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Burger explains Eyeborgs and the little movie that could

by Mark Burger

Although YES! Weekly covered extensively the production of Richard Clabaugh’s sci-fi blowout Eyeborgs this summer, the cinematographer-turned-director was at the same time hard at work readying for the DVD release of his 2003 film Little Chicago.

Little Chicago, will be released Nov. 13 from York Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based distribution company that specializes in independent films.

The film marks the screenwriting and producing debut of actor Scott Miles, who also plays the leading role of Cal Rowan. After graduating college, Cal returns home to Gastonia, NC – once nicknamed “Little Chicago” due to its proliferation of bootlegging runs during the Prohibition era.

Upon learning that his best friend Andre (Earl C. Poitier of Drumline) has become one of the city’s major drug suppliers – and is in way over his head – Cal applies the accounting skills he learned in college to lend Andre a hand, only to find himself drawn in too deep.

The film also stars Sarah Viccellio, John S. Rushton (also seen in Eyeborgs and a principal of Crimson Wolf Productions), Chris Coppola, Joanne Pankow, Trieste Kelly Dunn (United 93) and Adrian Paul (the lead of Eyeborgs) in a pivotal cameo appearance.

The film was shot, for under $1 million, in Gastonia and (mostly) Winston-Salem during the summer of 2003, when Clabaugh was on summer break from teaching at NCSA. A number of School of Filmmaking graduates and students were principal members of the crew.

“It was a proving ground for us,” says Clabaugh. “It proved that feature filmmaking was something we could do here – on a budget and well enough to compete with studio projects. We learned a lot and we accomplished a lot.

“It was a labor of love for all of us.”

Little Chicago was screened to great audience response at the Charlotte Film Festival a couple of years back, and there have been a handful of local screenings, but that’s it – until now.

“I feel excited that we’re finally at this stage,” says Miles. “I’m really proud that it’ll finally be out there for the world market to see.”

Miles recently completed work on Dismal, a horror thriller shot in Virginia co-starring Richard Riehle and William Gregory Lee. He’s also in the midst of a promotional tour to support the DVD release of Little Chicago, and he’s also preparing to celebrate birthday No. 1 for son Tyler along with wife (and Little Chicago co-producer and co-star) Dena Thomas.

Both Clabaugh and Miles agree that Little Chicago was something of a tough sell for a distributor.

“I can see that now,” Miles laughs. “It has a little identity. It was a drama – with some action. But it’s not easily categorized.

“I see that York Entertainment is promoting it as an action film – with some drama. And that’s exactly how it should be marketed. We’ve been through many cuts with this film, trying to see what worked and what didn’t, and what to emphasize. The end of the film is all action, and the first half builds to that. I like to think it builds on the audience’s identification with the characters, because if they’re not with [the characters] by that point, then we didn’t succeed.”

Does Miles have a desire to produce again?

“Absolutely,” he says. “Overall, as I learned with Little Chicago, it’s a challenging process – but fun. Looking back, I would certainly do some things differently. It was such a learning process. You can learn how to be a director. You can learn how to be a writer. You can learn how to be an actor. But a producer?” Miles asks rhetorically, laughing, “you’ve got to do it. My God, the mounds of paperwork…! Do it, and you have a whole new appreciation for what producers do. It can’t be taught. It can be learned – and I sure did, right on the spot.”

Four years after the cameras started rolling on Little Chicago, this homegrown drama is finally coming to a store near you. (For more information, see yorkentertainment.com)

On a purely personal note, I would like to add that I am proud, pleased and truly stunned that the Philadelphia Phillies will be going to the post-season in 2007. Yours truly was born in the City of Brotherly Love, and although I grew up in New Jersey (don’t hold it against me), my heart and my soul belong to Philadelphia.

Having endured endless recaps of Joe Carter’s Series-winning home run in the 1993 World Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Phillies – yeah, yeah, the most dramatic ending of any World Series ending ever (whatever…) – I am delighted to see the Phillies take the East. It took all 162 games, but they did it.

The Philadelphia Phillies, one of the most venerable baseball franchises, took 97 years to win a World Series in 1980, and also reached an amazing milestone this season with their 10,000th loss – the only professional sports team on the planet ever to do so.

I live, breathe, eat, drink and smoke Philadelphia. I even applied to the Phillies for a job before the season started. They turned me down. But, hey… no hard feelings. Just good ones.

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