From Roatan to Sundance
first feature film shot on the Bay Islands

January 1st, 2008
by Thomas Tomczyk

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First Feature Film Shot on the Bay Islands

First Feature Film Shot on the Bay Islands

First time ever, Roatan has become a venue of a feature movie: a dark action comedy about the misadventures of a rejected boyfriend and a dysfunctional American family vacationing on Roatan. Shot with two high-definition digital cameras, the movie was filmed in an improvisational style, with actors having general directions about the scene, but coming-up with their own dialogue.

The script for “Roatan Movie” was written as a “love project” by Tom and Pam Parrish, an American couple who moved to Roatan two years ago. Prior to embarking on the Roatan movie Tom Parrish had directed two short films and a 1999 feature drama, “The Last Game,” staring Joey Travolta, John Travolta’s older brother. As unconventional as it may seem, dozens of independent shoe-string budget movies have succeeded in attracting audiences and distributors and grossing big money. The 1999 independent horror film Blair Witch Project grossed $248 million.

Roatan has no shortage of aspiring movie actors, quirky personalities, great movie locations and a welcoming attitude to new projects and ideas. “From all the places I know this is the only one where this project could have happened,” says Tom Parish. The technical crew had to buy or make their own technical equipment. Acting like TV’s Gilligan Island crew, the film staff improvised and built lights, a soundboard and a dolly.

After writing the script in the fall of 2006, Tom Parish spent August and September “keeping regular office hours” at West End’s Sundowner bar where he scouted for talent and people interested in the project. In October Tom held a month-long workshop where actors worked on their roles, developed background stories for their roles and the crew polished their filming technique. During November the movie was shot and now it has entered a post production stage where scenes will be edited and music scores prepared to produce a final product. The island premiere of “Roatan Movie” is scheduled for June 2008.

Thirty five people involved in the “Roatan Movie” worked for food and love of the project. All people involved are signed up to receive a share in the potential profits the movie would bring and have a chance of being spotted by Hollywood scouts.

The 30 shooting days produced 26 hours of footage, and the 110 scenes will be edited in post production into what looks like a 110 minute movie. “It is a feature film and who knows how far it can go,” says Tom Parrish who plans to market the movie to several distributors and submit the movie to three festivals: Seattle, Sundance and Toronto.

While the authorities in La Ceiba and Roatan let the film crew work undisturbed, it was the West End Marine Park that got involved and prevented a scene where a main character drives a scooter off a dock into Half Moon bay. Concern about spilling engine oil into the water created a need for a scene re-write and, according to Tom Parish, it all turned out for the best: “that scene would be just over-the-top.”

The 12 movie locations took the crew all over Roatan and La Ceiba where they filmed on local buses, underwater, restaurants, catamarans, bars and beaches. “Seeing something that existed on a couple pages of a notebook a year earlier is incredible,” says Jason Vickers, an actor in the movie, who moved to Roatan from Seattle just to be a part of the project. [/private]

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