Filming in Fort Bend

By Nick Nicholson –

Simply put, it is fairly easy to assume that movies are only made in Hollywood but that would be incredibly inaccurate. Some of the best films each year are the independent pictures that are created by struggling artists that scrimp, save and fundraise in order to see their dreams on the big screen. I recently had the opportunity to visit with the four most successful and accomplished filmmakers in the Fort Bend/Houston area to discuss everything from their favorite films, what motivates them and what they see as the most important elements in film today.

The Cast

Wayne Slaten

Wayne Slaten

Wayne Slaten

Wayne Slaten studied art and broadcast communications at Marshall University and Methodist University. After working on several award-winning short films, he founded Moonlite Filmwerks in 2007 to focus on writing, producing and directing feature length films. Through his production company, Slaten successfully showcased his directing talents in his well-received debut feature length film Backroad distributed in 2012. His 2011 short film, Cold War, was selected from an international film competition to screen at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and is distributed through Ouat Media. In 2012, Slaten was a quarterfinalist in the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition. Later that year, he became one of three founding members in the Louisiana movie production company Filmwerks LA. Slaten is now in production on his next feature length film, Patriot Act, a science fiction thriller produced by Moonlite Filmwerks, Gaucho Productions and Filmwerks LA. Slaten lives in Houston.

Larry Wade Carrell

Larry Wade Carrell

Larry Wade Carrell

Larry Wade Carrell is an award-winning American writer, actor and director, and he has directed three films to date. He is best known for his horror creation Jacob. The film earned 16 awards worldwide including the Platinum Remi Award for Best Picture at the 45th Annual Worldfest International Film Festival. Jacob was well-received by critics gaining Carrell a solid fan base as a director and actor in the multi-million dollar indie film world, and the film went on to be released worldwide. As an actor, Carrell has been in several films, most recently Shawn Wellings’ The Legend of Darkhorse County and Partricio Valladares’ Hidden in the Woods. Carrell is also the writer, director and producer of the new motion picture The Sound of Thunder, a Western genre film coming soon from Blanc-Biehn Productions. Carrell lives in Sugar Land.

Michelle Mower

Michelle Mower

Michelle Mower

Michelle Mower is a Houston-based motion picture writer, director and producer. She has produced and/or directed a number of short films, music videos and feature films since her graduation from the University of Houston in 2000. Her debut feature film, The Preacher’s Daughter starring Andrea Bowen (Desperate Housewives), premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network on August 31, 2012 and garnered the highest ratings to date of any movie on the network in 2012. In February of 2012, Mower co-produced the independent feature Dreamer, which is garnering critical praise in the film festival circuit. She is currently in post-production on her second feature film that she wrote and directed titled A Woman Betrayed, starring Sarah Lancaster (Chuck). Mower is heavily involved in the film community in Texas. She has served on the boards of Texas Motion Picture Alliance and Women In Film and Television and currently sits on the advisory board for Houston Community College’s Department of Film and Audio Production. Mower lives in Clear Lake.

Kerry Beyer

Kerry Beyer

Kerry Beyer

Kerry Beyer is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer published in Vogue, Lucky, Allure, the New York Times and more. He’s recently produced and directed the action/thriller Deep Terror with Academy Award® Nominee Eric Roberts, and he is currently in production on the psycho thriller Killing Mr. Right. His company, Kerosene Films, LLC, produces, acquires and distributes genre content across multiple platforms worldwide. He is also co-founder of the horror film festival SplatterFest, now in its fourth year, and he’s even fought Chuck Norris…on screen that is. Beyer lives in Sugar Land.




FBF: What first got you interested in film?

Kerry Beyer: Working as an actor in Los Angeles, I wanted to have more control over the creative process, so I began writing and directing.

Larry Wade Carrell: My background is from the haunted attraction industry. I grew up during the 80s home video explosion. So, every weekend I would take home movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, The Evil Dead, Night Breed or science fiction movies such as Star Wars, Terminator and Aliens. I started building my own haunted houses in high school with one goal in mind: I wanted to deliver an experience like no other. I was already writing themed stories, building sets, costuming and training actors, building props and special effects. I just needed a camera.

Michelle Mower: Choco Tacos. When I was little, I begged my mom to buy me Choco Tacos every time the ice cream truck came jingling down the street. Eventually, she started making me pay for them by doing “chores.” I hated chores, so I got creative. I would write puppet plays, and my sister and I would force our parents to pay 50 cents each to watch us perform them. That’s how I got ice cream money without having to do chores. Puppet play writing evolved into a love of screenwriting, which evolved into a love of making movies.

Wayne Slaten: My mother would take me to morning matinee movies every week starting when I was about five-years-old, mostly Disney classics. I was addicted early. It wasn’t until many years later I realized this passion for film combined with my background in art and broadcast communications was the perfect blend for becoming a filmmaker.

FBF: What are some of your favorite American and foreign films and why?

LWC: My favorite American movie of all time is Jaws. It is a classic that still works even today, and the characters are classic and played to perfection by the cast. I think my favorite foreign film is Troll Hunter. Just go watch it, and you will see why!

WS: I would prefer to answer with my favorite directors. Stanley Kubrick’s movies are at the top of my list. The range of complex dramatic themes in his films Lolita, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining are all masterpieces in storytelling and the human experience. That combined with his incredible visual style and attention to detail in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey still hold their own today.  Ridley Scott is a god in my book. Bladerunner was a major inspiration for my current project.

FBF: How would you describe your film education?

KB: I would say on the job training. As an actor, I was able to see how productions were run, both good and bad. When I decided I wanted to direct, I grabbed a camera and taught myself the angles I needed to tell a story.

MM: I have a degree in Radio/TV from University of Houston, where I learned how to tell stories visually with a 16 mm film camera. I had to edit the film itself. We didn’t have any of these fancy computers back then.

LWC: Today, we can make movies anywhere.  You’re surrounded by friends and neighbors that you have personal relationships with. When you obtain help from your friends, you can get locations, props, cast and crew very cheap, or even free. This is great starting out. But very soon as your projects get bigger and more professional, you need more resources to do the job right. We have a great pool of talent here.

MM: I get to sleep in my own bed at night. I get to see my family for a few hours a day. I get to make movies with people who are also my friends. There is a boom happening in film production in the Fort Bend area right now, so being a part of the industry when it’s growing is super cool.

WS: Cost and diversity. I have been fortunate to obtain a great variety of locations for my film projects in and around Fort Bend for very low rates or even at no cost. The city of Sugar Land is extremely accommodating and eager to see projects shoot here.

FBF: How helpful have you found the community and businesses around Fort Bend to be when you have gone on location to shoot?

KB: It all depends on the project and the business, and of course, your reputation. Businesses want to know the content of the film to determine if they want to be associated with it. Sometimes that can make shooting a horror film difficult. Other times, it works out great.

LWC: Very, particularly the locations I have shot in and around Fort Bend County!  For instance, Betty Vega’s Dairy Treat in Richmond is a wonderful location for shooting, and she is extremely accommodating, not to mention it is a great place to grab lunch or a quick snack.

MM: It varies. For the most part, people are very supportive and are willing to let you film in their location. The Fort Bend locations are significantly less expensive than what we would have to pay in places like L.A. or New York, plus, we don’t have to get permits to film here unless we are shutting down a road or filming in a public park. We have a great film commission in Houston that is very indie film friendly. They have helped me secure locations many times. They are a great resource for Fort Bend filmmakers.

WS: The Fort Bend community is very supportive of filmmakers. I always try to find a way to incorporate those helping me with the project. It may be as simple as a film credit, extra role or product placement for their brand or business.   Sugar Land is a beautiful area to shoot in if you are looking for a growing metropolis. If you travel down some of the farm roads, you can come across some of the most beautiful wooded areas if you are looking for a country look as well.

FBF: What is the one thing that you as a filmmaker cannot live without?

KB: A great team. It’s a collaborative effort.

LWC: My imagination and a talented group of crew members. I always hire my crew locally because of the level of talent we have here in Fort Bend.

MM: Starbucks. Just kidding (sort of). I can’t live without my first AD Ra-ana. She keeps me in line.

WS: The support of my wife and family

FBF: What sort of things do you study and consider when watching a film?

KB: I’m always looking at lighting, camera moves, story structure, and of course, performance.

LWC: The story and the quality of the acting. When those are not there, it really stinks, and I start breaking down the technical flaws.

MM: Lots of things. Character development, story structure, camera movement, editing choices.

WS: I am always aware of the story structure – the quality of the writing and how the actors use that. Beyond that, I am always interested in watching how various directors deliver their story through the cinematography and production value of the project.

FBF: What do you consider the elements of a good film?

KB: A character that overcomes both a villain and their own personal demons. At their core, American movies are about the human spirit and it’s ability to overcome and grow.

LWC: Story and characters!

MM: Great story, strong performances and high quality production value.

WS: Story, story and then story. No one watches Kevin Smith’s classic Clerks for the cinematography or production value. Not even necessarily the acting. It is just a solid story delivered well.

FBF: Where do you hope to see yourself in ten years?

KB: I intend to grow Kerosene Films into a genre factory, pumping out high quality sci-fi, action and horror – and expanding our market saturation as a distributor. I’m passionate about creating a sustainable film economy in our area.

LWC: Still making movies but being allowed to tell the stories I want to with bigger budgets and less restrictions.

MM: Doing exactly what I’m doing now – making movies.

WS: Hopefully, finished with this film. Seriously, just continuing to develop and produce solid movies.

FBF: Tell me about a recent filmmaking triumph you had.

KB: Making it through the day and getting all of your shots is a triumph. Working with Eric Roberts has definitely been the highlight.

LWC: I recently served as an actor and co-executive producer on Hidden in the Woods, a feature film shot here in Fort Bend by Blanc-Biehn Productions out of Los Angeles. With at least 12 different locations, a crew of 25 people and a cast of 40 actors all with speaking parts, this was indeed a triumph.

MM: My first feature film, The Preacher’s Daughter, was the highest rated movie on the Lifetime Movie Network for all of 2012. In addition, the film has won numerous awards internationally. We just won the Jury Prize at the Madrid International Film Festival and the Barcelona Film Festival. We’ve also won awards at St. Tropez International Film Festival and the Tyrolean Independent Film Festival. Europeans totally get me.

WS: A short film I directed in 2011 as part of an international film competition was selected to screen with seven other films from that competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. We recently acquired a distributor for that short film as well.

FBF: What film do you watch at least once a year and why?

KB: Fight Club. But the first rule is, I can’t talk about it.

LWC: Actually, for me it is a television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Seasons Two and Three are the best. I have learned more about character and storytelling from watching Buffy than I ever could in any school or book.

MM: A Christmas Story because it’s just not Christmas without Ralphie and the gang.

WS: Jodie Foster’s film Home For The Holidays. One, because it’s a great holiday movie for anyone who has had a dysfunctional family experience, and two, artistically, it is a well-written adapted screenplay with a very gifted group of actors who deliver. Solid work from casting to production value.

FBF: What advice do you have for anyone interested in pursuing a film career?

KB: Start telling stories. Do them as cost effectively as you can. Learn from your mistakes. Have fun. On every film, I remind myself and my crew that number one, we are here to keep everyone safe. Number two, we are here to have fun.  Number three, we are here to make the best movie we can given the resources available.

LWC: Get as much experience as you can. Get out there and meet other filmmakers and work on their shoots. Working on a set is the best school you can go to. Study DVD commentary tracks and behind-the-scenes extras. Read any books you can find. Start with Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez. This book is short and will inspire you! Then, get out and shoot something.

MM: If you’re going to do it, do it well. Make your film the best it can be. You will have to sacrifice a lot starting out, but don’t sacrifice quality. A well-told story will get you far.

WS: If this is what you truly want to pursue, then don’t take “no” for an answer. Push through and stay vigilant in your efforts to be a filmmaker. Plenty of people will tell you otherwise. So be it. They don’t do what you do. Ninety percent of the game is tenacity and belief in yourself.