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Eyeborgs eyeballing Winston-Salem premiere during RiverRun

by Mark Burger

Okay, you can stop asking: Eyeborgs is coming. At long last, the film will be screened — as a work-in-progress — at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston- Salem next month. The film is scheduled to be shown April 27 in the Main Theatre of the ACE Exhibition Complex, located on the UNC School of the Arts campus in Winston-Salem — and nobody’s happier about it than the people who made it. “We’re very thrilled and very excited,” says producer and co-star John S. Rushton, “and we think people will be pleased.” “I’d like for people to be surprised by what we’ve achieved,” says co-writer/ producer/director Richard Clabaugh. “First and foremost, it’s a piece of entertainment. It’s meant to be fun. And if we can surprise people with the political themes, even better.” Filmed entirely in Winston-Salem and set in a not-too-distant future — one in which the political structure is leaning toward fascism — Eyeborgs marks the debut feature from Crimson Wolf Productions, which is headquartered in Lewisville. It’s a home-grown effort from top to bottom. “I’ve known Richard for years and I’ve known about Eyeborgs since I got to town,” says Andrew Rodgers, executive director of the festival. “I finally got to see some of it and it’s got some incredible optical effects and CGI. It’s the kind of film that Winston-Salem audiences will be excited about, having heard so much about it. They may wonder where a film with such highquality special effects came from — and it came from right here in Winston- Salem.” Clabaugh and Company like to joke that Eyeborgs is a killer-robot movie — which it is — but in conceiving the story, Richard and Fran Clabaugh (co-screenwriters as well as husband and wife) wanted to incorporate some relevant observations amidst the action. As a life-long science-fiction and fantasy buff, Clabaugh particularly reveres those films which worked on an allegorical level, like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and wanted to make one of his own. And he wanted to make it here. Raising the necessary funding from independent sources, most of which are from the Piedmont Triad area, was a lengthy, but ultimately successful, process. Then there was the matter of a leading man. Clabaugh had written the pivotal role of heroic Department of Homeland Security agent RJ “Gunner” Reynolds (a nod to Winston-Salem’s history) with actor Adrian Paul in mind. The problem was that Paul was in the midst of filming a political thriller titled The Heavy… which was shooting in London simultaneously. As a result, the actor had to pull double-duty for a number of weeks — flying back and forth to shoot The Heavy there and Eyeborgs here. “He arrived ready to rock,” praises Rushton, who plays Reynolds‘ DHS partner, Bradley. And there’s plenty of onscreen rocking in Eyeborgs, as Reynolds finally throws down the gauntlet and goes “mano-a-machino” against the mechanized monstrosities. Others in the cast include Luke Eberl, as a rebellious punk rocker who happens to be the nephew of thepresident; Megan Blake as a TV reporter who smells a story and Juan-Carlos Guzman as her tenacious photographer; Dale Girard (who also served as the film’s stunt coordinator) as Sankur, a suspected terrorist; and cult icon Danny Trejo as “G-Man,” a reclusive political dissident. And then there are the Eyeborgs themselves. Devious devices of surveillance — and, lest we forget, defense — that come in all shapes and sizes, watching and waiting… programmed to protect the populace from terrorist threats. But, as befits classic sciencefiction (think Westworld or even The Terminator), what happens when technology runs amuck? With the exception of actors Paul, Eberl and Trejo, the cast and crew of Eyeborgs all hail from the region. The majority of crew members are graduates of the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, where Clabaugh taught cinematography from 1998 until last year. “One of our goals was to establish a ‘calling card’ for our first movie,” observes Fran Clabaugh, also the film’s principal editor, “and I think we’ve done that.” The makers of Eyeborgs admit that postproduction, particularly when it came to the visual effects, took longer than expected. “It’s been a three-year process in producing a highly effective sciencefiction thriller with as many special effects as The Dark Knight and Transformers,” Rushton says. “I think we’re going to surprise everybody.” Unlike The Dark Knight and Transformers, Eyeborgs didn’t have the backing of a major studio or the budget of a major studio film. The eventual budget for the film is somewhere south of $5 million — or about 30 times less than Transformers cost. “It was an ambitious project with limited resources,” says Clabaugh. “We wanted to show people that we’re capable here of making something comparable to the bigger-budgeted blockbusters being made today.” Unforeseen delays aside, the makers of Eyeborgs are proud of their killer-robot movie. For one thing, being independent allowed them to make the film their way. For another, it was an opportunity to showcase the filmmaking talent that exists right here in the region. Eyeborgs is only the first Crimson Wolf production, they say, and it won’t be the last. For a sneak peek at the official Eyeborgs trailer, visit www.eyeborgs.com. And, remember… they’re watching you.

To comment on this story, e-mail Mark Burger at marksburger@yahoo.com.

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