Column: Making a Scene
Local duo steps up their efforts to support St. Louis film industry.
St. Louis isn’t the first place that comes up when people talk about filmmaking meccas. A lot of folks who are looking for a career in front of or behind the camera head out to one of the coasts. But a local duo is looking to put St. Louis on the celluloid map by taking advantage of the myriad resources in their own backyard.
Partners Chris Benson and Carlyn Graumenz founded Lamplight Films in 2003. Both were established professionals in the business before they decided to join forces. Benson has been director of photography on a long list of films, commercials and music videos for the likes of Nelly, Chingy and Jibbs, among others. Graumenz worked extensively on the production side of commercials and other projects for Charter Communications and as a freelancer. They decided to combine their talents for the purpose of making high-end pictures on reasonable budgets, using the St. Louis area and the talent here as much as possible.
Right now their main focus is on producing a string of feature films, with an ambitious timeframe of filming two pictures per year for the next three years. Unlike some studios that focus on a particular genre, Lamplight has a broad portfolio of productions. This year look for horror flick “The Lemp Legacy” and thriller “Call Me On Tuesday,” which Benson describes as “‘Memento’ meets ‘Body Heat,'” to go into production. But it’s not just about the silver screen for Lamplight; the company pursues a wide range of projects. As Benson says, “If you can point a camera at it, we’ll do it.” They recently teamed up with their next-door neighbors, audio and post-production facility Shock City Studios, and Benson says they have state-of-the-art technical capabilities that rival any of their coastal competitors at their disposal. No matter how big or how small, Lamplight treats every production as though it were the next blockbuster.
Both knew they wanted to focus their efforts in St. Louis. So why here? “We love St. Louis,” Graumenz says. “It moves at a different pace.” The low cost of living and working here doesn’t hurt, either, Benson says, adding that the St. Louis area is also full of great locations that can be used to replicate anywhere from New York to Eastern Europe. And though St. Louis isn’t poised to be the next Hollywood, Benson likes to say it could someday be on par with Shreveport, Louisiana, a similar sized city that in recent years has become a popular film production site for many of the same reasons that keep Benson and Graumenz here. But at the end of the day, they don’t want St. Louis to become known as a substitute for somewhere else. They’re shooting for the city to have a cinematic identity all its own, and they want Lamplight to make it happen.
For more info on Lamplight Films’ upcoming projects, log on to lamplightfilms.net.
Carlyn Graumenz and Chris Benson of Lamplight Films
Photo credit: Photo by Noah Berman