Producer, actor, writer, and CEO of Falling Flame Pictures Jason Wiechert assembled a cast and crew of primarily Phoenix locals for the production company’s first feature film, “Scare Us.”
“It’s important to us to create films in Arizona as much possible because we love it here. You can go a couple hours north of Phoenix and make it look like anywhere in the world. We are Arizona based, but we have the ties to Hollywood that are necessary for any production company,” said Wiechert.
Falling Flame Pictures was founded in 2018 by Weichert and Charlotte Lilt, an actor, director, producer, and chief creative officer for the company. The husband-and-wife team hope to elevate filmmaking in Arizona by creating entertaining and commercially viable independent films.
FILMMAKING IN PHOENIX
Movies are typically associated with Arizona’s neighbor to the west, not the Grand Canyon State itself. Many of the higher-end production companies located in Arizona focus on commercials and branded content.
In Wiechert’s opinion, there isn’t much narrative content coming out of Phoenix at the quality level the general public expects from a feature film. Falling Flame Pictures, however, is working to provide opportunities to creatives living in Arizona.
“There are a lot of talented filmmakers and actors that haven’t had an opportunity because larger productions aren’t filming here, but the talent is,” said Wiechert.
Making a film requires intense collaboration, and not just between the actors in front of the camera. Wiechert worked with local post-production company BT Productions on “Scare Us”, which meant owner Brian Tooker could be on set during filming.
“He made sure that the technically difficult shots we were filming would work for him in post-production. And since Brian is local, I could go and sit down with him without having to get on an airplane,” said Wiechert.
Working with professionals during all phases of production helps prevent small errors that take the audience out of the moment.
“Everyone has to be at the top of their game so that the end product isn’t distracting in some weird, unplanned way. Great films engage the audience from beginning to end, and don’t throw them off with a studio light that’s on in the background or an actor accidentally looking into the camera,” said Wiechert.
Despite having talented people in Phoenix, there are hurdles to filmmaking in the Valley. Arizona doesn’t offer tax incentives to entice filmmakers like some other states. The exact same film shot in Arizona costs more than in Georgia, which provides tax breaks for film productions. The movie business is ultimately a business, so producers often take productions where costs are lowest.
Falling Flame Pictures’ first feature length film is a horror anthology titled “Scare Us.” The film was shot entirely in Arizona and used mostly local talent in front of and behind the camera.
“’Scare Us’ is a love letter to Arizona. Books on 7th Ave [the setting of the main story] is like a character in the movie, and it’s such a unique place in Phoenix to begin with. The film is indicative of what Falling Flame Pictures wants to do for Arizona, Phoenix, and local filmmakers. You rarely get a chance like this outside New York City and Los Angeles,” said Jeff Hare, chief marketing officer for Falling Flame pictures.
While horror anthologies aren’t groundbreaking in the film world, “Scare Us” isn’t a collection of unrelated segments.
“There are five stories that are all tied together by an overall arching main story. Each of them has a different feel that appeals to all the different sub-genres of horror fans in one film,” said Wiechert.
Trying something new comes with its own challenges. With six directors, six writers, and three directors of photography, creating separate but interwoven storylines required intense collaboration to ensure narrative coherence. But Wiechert believes everyone came together and made a film that could establish a new anthology format.
COVID-19 also posed issues for the film. “Scare Us” finished shooting in December 2019, but the post-production process occurred under pandemic conditions. This meant that despite everyone being local, much of the post-production work was done virtually. The film was originally slated to appear in physical theaters, but COVID-19 also complicated that process.
“I’m very proud with everything that we accomplished with this film and that we can say it came from Arizona. We took a lot of chances. Everyone is so talented and we’re working on bringing more opportunities to them as much as we can from our end as Falling Flame Pictures,” said Wiechert.
“Scare Us” opens Friday, May 21, in Laemmle Theaters’ Virtual Cinema. The film will be available on video-on-demand and DVD June 29.