Our Q&A with C.T. Goodwin and Josh Karapetian, the makers of Small Town Relics — a film about a college graduate who returns to his hometown and, after struggling to find a job, joins his high school friends in a life of crime. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
:: Tell us about yourselves. Who is behind the film?
CG: I’m Tyler Goodwin, I’m from Moore County; Josh Karapetian is from Mooresville. I knew by second semester (at East Carolina University) that I wanted to make a movie, and Josh had the best project work of all my classmates; he’s a great cinematographer. I approached him to see if he wanted to make a movie, and he agreed to it.
JK: He talked me into it — I said, “F*ck it, why not?”
:: Is this your first film? What inspired it — why did you want to make this movie in particular?
CG: This is our first feature length film after several short film entries that did well.
JK: The story was CT’s idea, but the themes seemed universal. Making it seemed feasible, and the theme of wanting to leave your small home town made sense for a project.
CG: It was a desire to make something bigger than ourselves. If you’re thinking about a project, you have to know you can shoot it with the resources you have available, and it has to be relevant. I felt like this project fit the bill at the time.
:: Any moments during shooting that stick out for you/the cast?
CG: The look of the in-car night scene, the lighting effects are ridiculously good for how we pulled it off.
JK: Scene 13: The car was at the side of the house, and a friend…
CG: What about the all the times the cops showed up? Like at the pharmacy robbery scene?
JK: Tyler, how did the cops find you every time?! (both laugh)
CG: We’re robbing the pharmacy — a long, complex night shot. I look like to my left, and there is a police car pulling in to the parking lot. He steps out of the car, asks what we’re doing, and I shoosh him because we’re still rolling. He says, “What?,” and I say, “Dammit, cut!” because of the background noise. Then we have to explain to him what we’re doing. The pharmacy owner never saw it, he was sitting in the back of the store reading a book. What a patient guy!
JK: But yeah, the police showed up two or three times while we were shooting in different locations.
:: What do you want your audience to get out of this film?
JK: We honestly think that there are a lot of themes that are universal in the movie, but ultimately it’s a story of youth and the loss of youth. Of feeling trapped by your hometown, but learning that you can never really escape where you come from.
CG: We’re in our early twenties, and that feeling is common among our peers.
JK: But in all of our screenings, everyone that has seen it had a good time. It’s a fun watch, so it succeeds in what we were trying to do.
CG: Make a good watch that does raise points around social themes. But at the end of the day, it’s a crime drama.
:: What was your budget? How was it funded?
JK: The original budget was $5,000. We obtained some base funding through a GoFundMe campaign and raised money by doing contract commercial work, but that’s another story…
CG: We talk more about the specifics around this in our Shooting Low Budget behind-the-scenes series online. We ended up spending about $7,500 total, but we held the cost that low only through the kindness of our cast, crew, and the location owners. This was really a community project.
:: How was the experience shooting at local businesses?
CG: The local business owners were great; those were the easiest shoots in their own way. A few people dodged my phone calls, but most of the people we asked were great and happy to help.
JK: Those scenes were the easiest, the cast was more focused when it was a commercial location.
:: How long did production take? How many people were involved?
JK: There are nearly a hundred people involved — cast, crew, soundtrack musicians, business owners, their employees.
CG: We started writing in January 2015, and we’re working on it until June 16, 2018. Like, right now…
JK: Hey man, the color corrections are done! (both laugh)
CG: Ugh. Next question.
:: How did you assemble the cast?
CG: I grew up in Sandhills Little Theatre, then in Southern Middle’s theater program with Eric Kopecky, then Pinecrest’s theatre program with Adam Faw. Many of the cast members are local friends that were in those same programs with me.
JK: Then we held open auditions at Willie’s Lunchbox (RIP), that’s where we found our protagonist, Phil.
CG: And with some roles, I reached out to friends that specifically seemed like the right fit.
JK: There are multiple North Carolina musicians on the soundtrack also, Dr. Bacon came down from Boone to record just for the project. This is really meant to be a product of where we’re all from.
:: You all have chosen to hype the film’s screening, rather than release the film and let momentum build on its own. What has the response been?
JK: To me, a “premiere” or screening was always obvious. You make a movie, then you screen it.
CG: The premier is our way of validating all of the time and work we and the cast and crew put into the project. This film could never have happened without the support of the community, and so the premier is for The Pines.
:: After the screening, what are your next steps? What do you hope to accomplish with this film?
CG: This film builds our resume as professionals. It’s a statement that we’re serious in our work, whether it’s artistic, or it’s commercial.
JK: We’re in discussion with several parties around what happens next, we do have options for distribution.
CG: Our Shooting Low Budget series online will continue on after the premiere, so we’ll be sharing the mechanics of how we work out the next steps. Life as art.