First there was Hollywood. Then there was Bollywood. Now the West End.
OK, not exactly. There are plenty of things missing from The Last Shot — flashy graphics, slick Hollywood production and Academy Award-winning acting, to name a few — but the people involved in it are amateurs with big dreams.
What’s so amazing about The Last Shot, a new movie about teenage life filmed in the West End that will have its world premiere Sunday, is the story behind the story.
The filmmakers — who never thought they’d actually make anything close to a real movie — didn’t receive money from the Cincinnati Film Commission or get a big backer to fund their project. They did find a little help from donors, enough to buy a camera and some simple video editing equipment and to cover some personal expenses. They also took classes at Media Bridges and borrowed some of their equipment.
Not knowing much about how to make things like this happen, 22-year-old Joe Prather Campbell navigated through a clash of generations and cultures that somehow blossomed into a partnership and kinship that transcended the differences.
College Hill husband and wife Michael and Joan Hoxsey, 77 and 72 respectively, became mentors in the West End, where they met with several young people accustomed to the area’s rough streets.
“I didn’t know what to think about (the Hoxseys),” says Prather Campbell, who wrote, directed and stars in The Last Shot. “Then I started to talk to them and really got to know them, and it turned into a friendship.”
Prather Campbell says he quickly found out it wasn’t another you-tell-me-what-I-need-to-do-to-make-my-life-better exchange, but a listening and collaborative affair.
“I thought they was going to be the type of people to tell us what to do and that they wouldn’t understand from a younger person’s perspective,” he says.
“Once we sat down for a while … they really wanted to hear what we had to say.”
It’s fair to say everyone involved learned a lot.
“They never know who has a gun,” Joan Hoxsey says. “How do you live with that? What they told me is that they just don’t think about it.”
The Last Shot draws on Prather Campbell’s life experiences and was filmed on the streets and in the buildings of Cincinnati, mostly in the West End. He wrote the script two years ago because he was bored at home one day, he says, never thinking it would go anywhere. An early meeting with the Hoxseys led to a suggestion to make a documentary.
“They talked about making a video,” Prather Campbell said. “Then nobody wanted to do it. They thought that was kinda boring, and I told them I had a movie (script).”
Before filming began, one of the boys involved, Jason Warren, was shot and killed in the West End. The movie is dedicated to him and to another guy they called The Couch, a towering 6-foot-9 18-year-old who had a talent for basketball. He got his nickname because of his size but also because he always seemed tired.
The Hoxseys used to give The Couch a ride home to Mount Airy because it was near their home. One day he mentioned he wasn’t allowed to play basketball anymore because he apparently had a heart condition.
Days after that conversation The Couch died, collapsing on his bathroom floor after taking a shower. He’d had a heart attack.
“That was really, really tough,” Joan Hoxsey says, adding that his death added to the negativity swirling around the kids nearly every day. “Virtually every one of them knows someone who has been killed.”
Prather Campbell says he based his script on a compilation of the lives his friends live, not one person. The movie won’t win any awards in its present form, just maybe a few hearts — and that’s what it needs more than anything.
With a little financial help this movie could gain a wider audience. That’s why tickets are $40 apiece for the premiere, which is a fundraiser to help the filmmakers get the West End to feel a little more Hollywood.
Above all, Prather Campbell wants respect for him and his friends.
“Our best hope is that we get noticed for the talent we got,” he says. “And they give them opportunities to get a job or get ahead in life.”
The premiere is 5 p.m. Sunday at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. Get ticket information at 513-259- 9000 or TheLastShot@fuse.net.
CONTACT JOE WESSELS: firstname.lastname@example.org