SHS grad films thriller at Lake Texoma
Many people turned to artistic endeavors to fill the days of the COVID-19 quarantine but few took it to the extreme of Sherman High 2000 grad Mark Scheibmeir.
He and some friends turned a home on Lake Texoma into the setting for a full-length feature film called "The Summoned."
With a little luck, the content drought created by COVID-19 might help the group get the feature distributed to the masses sometime this year.
"Having been brought up here, I've always wanted to come back here and shoot a movie and whenever the pandemic hit, it gave me a unique opportunity to come back, be with family and then also shoot something here," Scheibmeir said during a recent phone call.
He directed the piece and is also listed as a producer along with girlfriend Angela Gulner who also stars in the film. Scheibmeir has lived in California practicing his craft for years and has been in shows like "Criminal Minds" and "Fear the Walking Dead," and "The Ice Cream Truck." Gulner's credits include, "Glow," "Binge," "Dan is Dead," "Dead in the Water," and The Labyrinth."
But making a feature film during a pandemic wasn't exactly something that was jumping off of either of their resumes. However, the movie is a thriller and when people talk about the year 2020, the phrase "horror show" does come up a lot.
Being at home, he said, made getting the film made easier.
"Film making in Los Angeles and a lot of other places where its typically done, there's a lot hoops to be jumped through and its not always the most supported thing in the community. I found that being here when we asked people for help, they jumped at the opportunity."
Gulner said the movie is about "two couples who are invited to spend a weekend at this exclusive sort of self-help retreat and it turns out that the weekend has a sinister side."
Shot at an undisclosed private property on Lake Texoma between Eisenhower and Grandpappy, the film also stars Scheibmeir, J. Quinton Johnson, Emma Fitzpatrick, Salvador Chacon, and Frederick Stuart.
The script was written by Gulner's writing partner Yuri Baranovsky.
Scheibmeir said the pair had the location in mind before they had the script.
"We had certain limitations because of our budget. We were looking at a small cast, (set) mostly all in one location so when we approached Yuri about being a part of the project, he already knew he had those limitations. And we also wanted to exist in the horror/ thriller space. So he took those limitations and kinda ran with it. There was a collaborative process as far what he, myself, Angela and two other producers Danshell Reinhardt and Justin Morrison, had a lot of dialogue on it and sort of work shopped things and Yuri went off and wrote it and then wrote another draft, and then wrote another draft and another draft and that's how we ended up with the current script."
But a good script, a group of talented actors and a great location weren't going to be enough to get the job done in a pandemic year.
They also had to have the help of a local lab to keep them healthy.
That labs, Gulner said, even went out to the location to test during the snow storm in February.
The production was a union project so they had a strict set of COVID-19 rules to follow.
"We were testing three times a week, sometimes more than that," Scheibmeir said noting that was on top of a host of other things they had to do like report on when and where and how hand sanitizer was made available and how all of the food was handled.
He said they received help from lots of area people and businesses for things like food, water and even cars. In addition, Gulner said, the production received help from Sherman Community Players, in the form of borrowed costumes and props. Austin College students served as production assistants. The list of people and businesses who helped is a long one and Scheibmeir said they look forward to seeing all of those people when the movie premieres locally.
One group additional group that he did name was the entire Scheibmeir family, who turned out ready to help however they could.
One of the biggest drawbacks, they said, to the COVID-19 situation was that all of those family members and friends couldn't be welcomed to the set to watch the Hollywood magic being worked or even be able to take part as an extra for safety reasons.
"So we are hoping this is not the last time (that they do a project here in Texoma). We are already thinking about the next one. Hopefully once we sell this one we can get another one lined up and be back here before long," Scheibmeir said.