Alabama filmmakers screen movie for free

Young Alabama filmmakers are touring college campuses across the Southeast to provide free screenings of and gain fans for their film “A Genesis Found,” now on DVD. The next stop in the tour is at 6 p.m. today at the University of North Alabama in Florence.

Writer/director/producer Lee Fanning and producer Ben Stark filmed “A Genesis Found” in early 2008 after graduating from the University of Alabama, shooting in Alabama and using mostly native actors. Fanning said the film is perfect for campus screenings, which will continue through the spring, because of its topic (archeology) and location (the South). He describes “Genesis” as a “science fiction adventure” film.

“It has a lot of academic ties because it deals with archaeology,” Fanning said. “It's a fictional film, but it has a lot of true history about central Alabama and its prehistoric origins.”

“Genesis” follows a young Alabama archaeology student, Gardner Patton (Elliot Moon, a theater major at Alabama), who is living in the shadow of his infamous Civilian Conservation Corp. cadet grandfather, John (Bennett Parker, of Decatur). In 1938, John claimed to have uncovered an anomalous skeleton in Moundville Archaeological Park that he thought linked human civilization with something supernatural. A book John published about his findings ruined his anthropology career, and Gardner was raised with the stigma it brought upon the family.

Gardner's cousin, documentary filmmaker Bart Thompson (Luke Weaver), visits Moundville and recruits Gardner's help for a new film. Soon, though, Gardner learns that Bart is out to find the alleged skeleton John discovered decades earlier.

“Directly, (‘Genesis') deals with the idea of story and mythology and how they can be used as tools both to teach and to manipulate,” Fanning said.

Along those lines, the film also looks at the philosophy behind religion, but Fanning says the story doesn't take one side over the other.

“It tries to look at both sides, about the pros and the cons of why we believe certain things and what leads us to these beliefs,” he said.

Originally from Hartselle, Fanning lives in Somerville and works in Huntsville.

He and Stark run Wonder Mill Films production studio and have finished work on their second feature, “The Nocturnal Kind,” which has an April 2011 release date.

Their partnership began at Alabama — “He and I would ransack the equipment room at UA as much as possible and do all these side projects in addition to class,” Fanning said, laughing.

He loves the South and isn't alone among Alabama filmmakers who want to stay close to home when creating projects. It can be hard to find consistent work as a filmmaker locally, he said, and equally as hard to find specialists to help in the creation of the film (especially ones looking to work for the experience, not the money).

Still, the industry is growing, Fanning said, adding, “it can't go anywhere but up.

“There's a lot of people here who are really passionate about it, who really like living here and want to be involved in making films here,” he said.

“There's great history in this area, there's great mythology in this area, which you don't normally hear on a national level. There's also more here that's ripe to be talked about and have stories told about.”

Sarah Carlson can be reached at 256-740-5722 or sarah.carlson@TimesDaily.com.

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