One feature in post, one in development for Hurt McDermott’s 2-picture deal with Akru Productions

Filmmaker Hurt McDermott is editing “Black Mail,” the first film in his two-picture deal for executive producer Andrzej Krukowski’s Akru Productions.

In development is the much larger “The Crazy Locomotive,” to be produced for more than $1 million in 2008.

“Black Mail,” is an unromantic comedy about a marriage after the romance has gone out,” which shot here last summer. Taylor Nichols (“Barcelona”) stars as a man who’s being blackmailed over a love letter that he wrote.

It co-stars Kelly Hazen, who starred alongside Krukowski in McDermott’s no-budget techno-thriller “Nightingale in a Music Box,” winner of the best screenplay prize at the 2004 Slamdance Film Festival.

Jim Ortlieb (“Drunkboat”), Steve Key, Andy Rothernberg, and Sarah Krukowska are also featured.

Michael Dunne, who shot “Nightingale” and edited McDermott’s 1999 debut feature “Serious Business,” shot “Black Mail” on HD. Production designer is John Dalton.

McDermott’s regular collaborator Todd Slotten is producing “Black Mail” through their Fergus Films with Kerri Noto.

“Black Mail” shot for 16 days in July and August. A principal location was the 3 Penny Cinema, where they shot shortly after the theatre closed. McDermott saw “Black Mail” star Nichols in “Barcelona” at the 3 Penny in 1994. That night McDermott got a job at the 3 Penny and later went on to cast Nichols in “Serious Business.”

“If the 3 Penny had to be shuttered, I’m glad to have been the swan song,” McDermott said, “a little tribute to that time, which was a great time for American independent film, before the studios took over with their specialty divisions.”

Krukowski is raising the budget for “Crazy Locomotive” from Polish television, where the Polish native and Chicago resident remains active as an actor and producer. The filmmakers are assembling a mixed local and Polish cast and crew.

McDermott is adapting it very loosely from Stanislaw Witkiewicz’s 1923 avant garde Polish play.

“It’s set in a cable network which, in order to get ratings up, promise to get the world’s foremost terrorist on the air,” McDermott said.

Meanwhile, McDermott’s “Nightingale in a Music Box” continues to play at international film festivals.

“We’ve had a couple DVD offers” for “Nightingale,” McDermott said, “but we didn’t think they were the right companies to handle it. We’re hoping with the sale of ?Black Mail’ we’ll get a better deal.”

McDermott is also an accomplished playwright. Hazen starred in his play “The Golden Watch Chain,” the debut production from the Windy City Players, at the Globe Theatre in West Hollywood last fall.

For more on “Black Mail” contact producer Todd Slotten at 847/878-3843. For more on “Crazy Locomotive” call producer Carrie Holt at 312/925-5168.

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