Moviemakers aim their cameras at the Tri-Cities

A Tri-City film company is making a name for itself producing short movies featuring local actors, crews and scenes.

The semi-retired partners behind 2047 Productions say they have not made a dime on the undertaking, but they hope to eventually cover the cost of producing one to two short films per year.

Nat Saenz, Randy LaBarge and Greg Martin said they’re having fun filming short productions including Gravity Hill in Prosser, a Richland sci-fi bookstore, coffee shops and shorelines.

What they’d really like is free or low-cost space where they can accommodate up to 30 cast and crew and build sets that do not have to be torn down at the end of each filming session.

They’ve spoken to area property owners, ports, real estate brokers and economic development officials, but have come up empty handed.

So, they decided to share the story of 2047 Productions in the hope someone with spare space (secured, with parking) will step up to support its goal of developing a robust film community in Southeast Washington, and the Mid-Columbia in particular.

The timing coincides with the release of its latest production, “Gamma Man.” The superhero-themed story with a nod to the Tri-Cities’ atomic culture will be released in late February.

2047 Productions has its roots in RadCon, the sci-fi fantasy convention held in February in Pasco, said Nat Saenz, a cinematographer and former metallurgist for Battelle. (This year’s event is Feb. 18-20 at the Red Lion Inn in Pasco. Go to radcon.org for details.)

As media chairman, Saenz brought filmmakers to the area to share their knowledge and collaborate with locals on film projects. One effort led to “Clockwork Infinity,” a film made in 48 hours.

Saenz and his team pooh-poohed their first efforts. Every industry has a learning curve and theirs is no different.

“If you watch our films, they get better and better and better,” said LaBarge, producer and writer.

Even so, “Clockwork Infinity,” a time-travel mystery, stirred a desire to make films in the Tri-Cities.

And so, 2047 Productions was born.

Saenz, together with LaBarge and Martin, say they are not the only film company working in the area.

The Tri-Cities has a well of talent both in front of and behind camera. Local drama clubs and schools are eager to help. Their productions give people who have the goal of being in a movie a chance to mark it off their bucket list.

While they’re serious about their work and learning more with each production, having fun is the mission for everyone involved. Most retired from more traditional fields. Saenz was a metallurgist. LaBarge served in the military and worked in the energy lab system. Martin is a retired KONA program director and broadcaster.

“We’re just having fun. We do it as a passion in lieu of working 40 hours,” said Saenz, whose hats include director, producer and cinematographer.

He is also president of the Tri-Cities International Film Festival, so 2047’s films get shown locally in October. 2047 submits its work to Northwest festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival – fingers crossed for the April 14-24 festival, they said.

Saenz runs other festivals, which has led to screenings of 2047 productions in New Zealand and Finland.

Wider audiences can view them on video services once they’re released to Vimeo and YouTube as well as its own site. More recent films are not available. Festival organizers expect exclusive rights to the films they screen.

LaBarge, who serves as writer, director and producer, came up with the idea for “Gamma Man” and bounced ideas back and forth with Martin. The duo call themselves the “Lennon and McCartney of screenwriters.”

They filmed it in a day in Richland – at Xenophile Bibliopole & Armorer, Chronopolis, a Richland bookstore focused on science fiction, fantasy and horror. The location was perfect, they said.

2047 Productions films a scene from its latest film, “Gamma Man,” at Xenophile Bibliopole & Armorer, Chronopolis, a Richland bookstore. The film production company is looking for a permanent home to make films in Mid-Columbia. (Courtesy 2047 Productions)

Sci-fi is the common denominator that drew Saenz, LaBarge and Martin together. The three met more than 30 years ago in a local Star Trek club.

Their longest film to date is “Black’s Treasure,” a pirate-themed mystery that clocks in at 22 minutes.

Martin wrote the tale of girls finding a piece of a pirate ship on a beach – which looks a lot like the boat launch at Howard Amon Park – while he personally was trapped in a snowstorm in the Midwest. The tale follows the explorers up the Columbia River, following clues in search of gold and family connections.

2047 Productions planned to film the indoor scenes for “Black’s Treasure,” at the Richland Public Library, but regrouped after insurance requirements forced them to rethink. They rewrote scenes and asked friends, Jennifer and Kagen Cox, if they could use their business in the Uptown Shopping Center, Kagen Coffee & Crepes.

“He handed over the keys. It was lovely,” Martin said.

“The Screamwriter” is another collaborative effort. It was their third or fourth film, and LaBarge’s first venture with the group. He’d enjoyed screenwriting so much he went to school to become a certified master.

He has written feature-length movies, but said he prefers working with local cast and crew.

“That’s the really rewarding part. We get to work with people we want to work with,” he said.

When Saenz asked LaBarge to write a horror script, he hesitated. He doesn’t care for the genre.

His compromise was a comedy horror. His protagonist was a horror writer convert. The story centers on killing “his” zombies. Spoiler alert: They didn’t want to be killed off.

While “Gamma Man – Anyone Can Be A Hero” isn’t yet released, the trailer is posted to the 2047 website along with links to its other productions.

Go to: 2047productions.net.

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