‘Bit Of Hollywood’ In The ’Burg
Film About Suicide Also Principals’ Homecoming
Posted: December 29, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Most everything was normal at the Bar-B-Q Ranch restaurant in Harrisonburg last week.
French fries were in the cooker, the smell of barbecue drifted through the air and 15 people sat ready to eat the untouched pork sandwiches sitting in front of them.
But amid the white-and-red-checkered tablecloths and the pig bric-a-brac lining the wood-paneled walls was something clearly out of place: a film crew of more than a dozen people operating a $500,000 camera.
As one crew member put it, “a little bit of Hollywood in Harrisonburg.”
The scene was set for a short film called “Check Out,” which was filmed over four days in Harrisonburg just before Christmas.
Given that the film’s main contributors are originally from, or live in, the area — Ty Strickler, Sing Howe Yam and Tim Estep — the sandwich-making landmark on Harrisonburg’s north side proved a sensible shooting location, much to the delight of the eatery’s owners.
“I just think it’s fantastic,” said Faye Bland, owner of Bar-B-Q Ranch, who was serving hot sandwiches to extras sitting in the booths.
For entertainment professionals Strickler, Yam and Estep, the film project — more than a decade in the works — provided a welcome opportunity to unite on a poignant project.
The film is about a man who is looking to commit suicide and a girl he meets who tries to intervene. Strickler, a Harrisonburg High School alumnus and Los Angeles filmmaker, hopes the film opens people’s eyes to suicide and how people who are contemplating taking their own lives feel.
“We’re not sugarcoating it,” said Strickler, who co-wrote the film’s script with Estep and is directing. “If [the film] just makes somebody stop and think for a minute, then it did its job.”
Estep, 34, a Harrisonburg resident, wrote the first version of the script based on a short story he read and is producing the film. Estep, a writer, producer and director, has focused on documentary work for the last four years. His credits include a small role in “The Replacements” and a production assistant gig on “Hearts in Atlantis.” He also produced the 2008 film “Familiar Strangers.”
“Everybody could take something different [from this story],” Estep said. “I think it will kind of stay with you; it makes you think [and] it doesn’t hand you all the answers.”
The story especially resonated with Strickler, who had recently lost a good friend at the time Estep brought him the script.
“You’ll never do justice ever for the people who have lost somebody [to suicide],” Strickler said.
But Estep, Strickler and cinematographer Yam, also a Harrisonburg High School graduate, are at least trying to raise awareness of the issue.
“I’m trying to not make it taboo anymore,” Strickler said.
Yam, 26, also lives in Los Angeles and has found success shooting music videos for artists like The Killers, Willie Nelson and T.I.
“This is the first time I’ve done a job in my professional career [in Harrisonburg],” Yam said, adding that it was good to get back to Virginia and work on a project in his hometown.
Once completed, Estep said the film may be screened locally and will likely be submitted to film festivals.
Others with local connections who worked on the film include Brent Finnegan of Harrisonburg, who was in charge of the sound, and Estep’s wife, April Sedeen Estep, of Harrisonburg, who served as production designer.
“It feels really good to be working with people who have local connections who are all trying to make it in the film industry,” said Finnegan.
Other friends of the filmmakers came from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia Beach and Los Angeles to lend a hand.
“It’s impossible to make a film by yourself,” Strickler said. “It is all these creative people coming together to tell one story. I’m just absolutely amazed at how great this crew is.”
The equipment used to film the movie is also worth some amazement. The camera is the same one that shot much of the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” Strickler said.
“Everything you see in that truck,” he said, looking toward a box truck housing a plethora of equipment, “is everything you would see if you went to a Spielberg film [set].”
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Want To Know More?
More information about the film can be found at www.checkoutfilm.com