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Film fanatics shine light on local talents, locations

By Sami Duehring
posted May 26, 2011

Oshkosh is no Hollywood, but two motivated minds have been busy creating a local blockbuster in the hopes to put little B’Gosh on the Oscar map. Adam Bartlett and John Pata have put much effort into the creation of their dramatic film Dead Weight, which will premiere on October 28, 2011 at the historic Time Community Theater.

“Dead Weight is the dramatic telling of a survivalist story with strong horror elements. The film tells the story of a man, Charlie (Joseph Belknap), who is searching for his girlfriend, Samantha (Mary Lindberg),” said Bartlett. “They were separated when a viral outbreak hit the United States. It’s a lot about what people do to achieve their goals in adverse conditions.”

With over two years and a month of brainstorming, developing, writing, and rewriting six drafts, the pair have only a few more days of shooting and editing left in June until dedication pays off.

“I think what both of us really wanted to do was to show that you don’t have to be in a big city to be able to do something very productive and successful,” said Pata. “We’re hoping to bring more attention to Wisconsin as well.”

To draw more attention to the local area, the dynamic duo of Bartlett and Pata has kept everything from crew to shooting locations primarily within the Fox Valley.

“Everyone that worked on the movie is from this area, at least a majority, with the exception of a few people from Chicago,” said Bartlett. “All the locations were also found in the neighborhood. It was really amazing to work on something locally that was started here with people that we knew and to see them bring so many skills to the table.”

Discovering the majority of actors in Dead Weight locally as close friends of the producers and directors has developed a tight knit unit between both the cast and crew.

“I worked at a tattoo shop that John frequented and [he] found out that I painted some horror artifacts, and John’s totally into [horror] movies and we would just talk about horror things in general. We just became acquainted through the tattoo shop basically and our mutual love of horror things,” said actor Sam Lenz.

Selecting actors based upon proximity and friendship has led to a crew with résumés of passion for horror and film, and minor childhood play roles.

“I did play the donkey that carried the Virgin Mary through the desert in some church play when I was seven, but they didn’t even have a donkey costume; they just had a bear costume,” said actor Belknap. “So, really, I once played a bear that carried the Virgin Mary across the desert in a church play.”

With the shared amateur status among the cast, the quality of film seemed feeble in its beginnings, but developed as shootingprogressed.

“Watching the rest of the cast bring their characters to life, watching them inject pieces of themselves into their performances, really helped me understand how Charlie fit into all of this,” said Belknap.

The development of characters and plot brought the performance of actors to life, creating a solid foundation for future filming.

“So far, the film has gone far beyond anything that John and I could have hoped for, in terms of quality and the caliber of acting, how all the special effects look, and the fact that this was all done within our core group of people,” said Bartlett.

As a positive experience for the cast and crew, actress Michelle Courvais hopes the film will encourage the community to support local artists, and dare to dream.

“I’m hoping people come away with the idea that there are artists in your own backyard who have stories to tell and that it’s not impossible to make your movie, write your book, or record your music,” she said. “Anything is possible, especially if communities embrace their local arts scene. There are a lot of amazing voices out there waiting to be heard.”

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