The premiere of "Meeting the Wickersons" by a Wilmington University senior is happening at the Smyrna Opera House because of a Facebook post and a 1965 Buick Skylark convertible.
The premiere of a new film by a Wilmington University senior is happening at the Smyrna Opera House because of a Facebook post and a 1965 Buick Skylark convertible.
Director and producer Jonny Duerr of Dover will host the screening of his first feature-length film, "Meeting the Wickersons," Friday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Plans include a Hollywood-type entrance by Duerr and the three leading actors, up the front staircase of the Opera House on South Main Street. And that ’65 Buick will be parked out front – weather permitting.
Since the move is set in 1972, Duerr posted a notice on Facebook, asking if anyone had a car from that time period that could be used in a few scenes.
Monika Dougherty of Smyrna replied to the notice and offered her ’65 Buick. And because she’s a member of the Smyrna Opera House Guild, she suggested that Duerr consider holding the movie premiere at the Opera House and to check with the Opera House executive director.
Dougherty said they filmed all the scenes with her car in one day.
“I was able to go and watch,” Dougherty said. “They shot scenes from different days in the movie, so it was interesting to see all the work that went into making sure everything in the scene was correct for the characters at that point in the story. They had to have all the right props, the right outfits.”
Dougherty even lent a hand in the filmmaking process.
“I helped a bit with the lighting, just walking around holding lights where they needed them, especially late in the day when it started getting dark,” she said.
Meanwhile, back at the Opera House, executive director Bernadette Sahm got to see the film before scheduling the premiere and asked her husband to check it out, too.
“It held our interest as we were teenagers in 1972, the time the film was set,” said Sahm. “We could appreciate the attention to detail in the fashions and staging. I am not going to say that I have a thumbs up or down vote on it, but I certainly could appreciate the amount of work that went into creating it.”
Sahm said the premiere is a natural partnership to help promote and showcase local talent from Kent County.
The film’s director and producer graduated from Polytech in 2008 where he was involved in acting, radio, and TV. Now, Duerr is getting ready to graduate from Wilmington University with a degree in film directing.
“Meeting the Wickersons” is his senior project, but he also plans to enter it in film festivals.
To make the movie, he called on some of his friends from Polytech, Kara Boland, with whom he co-wrote the screenplay, and Lance Williams. Boland and Williams are two of the lead actors in the film, along with Boland’s friend, Nicole Samuel, from Philadelphia. They all volunteered their time.
Filming took about three weeks, and was mostly done in Dover with the exception of a scene at The Young Bean in Clayton; however, the entire process from conception to editing took about eight months.
Duerr said the movie isn’t for everybody. He described it as a drama and a dark comedy.
“It’s an experimental film,” he said. “It’s not the typical story-telling process. It’s more risky. I think it has the potential to be a cult film with a niche following, but it’s not the kind of film that will have mass appeal.”
The story revolves around a woman who is being interviewed by a parapsychiatrist, who finds out “some dark things about her family history,” Duerr said.
After the screening, Duerr and the actors will hold a question-and-answer session with the audience.
And he said there may be a lot of questions.
“It’s a bizarre film. There are some scenes people might not get,” he said. “I’ve had some people like everything, while others have said it’s really off-kilter.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT Premiere of the film “Meeting the Wickersons”
WHERE Smyrna Opera House, 7 W. South St., Smyrna
WHEN 7 p.m. Friday, May 16
TICKETS $5, available at the box office through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling 653-4236, or online at smyrnaoperahouse.org