DV feature “Equinox” and short start non-profit theater group’s film entr?e

New Theater Collective’s expansion into film is in full swing, with two projects in production.

Natalie Berning’s DV feature “Equinox” shoots weekends in Wisconsin from now through the end of February. And Michael Cowan’s 16mm short “Vanyasa” started its two-week production in Bucktown earlier in January.

As president of the non-profit New Theater Collective (NTC), Valerie Black-Mallon is executive producer of both films. She is also an actress; she was the lead in Chris Ruffatto’s feature “The Zoo Project” for Awake Films and filmed in Vancouver.

“We created NTC because we saw artists with amazing talent and ideas get bogged down in paperwork and administration, things they were not equipped to handle,”she said, “and we thought we could fill in those gaps for them.”

Berning and star Jason Denuszek (“What Are You Having?”) adapted “Equinox” from Eric Reda’s play, which Berning directed in its world premiere at the Bailiwick Arts Center in early 2003.

Denuszek and Chris Genebach play fraternal twins who reunite on their 30th birthday to reconcile their dark past. The hotel room, where the play is set, is the sole location for principal photography. The room is actually upstairs from an aluminum factory owned by DP Andrew Rostad’s grandfather in Grafton, Wisconsin, outside Milwaukee.

Berning shot some footage at Rostad Aluminum in August and cut together a trailer to raise additional funds. After wrapping the Grafton location, the filmmakers plan additional shooting in the Southwestern U.S. to provide the flavor of the story’s Phoenix setting.

Black-Mallon expressed strong hopes for the film’s prospects. “It could do really well on the festival circuit and get a distribution deal,” she said. “Or if a studio wanted to take it off our hands and re-shoot it, I think the script has great potential for a Hollywood film. There are two really meaty roles for the lead actors, and some wonderful scenes about resolution and revenge and relationships between fathers and sons.”

A fund-raiser for “Equinox” will be held Feb. at the Milwaukee Turner Hall Feb. 28.

Black-Mallon co-founded New Theater Collective in August 2002 to produce Richard Strand’s “The Bug” at Chicago Dramatists. Co-founders were “Bug” director Leslie Chariper, and stars Karlie Nurse and Joe Sherman.

“Equinox” producer is Annie Price. Rostad and Peter Dolan are editing at their company Mediabeyond, Inc. Casting by Stephanie Wayland.

See www.equinoxfilm.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com.