Dallas-Fort Worth theater actors release killer horror movie set on local stages
Some of Dallas-Fort Worth's most notable theater practitioners recently turned their talents toward a different medium: film.
The Finale, a theater-themed horror film, is being released on Friday, July 28 to stream on Amazon Prime, Apple, VUDU, and YouTube VOD.
It's penned by Michael Federico and directed by Christie Vela (associate artistic director at Theatre Three), who also co-host a horror movie podcast called Terror and Tacos.
The film is from Octane Multimedia and produced by Max Hartman and Brandon Potter, with Desiree Fultz acting as production manager and first assistant director.
It stars Gabrielle Reyes as Sagan Riley, a triple-threat who has her sights set on Broadway. When she’s accepted to the legendary Stage Left Theater Camp, she thinks her dreams are within reach.
Sagan spends her days singing, dancing, acting, and dreaming of love. But soon the Stage Left instructors and Sagan’s fellow campers start dying off one by one. Now, Sagan will have to survive rehearsal and discover the killer, if she’s ever gonna make it.
Eagle-eyed viewers will spot local actors Kenneisha Thompson, Madison Calhoun, Parker Gray, Paul Taylor (Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise), Liza Marie Gonzalez, Katy Tye, Drew Wall, Lydia Mackay, Danielle Georgiou, Jason Villareal, Theatre Three artistic director Jeffrey Schmidt, and noted DFW director and choreographer Joel Ferrell.
Patrons will also recognize Dallas' Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphreys Theater and Uptown's Theatre Three, where most of the film takes place.
Boasting an all-DFW film crew and post-production team, The Finale is a true Texas film through and through.
"I acted as executive producer and funded the project because when I heard my hilarious and uber-talented old friends Christie and Michael talk about making their own horror film and who they had already cast in it, I immediately asked to meet with them," says Hartman. "I read the first 30 pages of the script on the way to meet them at a coffee shop and loved it. I proposed right then that I help fund the project and help find and hire a film crew that was down to work with a bunch of theater folks on their first feature."
"Apart from this being a life-long goal for me, the best part about this was that two amazing groups of artists, from two seemingly related but separate disciplines, theater and film, all local (we're super proud of this), came together to make this film happen," Vela tells CultureMap. "We all learned from each other every day. The toughest days are still some of the best days of my life, and there were days. I will forever be grateful to all of my Dallas theater colleagues who took this leap of faith with Mike and I."
"There was a night we were shooting in the woods. It was our second overnight shoot in a row, so everybody was tired. And it was July, and so hot, and the cicadas were actively trying to destroy us. It could have been miserable," shares Federico. "But I remember watching Christie, the cast, and crew shooting a scene. And they were all so good at their jobs, and so much fun to be around all the time, that I remember thinking, there’s really no place I’d rather be than in the Texas heat, in the middle of the woods, working with these people."
"My driving mission besides helping my friends make a movie was to dispel the oft-heard notion that 'theater actors' can’t act in film," says Hartman. "It was also always bizarre to me that the film and theater communities in town were so segregated. Very rare to see them mix. Every actor in the film is a 'theater actor' and they’re all amazing. It was hilarious to hear the crew go, 'Where did you get these actors? They all know all of their lines.'"