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Lake Oswego man makes 'Dark Dungeons' movie

LOHS grad J.R. Ralls will show his film in Lake Oswego on Sept. 5


Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - J.R. Ralls is a 36-year-old Lake Oswego resident who's making his own movie.What’s the best place to debut a film about role-playing games and dark magic?

For Lake Oswego High School graduate J.R. Ralls, the answer was Gen Con, the best-attended gaming convention on the globe, which drew more than 50,000 enthusiasts to Indianapolis.

There, Ralls, 36, got the chance to show off his first film, “Dark Dungeons,” which is based on Jack Chick’s eponymous 1984 comic about two girls, Debbie and Marcie, who are drawn into the occult world of role-playing games. The girls become addicted to the games, and Debbie taps into dark magical forces.

Ralls’ take on the tale will show in Lake Oswego next month at the Lake Theater & Cafe, and this Saturday at the Academy Theater in Portland.

“I read the story back in 1999 in college when I first encountered Jack Chick’s comics, and I was blown away by how sincere it was and by how earnest it was. I thought that would just be a tremendous thing to film,” Ralls said.Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: DARK DUNGEONS MOVIE STILL - One of the characters in 'Dark Dungeons,' a J.R. Ralls movie, faces an invitation from a witch coven.

Ralls had dreamed of making movies since he carried his dad’s VHS recorder around on a strap, capturing the world on tape. When the Internet marketing specialist won $1,094 in the lottery last year, he saw his chance and asked Chick for the rights. Chick gave them without even asking for a fee.

Ralls then pursued funding through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding organization. People from throughout the world reached into theirPhoto Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - J.R. Ralls is making the movie 'Dark Dungeons' with the love and whole-hearted blessing of his wife, Suzy Ralls. pockets to support him, raising $25,000 — twice his $12,500 goal.

“People just really responded to the idea and really liked it,” Ralls said. “That’s the nice thing about crowdfunding. It’s a much different experience than it is with traditional investments, because you’re really trying to gear your effort to the fans.”

Partnering with producing company Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, Ralls worked with fans to shape the film. After he’d put the movie together, he screened it, and the feedback changed the film in a variety of ways. For example, a computer-generated image of dice in the film had sixes on one side and twos on the other, but dice always have a one opposite a six. The opposite sides of dice always add up to seven, so Ralls made the change.

After lots of tinkering and toiling, Ralls — who is the film’s writer and executive producer — says the kinks are now ironed out.

Fellow “Dark Dungeons” producer Ben Rapson said Ralls is always “at least half-smiling,” even when he’s serious — and he most definitely is when it comes to this movie.

“It really feels like this project is extremely important to him, not just for his own sake but really that he gets it right,” Rapson said. “He places a really, really high expectation on himself and on the team to really nail it as an adaptation, so that comes across.”Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: DARK DUNGEONS MOVIE STILL - J.R. Ralls' 'Dark Dungeons' is a firey film about role playing games.

Ralls is no stranger to hard work, having earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Willamette University and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on history at Marylhurst University. As a father to a 3-year-old and 2-year-old, both of whom have birthdays next month, he’s also used to a hectic schedule.

His wife, Suzy Ralls, said he’s so much happier since he’s embarked upon “Dark Dungeons” and left his previous job in Internet marketing. He did so with her blessing.

“I said, ‘If you love this and it’s what you really want to do, then just quit and I’ll support you,’” said Suzy Ralls, who works at TriQuint, a wireless technology company in Hillsboro.

J.R. Ralls said his wife has been understanding, and they’re both hoping the film will make a profit.

“I’ve always wanted to make a movie, and even if it doesn’t work out, no one can take away the fact that I’ve accomplished a lifelong dream,” he said.

How to attend

See “Dark Dungeons” at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at Lake Theater & Cafe, 106 N. State St., Lake Oswego. There’s a question-and-answer session with J.R. Ralls at 6:30 p.m. You can let J.R. and Suzy Ralls known you're coming by using this link: www.facebook.com/events/290338724471344/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming.

Or, catch the movie at 12 a.m. Saturday at the Academy Theater, 7818 SE Stark St., Portland. Doors open at 11:30 p.m., and Ralls will give a Q & A. The cost is $3 per person at both showings. The Academy Theater showing is for ages 21 and older. Learn more at www.academytheaterpdx.com/special-events.

To buy a copy of the movie or to see it online, visit darkdungeonsthemovie.com.

It is voltage regulator module (VRM) free, meaning that once you buy the right to watch it, you get to keep it and watch it in perpetuity.


By Jillian Daley
Reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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