to keep the cast as local as possible.

He currently has a casting call out for the main role of Christina, a 21-35 year old female with a large speaking part.

“She takes up 85 percent of the story, so not only would it help if the person had some type of acting experience in theater or film, it would help if they utilize social media whether its Instagram or YouTube because that’s what it revolves around,” he said.

“She needs a bright personality, someone who is good in front of a camera, knows when to smile. If someone has no acting experience, they just can’t be nervous in front of the camera and be willing to learn the process.”

The role of Christina will include a lot of use of P.O.V. shots using handheld mobile phone filming devices.

He is casting for about six other characters of all ages, genders and races who do not need much experience. He is just looking for people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and can pick up on things quickly.

He also needs a couple production assistants to help with everything from running errands and holding boom mics to the craft services table.

Stuart has worked as a production assistant on a variety of shows including “Intervention” and “Gene Simmons: Family Jewels,” and said he is prepared to pass on his knowledge to those who want to learn.

“I’m happy to let them sit in on the process of making shot lists, shooting schedules, the editing process if they want to sit in and kind of learn some of that,” he said. “They need to be excited, take direction well and if they’ve never worked on set before this will be the least intimidating set they will ever work on.”

Stuart hopes to start rehearsals in June and start filming in July. Once the movie is complete, his goal is to bring it on the film festival circuit and then find either a distributor or self distribute it.

“I have a lot of experience with film festivals and understand that niche,” he said. His goal is to find a distributor or sales agent at one of the festivals and see if they want to take it.

“Given the very low budget of it, that is a long shot; however, if that doesn’t work we’ll take the self distribution route — put it on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon.”

Stuart plans to screen it locally as well as in Ohio, where he’s from originally and is a board member at a theater.

The open audition will take place at the Sierra Vista Public Library from noon YO 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21.

Those who RSVP online will be seen first and it is preferred that people submit a headshot/photo and resume.

For more information on the film, visit www.screenwritingstaffing.com/subscribe-film.

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