Kevin Riordan: In Haddonfield, a crew of 70 works to produce a film promo to get more funding

David Boorboor directs a trailer for his proposed film, "The Underground," a time-shifting supernatural tale of a young boy in the present, a ghostly group of 19th century slaves, and a secret tunnel.
David Boorboor directs a trailer for his proposed film, "The Underground," a time-shifting supernatural tale of a young boy in the present, a ghostly group of 19th century slaves, and a secret tunnel. (KEVIN RIORDAN / Staff)
Posted: October 11, 2011

The title: The Underground.

The pitch: Ten-year-old boy encounters runaway slave's ghost in his backyard.

The ask: From $15 million to $20 million.

"Action," filmmaker David Boorboor calmly commands, studying a monitor under a tangle of lights and cables.

Boorboor's crew and I are cramming the hallway at Dave and Janice Hunt's Haddonfield home. The 135-year-old fantasia of Italianate architecture on Kings Highway is the set for a promo reel to attract financing to make the movie.

Penned by Willingboro screenwriting partners Craig Robbins and Holly Zuelle, the proposed full-length feature is to be a time-shifting supernatural tale of a present-day boy named Mattie, a ghostly group of 19th-century slaves, and a secret tunnel.

The passageway has been built above ground in the Hunts' yard, on which 70 people - mostly aspiring young film professionals - descended at daybreak Saturday. Boorboor spotted the landmark house two months ago while scouting locations.

Maintenance man Francis J. Krupulis, who hopes to direct movies, drove three hours from Hazleton, Pa., to volunteer as a production assistant.

Noree Victoria, who plays a slave named Rachel, flew in from Atlanta. And recent film school graduate Sara Gladney of Chesterbrook volunteered to be a runner, doing errands of the moment.

Not even Boorboor is being paid a salary.

"This is a networking event," Gladney says. "This business is all about who you know."

The crew works from dawn to dusk and beyond as the two-day shoot extends into the wee hours of Monday. The atmosphere blends a "let's put on a show" spirit with the technological savvy required to create images that persuade producers to write checks.

"We're nuts is what we are," says Boorboor, 38, an affable Marine Corps veteran in a beret who seems to be everywhere at once.

His camera rolls as traffic roars, church bells clang, and Libby, the Hunts' unflappable Weimaraner, keeps a hopeful eye on the catered spread.

"My office is now the prop room," says Dave Hunt, 52, sitting amid a visual cacophony of set decorations.

"It's our first movie shoot," adds Janice Hunt, 50. She's donating the $200 location fee to "Lights, Camera, Action," a fund-raising drive to upgrade equipment in the Haddonfield Memorial High School auditorium.

The Hunts' daughter, New York University cinema studies major Sarah Landis, has ridden the Bolt bus from Manhattan to get hands-on experience as location manager - literally in her own backyard.

"It's fascinating," says Landis, whose responsibilities include the parking arrangements.

The making of the promo began long before the first truck pulled up to the family's driveway, notes Boorboor.

The Voorhees resident has directed, edited, produced, written or otherwise contributed to nearly 20 shorts and documentaries since graduating from Rowan University in 2002.

"Four months of work for two minutes of film," Boorboor says. "We're doing what would be a $70,000 production on a shoestring, to present to the major studios."

The roughly $10,000 to make the promo has come from family and friends.

A backyard shot finished, the crew sets up yet another, this one on the front porch of the Hunts' house, where a false set of doors has been installed.

Actors play Mattie and his big sister, Elizabeth, as they come home for the first time since their father's death.

The camera is positioned at the top of the stairwell, which has been dressed with artwork.

A bank of fluorescent lights is hoisted into place above the stairs.

"I see some speckles on the floor," Boorboor says, his face inches from the monitor. "Can someone clean that up?

"Perfect," he says. "Can someone motion [actress Megan Elizabeth Gaber] through the window?"

The director puts on his headset.

"Action."

Mattie and Elizabeth enter the hallway. "Cut!" Boorboor says, calling for another take.

The second time turns out to be the charm.

"Cut. Print!"


Contact staff writer Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845, kriordan@phillynews.com, or @inqkriordan on Twitter. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at http://www.philly.com/blinq.

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