Escape 2120 premieres in Marietta on Friday, July 10

Escape 2120, a locally-produced science fiction film, will premiere at the Peoples Bank Theatre on Friday, July 10, 2020 at 8:00 pm. The 105-minute motion picture tells the story of a detached orphan teen who escapes to the future in suspended animation, but when he arrives at a natural utopia, he must evade a lynch mob convinced he’s the prophesied Devil’s Child.

The feature-length film was adapted from the novel The Magician’s Horses by local author Brian Bennett. After publishing five sci-fi novels, moving to film seemed like a natural next step.

“Before the novel was published, I had several early readers comment on the story’s imagery and how well it would adapt to film,” said author and director Brian Bennett. While he initially considered getting his book into the hands of a screenwriter, after the novel was published in 2015, Bennett decided to take on writing the screenplay himself. “I liked the idea of keeping control of the vision.”

Edward Pritchard (Dave), Brian Bennett (Director), Paul Kandarian (Doc), and Rosemary Pacheco (Sally)

In addition to writing the screenplay, Bennett produced and directed the film with the help of Tony Brown behind the camera, Mark Ferguson calling the scenes, and Josh Bennett recording sounds, making Escape 2120 truly a product of local talent. Dozens of local volunteers also helped on set as production assistants, extras, and stand-ins. “This is a great opportunity to honor the community of Marietta and the entire Mid-Ohio Valley for their support in making this film happen,” said Bennett.

We could not have pulled this film off without the tremendous help of the friends, family, and businesses in our community.

Over the two-year production period, Bennett and his crew partnered with local businesses, organizations, and individuals to secure venues. The hallways, offices, and sidewalks of The Betsey Mills Club became a fictional boy’s home for a rainy day in December. A 4,000 square foot warehouse inside Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits in Belpre was transformed for months into a film studio housing three full-scale movie sets. Viewers will recognize area scenery, from Hocking Hills and Western Washington County to the brick streets of downtown Marietta.

Filming at The Betsey Mills Club in Marietta

“I have lived my entire life in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and I take pride in showcasing the gems we have right here at home,” said Bennett. “Frankly, we could not have pulled this film off without the tremendous help of the friends, family, and businesses in our community. It seemed everyone we approached was eager to see a local film production succeed, and they generously offered whatever they could to help make it happen.”

Emily Hardbarger, Marketing Director at Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits said as one small business to another, they were happy to help. “Tony from Brown Owl Imaging reached out to use two years ago to ask if he could use our then unused warehouse to shoot scenes for a movie he was helping to produce,” she said. It wasn’t long before Tony, Brian, and the crew were all set up.

“They’d built what looked like a futuristic, small city in our warehouse. Our entire staff was impressed with their speed and craftsmanship,” said Hardbarger. “We found great amusement in having the characters walk around our dog hotel in their costumes! Towards the end of the shoot, we were pleased to meet with folks who traveled to Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits from out of state and other countries. All in all our small part in offering a location in the making of Escape 2120 was entirely our pleasure, we wish Tony, Brian, the cast and crew great success!”

Actress Samantha Ipema (Nalia) on set

Indeed, from catering for the cast and crew (from Glenwood Community, Jeremiah’s Coffee House, and Cindy Black) to hair and makeup (provided by Preston’s Beauty Academy, Danielle Bosley, and Vanessa Richards) and everything in between, Bennett and his team utilized local talent and resources as much as possible.

Preliminary filming began in Marietta in June of 2018 with a 2-day proof-of-concept shoot featuring lead actor Edward Pritchard. After 3 months of pre-production planning, filming resumed in October for a 4-day outdoor run that spanned the state of Ohio from Hocking Hills to private caves in Little Hocking. Then in December, the entire cast converged for a 20-day film schedule that crossed state lines, beginning at the Bungard House in Parkersburg, WV and wrapping in their Belpre, Ohio studio.

Filming a scene in the studio set up inside of Boxer’s Bed and Biscuits

Associate Producer Mark Ferguson described it as a great learning experience and something he was proud to be a part of. “When I first became involved with Escape 2120, I was terrified by the amount of things that needed to be done, especially with no experience,” he said. “The 2-day proof helped us understand how everything worked and before long it was like any other project. Looking back, there are so many great memories that I hope to be involved in again someday.”

I love the experience so it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a dream come true.

Bennett admitted that the learning curve has been steep. “I have been learning new aspects of film production and distribution every day for about three years now,” he said. “Fortunately, I love the experience so it doesn’t feel like work. It’s a dream come true.”

Edward Pritchard (Dave) and Samantha Ipema (Nalia)

Filming days were especially enjoyable for the director. “I loved gathering with the cast and crew for a long day of filming. We had fun and made a lot of jokes when the camera wasn’t rolling, but when it was time for places, everyone was all business.” After a month of filming together nearly every day, Bennett said the cast and crew felt more like family. “It was very hard to call it a wrap and go our separate ways.”

This Friday, many of the cast and crew will be reunited for the long-anticipated premiere at The Peoples Bank Theatre for their first look at the completed picture. Bennett hopes viewers will walk away entertained but says the story does have a message. “If that message resonates, either consciously or subconsciously, then I have succeeded as a writer and director.”

Author and Director Brian Bennett in front of the Peoples Bank Theatre

Fans of the novel are sure to enjoy the film. As someone who loves movies based on books, Bennett said he’s one of those guys that likes the film to parallel what he reads. “I tried very hard to stick to the book. With that said, some minor details had to be changed to adapt for time, and some concepts just wouldn’t translate onto the screen.” Overall, though, he’s pleased with how closely the film follows the book.

“It’s been a long two-year journey,” said Bennett, “and we are excited to see the film premiere at such a beautiful and prestigious theatre.”

The Peoples Bank Theatre box office is currently closed, but advance tickets are being sold online through the theatre website: Escape 2120 will soon be available for digital download from major online media outlets including Amazon and iTunes.