Kirkwood Filmmaker Making Strides In Industry

Jack Snyder brings L.A. movie making to St. Louis with feature film "Ghost Image"

Jack Snyder's "Ghost Image" was filmed in St. Louis with stars flown in from L.A. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
June 04, 2010
Aspiring Midwest filmmakers often find they have to head to L.A. to taste success. Local director Jack Snyder pulled off a bit of a miracle by bringing a lot of L.A. to St. Louis for his successful feature film, "Ghost Image."

The plot of "Ghost Image" involves a video editor who loses her boyfriend in a car accident and begins receiving messages from him via her computer. She begins to question whether he has transcended the barrier between life and death - or if her fragile psyche has finally cracked.

"Ghost Image," a 2007 production, was filmed in St. Louis with stars flown in from L.A. Now Snyder plans to do the same thing with a new film project in pre-production entitled, "Call Me On Tuesday."

Snyder, whose age hovers around the half-century mark, lives in Kirkwood with his publicist, Carol Carlberg. A former South County resident and 1978 Mehlville High School grad, Snyder said he had no idea how tough it was to have a movie career when he started messing with a Super-8 camera in his teens.

"About 10,000 films are made in this country every year," said Snyder. "About 600 actually get picked up and distributed. There are only about 20 or 30 independently-made films that get picked up by a major distributor and get watched.

"Obviously, I was beyond happy and elated when 20th Century Fox and NBC Universal picked up 'Ghost Image' in 2008," said Snyder. "It shows on The Movie Channel now and Showtime Network several times a month; it's at video rental stories and it's available on Amazon and through Netflix.

"This is what an independent filmmaker dreams about," said Snyder. "The weird thing is that the film now has a life of its own, and it will continue its life while I am out doing new things. I have to stop and think about that every so often."

Described as a supernatural thriller, the success of "Ghost Image" also can be attributed to some angel investors and co-writer James Dean Schulte. There's also the excellent setting of downtown St. Louis, which movie director Snyder makes look gorgeous - especially in night scenes.

A little star power from Hollywood gives the film a boost as well. There's Elisabeth Rohm of "Law and Order;" Stacey Dash of "Clueless;" Waylon Payne, who played Jerry Lee Lewis in the Oscar-winning "Walk The Line;" "Roma Maffia of "Disclosure," "Nick Of Time" and "Holes;" and Matthew Del Negro of "The Sopranos," "The West Wing," and more.

Jack Snyder, center pointing, with the film crew of "Ghost Image" during filming in downtown St. Louis. (click for larger version)
Kirkwood Regulars

Snyder and his best friend and publicist, Carol Carlberg, are regulars at some familiar Kirkwood dining spots - McArthur's Bakery, Spencer's Grill and Trattoria Branica. On a recent weekday morning, Snyder recounted more than 30 years of filmography over breakfast at Spencer's.

Snyder takes pride in being a self-taught filmmaker. Starting with Super-8 film in the 1970s, he went on to using 16mm in the mid-1980s. Later in the eighties, he wrote, directed, produced and edited a feature-length horror film titled "Fatal Exam." Besides live action, this film contains miniatures, animation, and optical effects.

"I like to recall starting out with Super-8, because it forced me to make silent films," said Snyder. "That means I had to tell all my stories visually - without dialogue or sound. That is very good training, because the essence of film always is telling a good story in pictures -- film is a visual experience.

"I still go back to some of my early material, such as 'Variations On A Theme,' which I did in 1979," said Snyder. "It's about two screen writers planning out a film, and it cuts to scenes that they imagine in their minds. And pretty soon, they become part of the scenes, and they lose total control of their movie. It gets completely out of hand."

"Variations On A Theme" has been shown on PBS and cable television stations throughout the country. It went on to win a Silver Award from Worldfest-Charleston in 1995, a Vision Award in 1998, and two Classic Telly Awards in 1999.

In January of 2001, Snyder rediscovered an unfinished short, black-and-white, 16mm film that he made in 1984. After a final edit and a new musical score, the remake, titled "Footage," was ready for the festival circuit. The simple little film won a 2001 Telly Award, two Vision Awards, and a 2003 Omni Award. It also garnered favorable audience response at the Academy-recognized St. Louis International Film Festival.

Has To Be A Passion

Until the success of "Ghost Image," Snyder admitted he has had a pretty thin wallet and the spartan life of "a perpetual college student." That college lifestyle may help him relate to his students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he teaches Feature Film Writing and Television Production as an adjunct instructor.

"I always tell students interested in film as a career that this is a very tough business to make it in." said Snyder. "You can't get into it thinking you are going to win an Oscar or you are going to make a lot of money. You do have to have a passion to make films. That is all you think about - making films."

Of course, making films involves a lot more than "lights, camera, action!" It can mean the nitty gritty of raising money, courting investors, dealing with attorneys and trying to work out the logistics for locations where the film will be shot.

However, most of the real passion has to be reserved for a commitment to telling a great story. Snyder's next story is about Mitch Harwell, an ordinary fellow with rural roots, caught in an extraordinary situation in a flashy, urban setting.

At a hot and heavy happy hour, Mitch is smitten by a beautiful and most attentive female named Amy. Though she's clearly out of his league, she seems quite interested and, as they part, she says, "Call me on Tuesday." Thus begins an intense romance - and a chaotic tale of betrayal and murder.

"We hope to be in production with 'Call Me On Tuesday' by the end of the summer," said Snyder. "We've discussed possible cast, but we don't want to jinx ourselves. Casting an indie film is a roll of the dice so I'd rather not say what actors we've talked about."

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