For Jack VanderToll, it started with some crinkled up scraps of paper.
For Michelle Harding, it started at a table for two at Starbucks, “where all great films get their start.”
‘It’ is what Harding describes as “a 12-minute sci/fi, spiritual, supernatural, dramatic film” that will hopefully be shown in a local film festival next month.
VanderToll, who wrote the script, co-directed it with Harding who was also the lead producer and the director of photography. VanderToll knew Harding also wrote and produced the award-winning film, “Spark.”
And because they both work at WMBF-TV, it wasn’t too much of a reach for him to approach her with his script.
“I loved it,” Harding says about the plot, which is a classic battle between good and evil.
“The take-away message is that maybe we aren’t as alone in life as we may think,” VanderToll says.
The storyline follows the character of Robert, who is pursued by an ominous, mysterious figure, and who is caught between the supernatural Michael who wants him to choose a positive path, and Magnus, who wants him to make a negative, destructive choice.
Russell Shealy, who by day works on his family’s cattle ranch in Newberry, plays Michael. This is Shealy’s fifth film, which he says presented him with new experiences.
The nuances of how to hold an arm when pretending to punch someone, or how to stand for the best camera angle, are different for each film, he says.
With a background both in the military and martial arts, stunt work isn’t new to the actor.
“But getting the right visual, making it look real, that was a different discipline,” he says.
Horry County police officer Stephen Phillips plays the mysterious figure who pursues the character of Robert.
Phillips, who owns Kei Shin, a martial arts academy in Conway, and lives in Loris, is also a veteran of several films.
He says his role of the figure “as the antagonist is so far from my personality, it was fun and weird.”
Also a military veteran, Phillips says his life experiences help him portray different roles in film, including this one, his biggest role so far.
Weather hampered the filming of the production, but Harding expects the editing and final touches to be in place by October.
Most of the filming was originally planned for the beach, but sea turtle season stopped that idea.
Instead, it was filmed in several places including a Conway parking lot, Columbia, Murrells Inlet, and even Harding’s Plantation Lakes home.
There are four leading actors, one supporting actor and six extras.
“There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for filming because of the rain, and because we wanted to accommodate the actors,” Harding says, explaining that some of them traveled a distance to be available.
Several are from areas outside Horry County, and two of them traveled from Georgia to participate.
Harding describes “Among the Stars” as a passion project, which she says, “means we do it because we love film, not to make a profit.”
The ultimate goal, she says, it to meet other like-minded people who also have a passion for filmmaking.
“We put our names out there and hope to grow our network of amazing filmmakers.”
“Among the Stars” will be submitted to local and regional film festivals, and hopefully, VanderToll says, will be considered good enough to be shown as part of a festival.
“If people can walk away from this film feeling like maybe there’s someone out there watching over us, I’ve done my job,” he says.