March 26 2009 12:00 AM

Local filmmakers tap mid-Michigan resources for new comedy

As Jack Schaberg wrapped up his first film, “We Don’t Care” in 2006, star and collaborator Bruce Bennett came to him with an idea for a new film. “It was only a two-sentence idea,” Schaberg explains. “We let it percolate for a while. We started working on it in fall 2006.”

Two and a half years later, they premiered the final product, “The End of Art,” last week. Its a feature-length comedy about a struggling artist trying to find a way to make a profit off his works for his family. The film, directed by the pair, went through a lot getting there.

Schaberg and Bennett got together a few times in 2007 to flesh out the rest of the story. In January 2008, they decided it was ready to go. As with most independent films, they didn’t have a huge budget, and they tried to cut down on costs as much as possible.

Bennett, who played the title role of Art, got the cast together, while Schaberg got rounded up a crew. Most of the equipment, from cameras to microphones to lights, was borrowed.

The two also borrowed shooting locations. An old high school friend of Schaberg’s owned the vacant gallery in the film, and many of their shoots were done in downtown Williamston and some nearby parks. “We tried to make it look like Anywhere, Midwest,” Schaberg says. “There’s nothing in the movie that distinctively says Mid-Michigan.”

Another way to cut costs was not paying anyone who worked on the film, at least not yet. Ever since they started shooting in June 2008, Schaberg has diligently recorded how long everyone worked, and he plans to divvy up any money the film makes back accordingly. The film wasn’t completely without expenses. “I basically had to buy tape stock and a handful of props,” Schaberg says. “The out-ofpocket costs were less than $1,000. If you’re ever thinking of making a movie, this is proof you can do it for almost nothing.”

The biggest expense, Schaberg says, is renting a theater to show it in. That was part of the reasoning behind premiering at the Lansing Mall Cinema, which Shaberg says was the cheapest in town. But it’s also centrally located, and Schaberg hopes to draw some bigger crowds — a few hundred turned out for the premiere.

The film tells the story of Art, a man who buys an insurance policy on his artwork, planning to destroy it. But when his perpetually horny insurance salesman, Chester, mistakenly thinks Art wants to kill himself, things go horribly wrong.

The jokes are good, especially all the sex jokes with Chester, and the story works pretty well. There are a few technical problems, most notably the lighting, but its nothing that ruins the experience.

With most of the work over, Schaberg plans on taking a well-needed break. “We’re totally drained from this,” he says. He and his partners do plan on submitting the film to the Traverse City Film Festival and see where it goes from there.

And for the next project? “Bruce came to me with an idea as we were shooting this,” Schaberg admits. “I’m not sure how serious he is, but it would definitely need a bigger budget. And I have a few scripts that people are interested in. We definitely have plans, but nothing concrete at all, not yet.”

‘The End of Art’

March 17 7:30 p.m. today 9 p.m. Thursday 7 p.m. Monday 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday Lansing Mall Cinema, 921 Mall Drive, Lansing $5 (517) 886-3456

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