Madras film crew scrambles to produce movie in 90 days for contest

Sid Widmer, left, and Duke White protray Nazi-like characters for a dream sequence in the movie.If you spotted menacing uniformed men toting guns in Cow Canyon last spring, or a wild guy resembling Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” shouting around Madras, nothing was amiss – it was a Madras film crew.

Local filmmakers Duke White and Sara and Torrey Rogers took on the challenge of trying to produce a movie, from start to finish in 90 days, for the chance to win a grand prize of $100,000.

The contest was put on by the website Alex Jones’ Jones hosts a radio show based in Austin, Texas, with a conspiracy-tinted website which expresses strong opposition to socialism, communism and new world order, according Wikipedia.

“We’re not die hard Alex Jones fans. He’s just one of many we look at,” Torrey Rogers said of the website.

Duke White and his sons Brandon and Garrett, whose professional names are Brandon Myles White and Hudson Garrett White, previously filmed independent movies in Madras, including “Silent Message,” “Downfall,” and “Necropolis Awakened.”

Brandon got into body building and acting, while Garrett focused on filming and special effects. The family moved to California, where both boys now work in the film industry.

“We’ve known Duke forever. I used to babysit the boys,” Sara Rogers said. Garrett was also her husband’s business partner for a while when he was living in Texas.

Parents, Duke and Diane White have returned to Madras, but the boys now have a popular YouTube program called “Buff Dudes,” and Brandon landed the part of the video game character “Krados” in a commercial for the Playstation game “Gods of War.”

The Rogers family had just moved into a new house in Madras when Duke White approached them with an idea for a film. Torrey Rogers works part time composing and producing music for independent filmmakers, and had worked with White in the past, composing the music for “Silent Message.”

“I started writing music and it got on the Internet and people from all over the world ask me to do music now,” he said, estimating in the last six years he has created 200-300 different pieces of music for films and ads.

This time, however, White wanted Rogers to not only act, but play the lead character in a movie called “The Theorist.” “I thought it would be something to try, and I talked to my wife and she wanted to be a part of it,” Rogers said.

“Torrey had only been in skits before, and my only acting previously was in Walt Ponsford’s drama class at Madras High School,” Sara Rogers admitted.

Two weeks after they agreed to make the film, they saw information about the contest and decided to enter.

“We had three months, and that was it. The contest made sure we got it done,” Sara said.

They changed the original concept a little to fit the contest rules. “Duke had a darker character, but we made it family-friendly with no swearing or blood, and included product placement for,” Torrey Rogers said.

The movie plot centers around a very outspoken underground talk show host and his family. “He gets on the radar of entities that don’t like what he’s saying about gun rights and other topics,” Torrey Rogers said, noting a dream sequence in the film plays out the man’s worst nightmares.

In that scene, filmed on an abandoned road near Cow Canyon, two of the characters are wearing Nazi-style uniforms and armed with guns. “We had to tell the police first so they would know it was just us filming,” Sara said.

“I want people who see the film to know that only prop guns were used, which can’t fire bullets,” Torrey said of the realistic-looking weapons that were used.

Of the plot, Sara added, “It’s about human rights, liberty, and about when you bring the government in – how far does that infringe?”

They rounded up a cast, which included: Torrey Rogers as the fanatic lead character “Desmond”; Sara Rogers as his wife “Erika”; the couple’s real-life daughters, Ashleen Smith, 11, and Isabel Smith, 8, playing Desmond and Erika’s kids; Duke White as “Max, an assassin; another Madras filmmaker Sid Widmer as a VIPR officer (highway security); Torrey’s sister Lorinda Conner as “Tandy”; Diane White as a radio call-in person; Brandon White as the narrator; and Garrett White as “Will,” a radio call-in person.

“We didn’t have a lighting person or anything, it was just us. But we all worked together and it was a lot of fun,” Sara said, noting it was also a lot of work.

Torrey Rogers, left, and Duke White set up equipment to shoot a scene outside the Rogers' home in Madras.Duke White did the directing and special effects, Torrey did the film editing and music (including singing the studio-recorded song “Star Shine” in the film), and Diane White compiled the wardrobe.

“Sara did the makeup and the majority of the photography, and it was all shot on her Cannon 7-D camera,” Torrey said.

Garrett did the “green screen” editing for Brandon’s narration sequence from his home in California and sent it to them to include.

“A lot of people in the contest used film that already existed, like newscasts. We were really proud because we used all original film. Even through Madras is a small town, there’s a lot of talent here,” Sara said.

Of his first acting experience, Torrey said, “It was fun to get behind a very emphatic character and launch that character. Sara also had to play roles with extreme emotion and distress.”

Being practical, they used the Rogers’ house for the set, which was both good and bad, Sara said, noting the place was cluttered up with all the lighting equipment and electrical cords, but they didn’t have to travel to a shooting location.

“We lived on set for weeks and worked until 3 a.m. several times. We had no social life and we lived that film for three months, and Duke lived with us most of the time we were filming,” Torrey laughed.

There were tedious times when weather would change, making a scene look different, and they couldn’t shoot the scene. Or sometimes, they would spend all day shooting a scene over and over, only to have it wind up being a 12-second clip after editing.

But seeing everything come together as a whole made it all worthwhile. The completed movie was 45 minutes in length. “Contest entries were due April 30, and we entered it that day,” Sara said.

“The Theorist” was one of the runners up in the contest, and is on the website and has been uploaded to YouTube.

“So far, it’s had 9,000 views on YouTube, plus the contest site,” Torrey said, noting people can view the film at HYPERLINK ""

The Rogerses weren’t disappointed with not winning the grand prize. “We had decided to make the movie before the contest, and like doing it for the creativity of it,” Sara said, to which Torrey added, “Duke’s not that into contests either, but you’re sort of forced into entering them because of the cost of filming.” (White was busy driving a water truck for firefighters on area fires, so could not be at the interview for this story.)

On the Fourth of July weekend, Sara said, “It was fun because Brandon and Garrett came up to Madras and we had the film’s first showing with the cast, which was pretty cool.”

Torrey said his first time of being an actor and trying to stay in character between shoots was a very cool experience. “We made some lifetime memories, had a lot of laughs, and even made a blooper reel,” he said.

With all the film equipment they’ve accumulated, they’re talking about doing another project when a good idea comes along.

“In the summer, we like to enjoy the summer weather, but it’s nice to have a project to get us through the winter,” Sara said.

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