The Lullaby of Newport

The address knocked me off my feet, as did the initial press materials. Someone wants to make movies in Newport, and I'm not talking about pornography. A few blocks away from the World Peace Bell,

The address knocked me off my feet, as did the initial press materials. Someone wants to make movies in Newport, and I'm not talking about pornography.

A few blocks away from the World Peace Bell, at the corner of Eighth and Monmouth, Cincinnatus Motion Pictures has made its home.

The movie magic begins inside a second-floor office located above a popular Monmouth Street chili parlor. It's a rundown corner, and the blue-collar setting suits Cincinnatus co-founders Will Benson and Duffy Hudson well.

Most passers-by here claim little money. The same thing can be said about Cincinnatus Motion Pictures, as Benson and Hudson have hatched their show-biz dreams on a shoestring budget.

Hudson wrote Tattered Angel's story about a wayward thirtysomething who returns to his Ohio hometown after a 13-year absence. Once there, memories of his sister's abduction and murder intertwine with the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl. The newcomer, of course, is a suspect.

Hudson steps in front of the camera to play the lead role. He also generated the film's best boost of publicity, persuading his friend, TV star Lynda Carter, to take a supporting role. With a small project like Tattered Angel, everyone wears a number of hats. Benson and Hudson answer all of their own phone calls.

Benson is the film's producer/director/cheerleader. Anyone who remembers him from his days working as a DJ at a Corryville dance club knows he's an egotistic man. You have to be to make something like Tattered Angel into a reality.

But while inflated egos are frequently looked down upon in a homespun city like Cincinnati, I find Benson's sense of self-importance to be his most appealing attribute. He's extremely opinionated, and the film is better off because of it.

"I think when people watch Tattered Angel, they're going to hopefully take note of it," Benson says, speaking at the Cincinnatus Motion Pictures office. "It's not going to be art-house or completely on the edge, but it's not going to be Hollywood either. I'm telling people that to compare this to a John Sayles film."

The Cincinnatus Motion Pictures office is clean and sparse, its loftlike space filled with hand-me-down office equipment and battered computers. There's no budget for sleek interior design.

I think that's just the way it should be. What little money Cincinnatus Motion Pictures has belongs in front of the cameras.

I've been to these offices numerous times this summer. I've heard about the setbacks and the continuing struggles to raise money. Fliers promoting the latest fundraiser have been pushed my way.

More importantly, I've listened to Benson and Hudson speak eloquently about their dreams for making the films. The thick Tattered Angel script tells only part of their story. Hudson stays busy polishing the script. Benson knows exactly how he wants the film to look.

"We're going to have special effects, but they're not going to be over-the-top," Benson says. "They're going to be seamless and you're going to know if they're effects or not. There's going to be a lot of hand-held photography. ... I was inspired by the film George Washington and the way they showed the city dump but still lit it beautifully."

Thankfully, all the long hours in the Newport office has paid off. On Aug. 19, Tattered Angel began its first day of production. After talking about making their movie over the last couple of years, Benson and Hudson can finally say that filming is underway.

There are plenty of local actors and aspiring filmmakers who can regale you with tales of no-budget filmmaking. But Benson and Hudson have pushed their dreams up a notch or two above the rest.

Theirs was a long and arduous journey, but that's a hard-knock story for another time. Today, it's time to celebrate.

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