“Leach” is a local Indianapolis independent film that was written, directed, and produced by John Taylor. It stars Jim Dougherty as Wes, an amateur filmmaker struggling with his project and crew’s motivation until a chance encounter with police officer, Ron Leach played by Thomas J. Smith gives him new hope with his assistance. Consequently Wes owes Leach a favor and becomes entangled in this dirty cop’s games and has to find a way to protect his kids and wife played by Libby McDermott. “Leach” was shot all over Anderson, Indiana in all manner of locations with the support of the local police and fire departments.
As a supporter of local filmmaking, I’d first like to congratulate John Taylor (Writer/Director/Producer) and all his cast and crew for joining together to make a feature-length film, his third in fact. As a former filmmaker myself, I can understand all of the challenges of getting people together who are talented and motivated to put so much time aside just for you and your work. And after everything is recorded, post production is a long, difficult, plodding process as you try to assemble all your footage in the most meaningful/funny/scary/whatever way. Then at the end of the day, you have this film in your hand….and you have to seek out an audience for your screening that will talk it up to others so more people might get to see it. What is exciting about local independent filmmaking is that everyday people as well as actors get to be involved in the process and get to see their town on film. A film belongs to everyone involved in it and it’s a special feeling.
The screening for “Leach” was held at the Hamilton Imax in Noblesville, my favorite theater– lots of room, comfy seats, and popcorn seasonings! A large group of people came out for the screening, it wasn’t sold out, but it was mostly full and you could not ask for a more supportive audience. The lead actor, Jim Dougherty made a long round of introductions of cast and crew, each of which received enthusiastic applause. He warned us about the low budget of the film and asked us to keep it in mind when viewing.
Let me say first that with this film, the budget was NOT an issue, not even close. In fact, the first images of the film have such startling clarity, it was unexpected. The look of the film is fantastic in quality. The director used some odd camera angles from time to time and increased the indy look of the film and made the tone more dark, but this technique did not enhance the story. For example, one scene was shot entirely in the reflection of a window that gave the scene a 3D look without the glasses so everything was doubled and blurry. It was a lengthy scene filled with dialogue and induces a headache. It was only after discussing the movie in the car that the conclusion was reached that it must have been a flashback.
Again, most scenes were shot in stunning clarity, but there was an abundance of close-up shots that seemed unnecessary. Not because anyone was unpleasant to look at, but the only actor who seemed completely at ease and comfortably natural in close-up shots was Libby McDermott who was playing Wes’ wife. McDermott deserves praise for how at ease she was in her role, never falling into overplaying, and being gutsy enough to be shown from the back in a shower scene.
Jim Dougherty had the difficult task of playing Wes who among being in a sticky situation with the law enforcement in the area was also a recovering alcoholic and concerned about religious repercussions of his actions. Wes was not a likable character by any means, his faults were stacked to the ceiling. After coming off with a bit of comedy in the beginning by cross-dressing for a scene in the movie Wes was shooting, he proceeds to demonstrate the estranged relationship he had orchestrated with his beautiful wife who miraculously wanted more “alone” time with him despite him wearing a skirt at that moment. Other characters talk about how much Wes loves his children, but he never spends any time with them. The second a source of stress pops up in his life, he starts drinking and drops all his closest friends if they don’t ask how high when he says jump. Also the character of Wes makes some pretty poor decisions with how to handle situations.
Thomas J. Smith projected from his very first scene that he was going to be a dirty cop who might tell people they have a “purty mouth.” The sleaze just oozes off him from the beginning so there’s unfortunately no surprise when his character actually unleashes his dark side. Mad props have to be given for Leach’s performance in Wes’ film as an interrogator with a cowboy hat and ridiculous mustache. It was one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
Another point worth mentioning for this “low budget” film was that the quality of sound equipment was pretty amazing too because every word the actors said could be heard, nothing was muffled. That being said, the mixing was tough. Shoes scraping the cement and birds chirping became deafening noises in the theater. Granted, the audio was turned up too loud for this movie in the theater but everyday background noises assaulted the ears. Occasionally a choice was made to put in a loud lengthy sound that can only be described as someone leaning on their car horn in the background to up the tension, but the worst choice of the film was putting that noise at full volume through the entire opening credits. It was used to make the audience feel uncomfortable and get ready for an edgy thriller movie where more startling things would happen, but it was painful and I had to give up trying to be polite and had to plug my ears to get through those credits.
Some scenes were out of sequential order to explain some back story of when the family moved to another house. It was done in a confusing way because the impression was given that the family moved multiple times! There was also an interesting “Sexual Harassment” Orientation video shoved in the movie for bizarre comic relief. It seemed like it was a short film made on the side entirely unrelated and then put in for fun. It WAS very funny and silly, but it made it hard to take the actress playing the boss seriously later when she tried to help Wes.
All in all, there are some improvements that could be made and a lot of good things were learned here for future projects. Supporting local filmmaking is very important and should be encouraged. I very much look forward to this company’s future film projects because this is an earnest, passionate bunch of cast and crew. This is a talented group of people and to keep tabs on their progress in the future, check out these websites for more information.