Film pros set to make Chicago a ‘home grown film hub’

GripWrite Productions partners, key grip Danial Miller and writer Timothy Morgan, are producing their first film, “The Casket,” a dramatic 27-minute short, the first of three “home grown projects” ready for production.

The story is about an extremely wealthy and temperamental father’s request beyond- the-grave that his three estranged sons build his coffin in order to receive their inheritance.

It’s based on a quip Miller once made to Morgan at a family gathering. ”Danny said something about making him a pine box instead of an expensive casket when he dies and it stayed with me a long time,” and he ran with the idea, Morgan says.

The partners started GripWrite with three screenplays in hand, all budgeted at several million dollars. “We decided to make ‘The Casket,’ first, because we could put it together as a short,” Miller says.

Before returning to Chicago a year ago, Morgan lived in Los Angeles where he was on the writing team of Fox’s “Prison Break” and a writer/researcher on other projects. He began writing “The Casket” script five months ago.

McHenry was ideally suited as the location and also because the production team lived nearby.  The house of Miller’s friend was transformed into the family home where the brothers sort through their emotions and a lifetime of conflicts.

In the cast were local actors Tommy Kotek, Ryan Larkin, Annie Hogan and Peter Herold.

Timothy Morgan, venter, with actors Tom Kotek, Ryan LarkinAnnie Hogan and Peter HeroldCinematographer was TV series pro Bill Neilson  (“Sirens,” “Masters of Sex”); Normann Pokorny, producer/first AD; Danny Miller, Jr., art director/special effects; Rick LeFevour, stunts; executive producer, David Barrie, Jr., a partner in Gripwriter. Bayley Pokorny is editing and original music is in the works.

Production costs are estimated at $40,000, lower than anticipated thanks to Miller’s long-time contacts who donated equipment and services.

With a July 31 completion deadline, the producers are planning on a premiere/fund-raiser at Barrington’s Catlow Theater, sometime in late August.  From there, they will enter the short in select festivals.

Plans also include posting it on Vimeo as a way to interest investors in extending the short to a feature.

“We want to keep the production cycle going here, to level the ebb and flow of work” says Miller, “and we are going to make it happen.”