Big-screen bound

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Even though you've probably never heard of it, Peter John Ross really wants you to see The Courier. Ross said the film, which is about a courier for a secret government agency who has to deal with a suitcase bomb and a bunch of redneck criminals, is one of the highlights of the Cowtown Film Series, a collection of 11 Ohio-made feature films showing every Thursday night at The Screens at the Continent.

Kicking off last week with Goodnight Cleveland, a comedy about a comedy troupe that isn't funny, the series starts hitting its stride this week, according to Ross. He hopes for a big turnout in support of local filmmakers, helped by a $3 ticket price.

Selections range from a drama about two brothers squaring off in a boxing match to a comedy about the world's worst softball team to a horror movie about a deadly mutation that transforms its hosts into primal killing machines.

Ross, who organized the Cowtown Film Series, spoke about his homegrown celebration of Ohio-made filmmaking.

How did the Cowtown Film Series get started?

I had done several film festivals, but for short films and never really feature films. I was either involved with or friends with people who have made several different features in Ohio, and I know that they haven't had a chance to screen on the big screen. For me it became a thing of getting these people together, strength in numbers.

The Screens at the Continent are very generous to give us 10 full weeks of screenings. You just don't see Ohio-made movies on the big screen. It's a very rare thing, so it's an opportunity to share audiences and get our stuff shown in front of an audience.

How did you find these Ohio-made movies?

I worked on some of them, even if it was very peripherally or just a friend that I know that made a feature. In the case of something like The Rage by Bob Kurtzman, like, half the people that worked on my movie Horrors of War worked on that, even though I didn't, so I approached them about showing their movie. That's how I approached everybody. These were people I knew and they were movies that I've seen enough of or seen through the process that I thought would be good to show to an audience.

What can people expect from the series?

I think they'd be surprised that people from Ohio - like, their neighbors - are actually good actors and can actually produce a movie. I think they can expect to be surprised, pleasantly. But I think also, we're not asking for $10 a ticket.

Realistically, you're not going to see [big-name stars like] Will Smith or Marky Mark in a movie made in Ohio. I think you're going to get a good movie for the price and be proud of what everybody here can actually do. I know I'm proud. I'm in love with most of the movies playing. I think that they're great. I can't wait to see these people do another movie and keep getting better.

Do you see the series continuing?

I've already been approached with probably another four to five features. We're possibly going to do another series in the spring. Again, it depends on how successful the first one is. It is a business, too. So many filmmakers think of the movie business and forget that second word.

But if it's successful, we'll probably go for another run in the spring. There are at least three features I was trying to get that just aren't going to be ready in time, so I would love to see them screened. And again, there's strength in numbers. We stand to do better when we band together and screen our movies like this.