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Leaving Vegas Lou 

Local director completes trilogy about a mercenary man

A computer programmer who says he simply "loves movies," James Neyman formed a production company six years ago with his writing and directing cohort Kurt Broz. The two quickly cast and shot a horror film called The Slasher, which was accepted to Indie Gathering, the local underground film festival; they've continued to produce films on a regular basis.

Their latest movie, On the North Coast, centers on Vegas Lou (Jake McGee), a ruthless mercenary who can't seem to put his notorious past behind him and must confront three people who all have their own reasons for wanting to kill him. The Vegas Lou character has appeared in two previous Neyman films. On the North Coast, which premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Capitol Theatre, completes the trilogy.

"The concept of the first [Vegas Lou] movie was inspired by noir detective movies and movies like The Big Lebowski or Burn After Reading, movies with plots so comical and ridiculous they become funny in their absurdity," explains Neyman. "The second movie was inspired by crazy, insane, off-the-wall films like Crank and any of the other Jason Statham movies. And now this movie was definitely inspired by Westerns. The whole movie is one big Mexican standoff between the three central characters."

Neyman says that the lack of money didn't act as a deterrent when he was making the movie. Because Cleveland created such a good setting, he didn't have to spend much money creating sets and didn't feel the need to travel. Plus, local business owners helped him out, too.

"Mike Carney, who owns several buildings downtown, was a great help in letting us use the rooftop of the Bridgeview for one of our scenes and the Map Room, has been great in letting us film at their bar," he says. "The Brooklyn Heights Police Department helped us. Various other property owners in the greater Cleveland area were great to us. Oddly enough, the Cleveland Film Commission didn't seem interested in helping us. In all fairness, they were probably getting ready for The Avengers to come to town."

The soundtrack has a local angle, too as it features acts on the Cleveland-based JIB Machine label. Local singer-songwriter Pontius Pilot contributes the bluesy title song. "The title theme song is bad-ass," says Neyman. "I loved how that song turned out."

After the screening at the Capitol, Neyman plans to send the film to festivals such as South by Southwest and Sundance.

"We'll submit it to a lot of local festivals around here and Broz, who now lives in California, will submit it to festivals out there," he says. "We'll give the big Cleveland International Film Festival a shot also, but I think they prefer bringing in films that are already playing in other festivals."

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