Mike McGowan, director for the movie "How to Love a Geek," talks to crew members on the set Wednesday as they film in Lake Charles. (Brad Puckett / American Press)
(Brad Puckett / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 10:57 AMAfter the first week of filming of “How To Love a Geek,” writer/director and Lake Charles native Mike McGowan says his hometown is ready for the big screen.
The full-length movie is a romantic comedy about a clumsy girl next door who takes lessons from her attractive co-worker in hopes of capturing the attention and possible love of her boss.
McGowan arrived from Los Angeles last week to begin filming.
“It has been great, bigger and better than what we thought it was going to be,” McGowan said Wednesday during a break between filming scenes in the Capital One building.
“The first week of shooting has been A-1. Lake Charles is beautiful, many people don’t realize how beautiful the city is, how clean it is, how good a personality the people have here, how good the food is. Why wouldn’t you want to film a movie here?"
Most of the cast members are Lake Area residents who are short on experience, but not talent, according to McGowan.
“Coming in I was worried because there are not a lot of huge programs for the arts in the area,” he said. “I thought there would be a lot of people showing up, but not a lot of talent. It was just the opposite, not as many people showed up but they were very talented.”
McGowan said the lack of experience is more than offset by enthusiasm.
“The good thing about working with newcomers is they tend to want to do a better job. They don’t want to mess up. They seldom come in not having learned their lines. Bigger actors get fed their lines sheet by sheet. We don’t have to do as many takes, there hasn’t been a scene yet we have had to shoot more than seven times. We just knock them out and keep moving on. We have shot about 20 percent of the film so far and have about two weeks left. We have shot at the Courthouse at 901 Lakeshore Drive, United Christian Fellowship church, the Capital One building and will be at Luna’s this week. We want to showcase some of the landmarks in the city and promote the businesses.”
Groundwork for the movie began more than a year ago. McGowan said the process was made easier by local officials and business owners that offered help.
“I have gotten the most support I could ask for,” he said. “A lot of places have opened up their doors to us free of charge. They just want to help. A lot of people have come and lent their talents, they want to learn about the process. A lot of people have misconceptions about how it works. A lot of people think they can just come in, do their scene, and leave when 90 percent of it is setting up. There is a lot of hurry-up and waiting. It takes a while.
“The biggest challenge is logistics, getting people to understand what we’re doing. We spent a year-and-a-half doing that, we got help from the mayor, from Ed Fruge of Lake Charles Music, from (city councilman) John Ieyoub of getting the message out there. Now that people have seen the process, everyone wants to open their doors, so the next one is going to be even bigger than this one.”
There will be plenty more. McGowan said he is hoping to open a studio in the city and will be filming several more films in Lake Charles.
“We are doing five films in five years,” he said. “Louisiana offers a great tax break, we want to utilize that. This first film, we funded ourselves, LA2LA Productions and Sedona Studios. We are hoping from this film, we will able to get more funding for our next several films. We will probably finish this movie at about $400,000. I have already locked up $1.5 million for the next one, it will be a comedy called ‘Traffic School.’
“There is a lot of potential here. We sit on a lake, the Calcasieu River is right here.We have man-made beaches, casinos, old-school houses, a lot of history. You could make it New Orleans, a big city, a lot of things. The Calcasieu River looks just like the Mississippi River. We have the ship (USS Orleck) right there. We could do some things there.”
Lake Charles native Monique McCain, a performing arts student at LSU, won a starring role in the movie.
“My mom saw they were having auditions in the paper and suggested I try it,” she said.
“It has been wonderful, I can’t express how thankful I am for them bringing this to Lake Charles. What you run into at the audition processes is that you audition for these parts, work so hard for them, and they end up going to someone from New York or Los Angeles. Now they are giving us a shot.”
McCain said being in a professional production is giving her an appreciation for her education.
“I am having a wonderful time at LSU, they have definitely prepared me for this. It is different here, not just going from theatre to film, but getting thrown on my own and having to take what I have learned there and apply it here. It makes you appreciate what they have taught you because it applies to acting in any form. The first day I was so nervous but now I am so ready and motivated. I am not being intimidated and realizing this is something I can do. I just needed this push.”
She added that being part of a local production makes the experience easier and more exciting.
“I had been going to big movie productions in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and been unsuccessful. How awesome is it to be able to leave here and go home to mom and dad and tell them about what I did? It is cool to be able to be comfortable with myself and my surroundings. I can get some home-cooked meals while I am here. I hope everyone is supportive of what they are doing in our town. It is the start of something big, I hope.”