Friday, September 3, 2010

A Florida Ghost Story

Long before Burt Reynolds stepped onto the boards of Florida's Lake Worth Playhouse in the 1960s, it was known as the Oakley Theater in honor of founding brothers Clarence and Lucien Oakley. As Pierre Rivard, Company Manager for the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theater discovered this summer while on location producing the fact-based contemporary supernatural drama Lumiere Fantome, at least one of the siblings is still very much involved in the theater's day-to-day operations.

"When we shot some test scenes at the theater, one picture showed a ghost sitting in the audience," recalls Rivard during an interview with FilmStew. "That freaked me right out! I was there when the picture was taken and it hasn't been altered in any way."

"My friend Amy Hoerler, who stars in the movie, also took a picture which clearly shows a ghost," he adds. "Both pictures are on the movie website. We believe it is Lucien, who it is said still haunts the theater. The fact that his brother Clarence died of a heart attack a year to the day of Lucien's suicide just adds to the legend of the brothers."

Commingling brothers Oakley and Lumiere

Given the potent story of the Oakley brothers and its brush with everything from a devastating 1928 hurricane to the Great Depression, it's rather astonishing that it has taken this long for the material to make it onto the big screen. Appropriately enough, Lumiere Fantome will world premiere on September 17th at the Lake Worth Playhouse as part of the L-Dub Film Festival.

The 42-year-old Rivard, who hails from Montreal, Canada, says he and Fantome collaborator Scotty Fusion initially had no intention of revisiting the spooky Oakley family history. But that all changed when Fusion took on a lighting design assignment at the Playhouse.

"Scotty experienced a lot of weird scary stuff there, while alone at night," Rivard reveals. "He of course had heard of the Oakley ghost. The L-Dub event was coming up, and Scotty told me that we could shoot a movie there if we wanted."

Company Manager Rivard

"During production, one of our actresses, [BRIFT Chair] Suzanne Niedland, was almost disfigured by falling metal pipes," he adds. "The pipes fell from nowhere, on their own. Her character is the Angel of Death, who is responsible for taking the life essence of Lucien and Clarence. A lot of weird stuff happened like that while on the set."

One of the bonuses of making a SAG eligible indie connected to BRIFT personnel is that Rivard was able to get Reynolds to look at a rough cut and give his valuable input. The independent production companies of Rivard and Fusion own the film, with plans to take it onto the film festival circuit after a possible second inaugural screening at BRIFT. Ideally, Rivard says he would love to see the movie remade by Hollywood with a bigger budget.

"We would not have been able to make the movie without a cast as strong as the one we have," Rivard raves. "Peter Marzilli (Clarence Oakley) is SAG eligible and was was just on Burn Notice recently. Greg Albrecht (Lucien Oakley) just wrapped a movie with Mira Sorvino and after our production, flew back to Hollywood to audition for an Adam Sandler movie. Both are students of Mr. Reynolds' Master Classes.".

Angel of Death Niedlander

"Suzanne is a multi-talented national treasure!" he continues, "She has her own production company, BusEye Films, and has been a student of Mr. Reynolds for over twenty years. Last but not least is Amy Hoerler. Readers might remember her from Bravo's The It Factor. She is as talented as she is beautiful."

Intriguingly, Rivard and Fusion are also in the process of trying to raise funds to purchase a plaque for the unmarked grave site of Clarence. Among this brother's many accomplishments besides the co-founding of a theater were the 1909 book Dyke's Corner, about a magical photo camera, service in World War I and valuable personal contributions to the Free Mason movement.

[Lumiere Fantome]

1 comment: