Wednesday, Dec. 14, 6 p.m., Umpqua Community College’s Jacoby Auditorium, 140 Umpqua College Road, Roseburg. Friday, Dec. 16, 7 p.m., Radio Days “Theater of the Mind” Museum, 103 W. Central Ave., Sutherlin. Thursday, Dec. 29, 6 p.m., The Grand Victorian Theatre, 828 N. Old Pacific Highway, Myrtle Creek. Tickets: $8 (added $0.20 online service charge) More info:
Spiderking Studios’ next film is one with a message that co-directors Jake Tranter and Andrew Laniohan spread far and wide.
Titled “Trial By Fire,” the film focuses on characters all trying to deal with their own traumas.
Spiderking Studios is a local production company.
At the center is William, a young veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Tranter, who plays the part, William has turned to some bad coping mechanisms to deal with his trauma.
“He’s very angry with life and how things are,” Tranter said. And then he has a realization after causing a really big scene with his partner — which causes him to do some self reflection.”
William seeks help and it’s at his therapist’s advice that he joins a local community theater group as a form of “positive displacement of negative energy.”
It’s there that William meets Anthony, played by Laniohan. Anthony is the director of the play William joins, even though he has never acted a day in his life. Laniohan was reluctant to share much about Anthony for fear of spoilers, but he described him as empathetic.
“He sees the world through a different set of lenses,” Laniohan said. “Good lenses.”
Tranter, who wrote the script, did disclose that Anthony is also a veteran. Fitting, since both actors are also veterans themselves.
“My character is very different than myself, because obviously I wanted to not only challenge myself as an actor, but kind of show different sides of PTSD,” Tranter said. “I could definitely relate to the character that I’m playing, but there’s some also very self destructive behaviors that I don’t necessarily do.”
Originally, both Tranter and Laniohan were only supposed to be actors for this play. But the original director, also a veteran, backed out. Tranter and Laniohan decided to trade off as directors, something the later described as a connection “on a neurological level.”
“Working with Jake, it was super easy to transition from actor to director and changing those hats,” Laniohan said. “Like I said, it was like we connected on a neurological level with this project.”
This is Laniohan’s third time participating in a Spiderking Studios film, but his first time directing. The hardest part, he said, was ensuring everyone on set maintained a good mindset.
“I was trying to make sure that everybody was okay during certain shoots — because there was a lot of heavy stuff that we had to do in this film — and making sure everybody was still in a good mood and didn’t get downtrodden or anything like that,” Laniohan said. “Just making sure that everyone stayed wholehearted while working on the film.”
This is a film with a rather heavy message, but one Laniohan was eager to be a part of.
“In a world full of films that are all about action or adult content, we don’t have very many poignant stories that have a purpose,” he said. “It’s a story with a message and when it reaches people... they’re going to walk out feeling a whole lot better about whatever’s going on in their life and that right there’s a win for me.”
Tranter said that message has to do with something called the lighthouse theory. It’s about finding a beacon of light in your life — a passion, hobby or some sort of activity — and using it to overcome the negative in your life. Most of the characters are veterans, Tranter said, but the message is meant for everyone.
“That’s really dumbing it down. It really is expanded within the movie,” Tranter said.
Erica Reynolds is the special section editor for The News-Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-957-4218.
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