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Lights, camera, exorcism

Wilson HS alumni film meta horror-comedy in Southwest


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: ZACH SHIVERS - Kyle Steinbach, who helped write, produce and direct 'Bad Exorcists.'

Even though many teenagers aspire to be filmmakers during their high school years, few end up actually pursuing their passion later in life. But with a new independent movie titled “Bad Exorcists,” a group of 20-somethings alumni of Wilson High School are determined to finally make their dream a reality.

Collin Davis, Louie Sloss and Kyle Steinbach, all 24, and 22-year-old Zach Shivers comprise the “Bad Exorcists” production team.

The collaboration has been a long time in coming.

Back in high school, “we were all working on different projects, and a lot of them had overlap,” Steinbach said, “but I think this is the first one that we’ve all worked on together.”

In January 2012, he started toying with the idea for a movie about a group of teenage filmmakers who are working on a movie about exorcism when their lead actor actually ends up possessed by demons. He started working on a script.

“Both Louie and Zach kind of helped me hone it in, harness what I was trying to say,” Steinbach recalled. “All those paranormal activities, found-footage movies, they seemed very funny to me, and I just kept going back to that. … Horror and comedy meshes up so well, I just wanted to write something that was a little different than a normal, mainstream comedy.”

When it came time to start casting the leading roles, Steinbach, now a production assistant on “The Office,” turned to his longtime friend and fellow Wilson alumnus Alex Knapp, 23, a production assistant on “The Good Wife.”

“We had talked … over winter break, when we were all back in Portland, about how (Steinbach) had been writing a movie, and maybe somewhere down the line we would make it, and there was a character or two I could play, and I definitely wanted to read it,” Knapp said. “It got to the point where I was like, ‘If you’re making this movie, I want to do it. … Talk to Louie and Zach about it.’”

Shooting was scheduled to take place during the summer, but Knapp’s bosses agreed to let him miss the first three weeks off shooting the new season of “The Good Wife” to finish shooting “Bad Exorcists" in Portland.

“The dream is to make a movie in Portland,” Steinbach said. “We all — Louie and Colin and I — were living in Los Angeles, which is like the opposite of Portland, the worst place. … Alex is in New York. … We all just wanted to go back to, kind of our, roots. We wanted to get back to Portland because we’ve made these projects that were just, like, kind of fun or silly or whatever in Portland — and those memories were very important … and it’s like, ‘If I want to make real movies, why not try to capture that energy with a full project?’”

Davis agreed.

“Getting the chance to shoot this with all the bros like we did in high school and sort of come back to the comfort zone of Southwest Portland was super positive,” he said. “And to have the chance to do that and get the reception that we did there, and ... work with the community there again, it was a great thing for me personally, and I will be excited to do it again.”

Coming full circle in their hometown also meant that they would be able to shoot on the cheap.

“Portland was the place where we had the most connections, the most people,” Shivers said. “So if we needed a house that had a hot tub … between all of us, we knew we had places where we could shoot for free. … It was a place that everyone working on it knew, and it was easy to find people to help us out.”

This eagerness on the part of fellow Southwest Portlanders past and present extended beyond location scouting; much of the cast auditioned at the Multnomah Arts Center, and the 20-something cast of “Bad Exorcists” included two Wilson alumni — Claire Berger, ’09, and Lucas Cruzen, ’08.

Shooting took about a month. Now, the real fun begins. Steinbach has launched a Kickstarter campaign to make “Bad Exorcists” a good movie.

“The point of the Kickstarter was to raise money for these additional, key polishing services,” Shivers explained. “We got everybody that we knew that had a skill related to film to work on this project, but there’s a few things … left. … Our extended group of filmmakers did not include people with these skills, so we have to pay a professional to do it.”

They are seeking $1,000 for music composition, $5,000 for color correction, $6,000 for visual effects and $8,000 for sound design — $20,000 total.

In just five days, they were halfway to reaching their goal.

“As far as the editing and the finishing of our stuff goes, it’s inspirational to see that people actually care to see what we can come up with,” Davis said, “so it’s a lot of positive energy going into it right now.”