Producer Keida Mascaro will offer a look at how a feature film gets made

Film producer Keida Mascaro says the wealth of immigrant stories to be found in the Columbus area, combined with a 30 percent tax credit for film productions in Ohio, provided him with a powerful incentive to create his next film here in Columbus. He’ll explain how that project is coming together on Thursday, March 22 at the Columbus Museum of Art in the first event of a new series called “Meet Your Creative Community.”

The five workshops, to be spaced out over two years, will give attendees “a look under the hood” of the creation of a feature film, says Mascaro, and the series will unfold in something like real time. Topics covered in Thursday’s workshop will include research and development, the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit and writing the screenplay—which is exactly where Mascaro’s yet-to-be-named feature now stands. He and writer Jeffrey Newman are currently conducting research as well as raising funds and preparing to write the script and submit their application for a tax credit for the film, which is budgeted to cost $2.5 million.

“It’s kind of like a barn-raising,” says Mascaro, “because you have to do everything at the same time.” The workshop will be practical in its approach, he says. “It’s one thing to go to film school. But you’re still left with questions like, ‘How do you approach people for money?’ ”

Mascaro, a graduate of Linworth Alternative High School in Worthington, has lived in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles but returned to Columbus in 2008 to earn an MFA at Ohio State. He now lives and works in Franklinton; his most recent production is the thriller “Confessions of an Exorcist,” which he also filmed in Columbus and which is slated for a theatrical release later this year.

This new project is entirely different, says Mascaro. It aims to tell the fictional-but-based-on-real-life story of a refugee from the Congo who lands in Columbus. To gather background for the script, Mascaro and Newman are interviewing immigrants and refugees throughout Central Ohio. The filmed interviews will not only inform the feature film but will also be included in a documentary series that Mascaro and Newman are producing concurrently with hopes of cable distribution.

The feature film, says Mascaro, will focus on a Congolese refugee’s first 60 days in the U.S. “It’s really to give the viewer an immersive look at what it’s like to come in this climate to a country like ours from a place like the Congo,” he says. The character, still in development, is likely to have been a child soldier or have had other traumatic first-hand experience with brutal warfare.

A second character in the film will be an American veteran of the first Gulf War who has suffered his own trauma and is studying to become a therapist. “It allows us to build some parallels between those two characters and their shared experiences,” says Mascaro.

A third character in the film will be based on the story of Denison student and Centennial High School graduate Sara Abou Rashed, who came to the U.S. with her mother to escape the war in Syria in 2013. Abou Rashed, a young but celebrated poet, is helping out as a consultant on the project.

 “This is the third, and most significant, engagement we have had with Keida at CMA,” said Lauren Emond, the museum’s manager of community engagement, in a release. “We are excited about how this series of workshops sets the stage for meaningful conversation about such an important local and national topic.”

The workshop will take place at the Columbus Museum of Art, 480 East Broad St., from 6 to 8 p.m. March 22. Admission is free with “pay what you want” entry to the museum.

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