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Phantom of the Woods
Michael Storch brings a work of psychological fear to the Cinema Center
By Jim Mount
Fort Wayne Reader
Michael Storch likes the smell of fear and the sound of things that go bump in the night. And fear, suspense, and the darker sides of the human condition are served up in generous portions in his movie Phantom of the Woods, which premiers at Cinema Center on Sunday, June 30.
“It’s a psychological horror movie that takes place near and around a small lake community situated in the middle of an old forest,” says Storch. “The story revolves around two young teenagers, Jake and Lana, who believe their worst issues are at home until strange and mysterious deaths begin to terrorize the small lake community. Soon their worst fears are unleashed and they must run for their lives before they and everyone they care about is destroyed.”
Inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and Wes Craven, Storch feels his strength as a filmmaker lies in suspense and dark, moody, atmospheric material. “I want my viewers to feel uneasy and nervous when they watch my movies,” he says. “I want them to be scared. I want them to be tense. I liken it to my love of haunted houses. I go into them expecting to be scared and if I'm not scared, I feel disappointed.”
Storch, a junior at IPFW studying Public Media and Communications, says his film making pursuits would exist regardless of whether or not he was in school studying for it. To Storch, school supplements what he learns on his own, from engaging the medium hands on. “School to me is mostly a way for me to grow intellectually rather than learn practical skills,” he says. “I've learned everything I know about film making by trial and error and diving right into it.”
Storch first got the bug for filmmaking and storytelling in general in the fourth grade where his teacher encouraged him to put on a Christmas play. He enjoyed the experience so much that he soon borrowed his father’s camera. Once in high school, Storch co-founded his own production company — Open Sign Productions — with friends Ryan Bozell and Kenton Ley. “Open Sign Productions came about as a name for myself and my friends to put on our film projects back in high school,” says Storch, who is President and co-owner. “It's evolved into what it is today where we've completed multiple shorts, are about to premiere our first feature (Phantom of the Woods). We have two more features slated with numerous other smaller projects brewing for the next year alone.”
“We're still a very tight knit group of friends both on and off the set,” Storch adds about his partners.
Even though Phantom is Storch's first feature film, he's already directed four shorts with limited equipment and even more limited finances. “I shot three of them on older DV cameras with virtually no money,” Storch says of his previous short films. “My most recent short, Missing, was when we finally had a budget to work with and better equipment to shoot on. This was largely in part to our newly minted relationship with Mike the Pike Productions and later through their subsidiary Saint James Films.”
It was this relationship that drove Storch's production company into higher gear. “ That project was pretty much what sent Open Sign into its current direction. Since then Open Sign has ramped up and we're steadily releasing new content. We'll also continue to partner with Saint James Films on new feature productions.”
In describing the production of Phantom of the Woods, Storch says they have a over 30 people in the cast and a production crew of about a dozen including Delaney Hathaway as Lana and J.R.S. Storch as Jake. Other members of the cast include Richard Hackel as the Old Man, Mark Esch as Sheriff Thompson and Matthew Finney as Deputy Dubois.
Phantom of the Woods will be premiering Sunday, June 30th at 6:30 PM at the Cinema Center, Downtown, Fort Wayne.