By Mike LaBella
---- — Lance Malbon could have been a plumber or a movie producer. He chose the latter and is now promoting a film he wrote and produced and which features well-known Hollywood actors.
“I was really into reading and writing even when I was little, and always wrote short stories up through college,” said Malbon, a 1999 graduate of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School. At some point in there I realized I could try to make it a career and film seemed like the best way to find an audience.”
Malbon, 31, a Haverhill native living in Los Angeles, has been garnering praise for a movie he wrote and produced called “Black Marigolds.” He’s been submitting it to film festivals across the country, including the Boston International Film Festival in April, where it won a special recognition award.
“It did pretty well considering we were up against 120 films, with only six winning awards,” Malbon said.
He describes his film with the disquieting tagline: “When all you have are your mind and your love, how long can you hold onto one, when the other starts to disappear?”
“Black Marigold” is a drama about a writer, Ryan Cole, and his wife, Kate Cole, who go to a cabin in the woods so Ryan can write a second novel. But there’s something going on inside Ryan Cole’s mind that he’s keeping from his wife Kate, who eventually calls in a doctor. Her husband is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, which Malbon describes as a strain of mad cow disease that affects humans.
“You have two people who are in love and he suffers a fast-acting mental illness in which he loses his memory of their relationship and his past, and it also affects his motor skills,” Malbon said. “He eventually doesn’t know who she is and he is taken away by doctors.”
The film stars Rachel Boston, who plays a detective in the TV series “In Plain Sight” and Noah Bean, who plays the character Ryan Fletcher in the TV series “Nikita.” Boston also served as executive producer, while Malbon and Kirstie Mattheis served as producers. Cinematograpy is by Paul Toomey.
”I intended to write a horror film and the scariest thing I could think of is losing your memory and knowing that it’s going,” Malbon said. “We shot it like a horror film, in which you have a lot of slow camera moves giving the impression that something awful is going to happen soon, but it’s really just his (Ryan Cole’s) mind betraying him.”
”Black Marigolds” also received a Golden Ace Award from this year’s Las Vegas Film Festival, which will be held July 18-21. Although Malbon’s film will not be screened at the festival, it was considered one of the best of over 1,000 films submitted from over 30 countries around the world, and according to the judges, “demonstrated superior and standout filmmaking and is deserving of special recognition.”
Now Malbon is waiting to hear back from five other festivals he entered, including the New Hampshire International Film Festival.
”Hopefully we’ll run into a distributor for online distribution and maybe release it on DVD or run it the theaters,” Malbon said. “I’d love to see it on DVD as I’d like to make some money on this at some point.”
He says the feedback he’s received so far has been surprisingly positive for a dark drama, which is a genre of film he says can be very hard to promote.
”If it was a horror film it would be a lot easier to sell,” he said. “But I’m surprised every time by how much people like it and say they want to see it again.”
Malbon, who delivered The Eagle-Tribune when he was a kid, said that when he was in high school his father was working as a plumber and he anticipated entering the trade as well. But after he graduated he switched gears and in 2003 earned a degree in radio broadcasting from Nyack College in New York.
”By the time I got out, I was getting more into music and radio as music director for the college’s radio station,” he said. “After college I moved out to Los Angeles to work in the movie industry as a script writer.”
He landed a job in the movie industry that any college graduate would be envious of. As a production assistant and production secretary, a job he still has, he’s worked on big Hollywood films such as “Social Network,” “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Funny People.”
”It’s fun as you get to meet the actors and directors during pre-production rehearsals,” he said. “A lot of the actors are really nice and will stop by the production office and chat while filling out paperwork.”
”I get to see the whole process of making a movie, from beginning to end,” he said.
All the while he was writing stories in hopes of turning them into movies, including “Black Marigolds.”
”I wanted to stay in control of my scripts so I became a director,” he said.
Malbon worked on a enough movies to know what making one involved.
”It’s a complicated process making a film,” he said. “You have contracts for everyone, a lot of equipment to manage, wardrobe, props, lots of things.”
He says he financed the movie himself, which cost about $30,000 to make, and he had the support of many people he’d met over the years.
”We borrowed a camera and arranged for production space to prep for the movie,” Malbon said. “Because it was a low budget film, the actors worked for the ultra low actor agreement with Screen Actors Guild.”
He began shooting “Black Marigolds” over a 12-day period in November 2010, in Palomar, Calif. Editing took about 10 months, he said.
Big films often take over 100 days to shoot, not including weekends, Malbon said. “The way we did it so quickly was first by rehearsing a lot, and second we used digital RED camera recording to external drives which held 40 minutes of footage each, so instead of frequently stopping to reload film or flash cards we just kept the camera’s rolling all day.”
While Malbon looks to bring attention to “Black Marigolds,” he continues writing and has a partly written script for a road-trip story titled “The Butterfly Girl.”
”I’m also working as a production secretary on a new Warner Brothers movie, which I can’t talk about,” he said.
To see a trailer of Malbon’s film, visit www.blackmarigolds.com or on YouTube by searching for “Black Marigolds TV Trailer”