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Brothers in Arms 

Indy film offers fictional solution to real-life murder

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Director John Schwert remembers when he first met Tom Morgan through friends and then read the script. "When I first read it, the fact that it's a personal story really intrigued me and that it was somebody I knew's personal story -- that was even more intriguing to me."

He continues, "Reading through the original story, just the way it was crafted, was very well done -- very non-mainstream Hollywood, in terms of the end of the story, there's no resolution. The antithesis of most films you see these days from Hollywood and whatnot."

Schwert says Brothers is the fourth film he's worked on this year. "I directed a film called The After Hours, which is a 30-minute short, back in January of this year." He also worked on The Rest of Your Life, another film done in Charlotte recently by Captain Obvious Productions.

He adds with a big smile, "This is the biggest script I've ever done, it's a 130 page script -- the biggest project I've ever produced and directed. So it's been a real challenge, but it's been great."

Schwert and his Fourth Ward Productions crew have been filming at some 13 locations in and around Charlotte, which he says has been great. Moviegoers can watch for scenes filmed at The Corner Pub, Casco Bay, Queens University and the Great Aunt Stella Center.

Schwert says he wants to use the film festival circuit to try to create a buzz for the film. "The more I watch the dailies and go through it," he says, "the more I realize that we're really getting a high production value look on this film -- we're using a lot of tracking shots, a lot of dolly shots, a lot of jib shots.

"We have people come on the set and they're really impressed by the $24,000 budget we're shooting this on -- of the type of shots, of the type of people, of the type of talent, the type of crew we're getting," he continues. "My initial thought was to -- I don't really want to just go right to a studio and sell it to them. They could sit on the story and not distribute it; they could do whatever they want with it.

"I'd rather create a little buzz by way of festivals -- try to get the word out through the festival circuit -- hopefully get into a Sundance or one of the larger festivals like that next year, 2005. That would be ideal, and hopefully, (the film would) get picked up from there. But I wouldn't be against...plan sort of D is self distribution."

Schwert is very enthusiastic about his cast and crew. "The cast is phenomenal. All my crew is pretty much from the Carolina area. To do it justice really, I think you have to cast local people and local talent."

While blond Lauren Schneider doesn't look too much like photos of the dark-haired Jennifer, she does project youthful energy and enthusiasm. A Myers Park High School and UNC-Chapel Hill grad, Lauren now lives in Los Angeles. Brothers is her third feature. She explains that she was in Charlotte in July to work on the feature The Rest of Your Life, when she met director Schwert.

Two of the other principal actors, Matt Mercer and Corey Cicci, are old friends of Lauren -- they all went through the UNC theater program. "It's great to do a project with friends," Lauren says with a big smile.

But she's also serious about this film. "Sometimes we forget it's based on a real story. But maybe by making the movie, we can help. Maybe whoever did this will think about it more, maybe it will force them to confess."

Mercer plays Ethan, a character created by Morgan for the story. Ethan is the guy who makes a series of bad decisions to cover up his actions. "He's the guy I was trying to identify with," Morgan explains.

Mercer's dark good looks lend themselves to this complex role. His expressive face helps bring to life a character who can be serious, look innocent and in the blink of an eye, turn a bit cruel. In real life, Matt's friendly face lights up as he talks about the project. "John's the most balanced director I've every worked with," he says. "He knows how to get down to business. Yet he is open to letting us explore options in our characters."

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