Entrepreneurship and noir… leveraged local collaboration paved the way for the collective dream of this father-and-sons team.
“Roll camera—roll sound…”
For nearly 20 weekends between October 2012 and April 2013, these words drove the action for an independent film produced entirely in and around Peoria, Illinois. Throughout that period, local talent, local venues, public agencies, private businesses and private citizens supported the collective dream of writer Bill Mayo, first-time director Mike Mayo and sound director Bob Mayo to produce their first full-feature film.
Entitled For Out of the Heart, this new film is now an established Illinois LLC. But as Mike tells it, “LLC, in this case, means more than a business entity. It could just as easily stand for leveraged local collaboration.”
“This film simply would not have been produced without the extraordinary support of countless people throughout the Greater Peoria area,” Bob chimes in. “The film’s credits list over 400 individuals who in some way, large or small, made this film possible.”
It’s self-described as a gritty, detective-genre film, but with a twist.
“It is basically a story of redemption,” notes Bill.
A Finished Production
The film’s official logline, or brief synopsis, reads: “Following the apparent heart attack and death of a controversial radio talk-show host, a cynical detective’s nagging hunch that sinister forces are at play drives him to doggedly pursue a killer only he is convinced exists. A savvy and compassionate priest ultimately helps the detective unravel a series of clues, leading to discovery of a murderous plot, but in the process, discovering something far more precious to believe in.”
Since on-scene filming was completed in April 2013, the father and sons have been consumed with technical finishing, editing, special effects and the musical score. “We had over 152 hours of digital files, and spent months editing that down to our finished product—one hour and 53 minutes,” notes Mike. One year later, their efforts are now focused on submittals to numerous high-profile film festivals.
“We’d love to premiere it locally, but film festivals nearly always require the premiere of a new film to be at their event,” Bob explains. “So, by necessity, we’re limiting initial local screenings to just a few.”
“Initially, distribution wasn’t a high priority for us,” adds Mike. “Now that we’re nearly done, we’re researching ways to share the film—including festivals, self-distribution and following up on various distribution interests already expressed. But without question, the film will be available locally as soon as possible.”
Bill Mayo, former Caterpillar vice president and author of For Out of the Heart, reflects, “You know, I never had in my mind the production of a full-feature film when I wrote the screenplay. This production is driven by the dedication of my sons.”
A Screenplay Takes Life
But Bill did have a dream. When he retired from Caterpillar in 2008, he wanted to fulfill a lifelong desire to obtain his master’s degree in English studies from Bradley University. During his course work—on a whim, but with the encouragement of Dr. Rob Prescott, English Department chair—he enrolled in Professor Thomas Palakeel’s screenwriting class.
Dr. Palakeel’s class is unique in that an actual Hollywood agent and accomplished screenwriter contribute to the classroom instruction via Skype. “That added an entirely new, exciting and inspiring aspect to the class,” says Bill. “The course requirement was to write 20 pages of a proposed script. But this story was in my head for over 40 years. The characters had been alive in my imagination for so long, I decided to go for the whole screenplay.”
“This course is really only an introduction to screenwriting—which is quite different from other forms of creative writing,” adds Dr. Palakeel. “Bill was definitely an over-achiever—submitting a 143-page finished product.”
Following the course, and notching an “A” for his efforts, Bill set the finished screenplay aside and moved on to other course requirements. But he did give a copy to his boys to read. Mike, a fine arts major from Illinois Wesleyan with an MA in communications from DePaul, read it, as did Bob, a Eureka College grad, audio engineer and owner of Mayo Studios. Both saw its potential.
“They came to me all excited, saying, ‘Dad, we’ve got to make this into a movie!’” Bill recalls.
Layers of Collaboration
Having little more than a dream, a budget and hope, the venture was launched in January of 2012. They spent months navigating the challenges ahead of them—lighting, casting, wardrobe, props, technical crew, securing a director of photography and equipment. Ten months later, they were on-location, filming.
“Multiple locations,” Bob notes. “Actually, securing venues was incredibly challenging. Initially, we were met with a lot of skepticism.”
“I think the doors really started opening after a meeting with Mayor Jim Ardis,” Mike adds. A committed supporter of arts and business in the community, Mayor Ardis saw an opportunity and jumped on it. “Literally, within hours of the mayor’s personal support in the form of a letter to Police Chief Settingsgard, Fire Chief Tomblin and others, instead of us chasing contacts, they reached out to us,” Mike says excitedly, still recalling this moment.
“The Peoria Police Department, Fire Department, County Coroner’s Office, Peoria Diocese and the Peoria Civic Center were incredible,” Bob recalls. “And so many private citizens and business owners were tremendous. Yes, we ran into naysayers, but by and large, this community showered us with support.”
The production value at venues like St. Bernard’s Church, Joan’s Trophy, Murray Center for the Arts, Hilltop Wealth Management, the Peoria County morgue, Apollo Theater, Springdale Cemetery and the Civic Center—not to omit the Peoria Police Department Headquarters—lend incredible authenticity to the film. “The funeral scene, filmed at beautiful Springdale Cemetery on a frigid day in February, is very authentic,” Bill states. “We had incredible support from Springdale, but also Knapp-Johnson Funeral Home from Morton, who provided a funeral hearse, limo and fully-rigged casket with bier.”
Peoria’s Celtic Cross Pipes & Drums also got into the action, providing ceremonial music for the scene. “Considering it was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit that day, they definitely went above and beyond,” Mike says.
“As did about 50 freezing extras and volunteers in full dress from the Peoria Police and Fire departments and the Morton Auxiliary Police,” adds Bob.
The team partnered with Heroic Age Studios from Mt. Zion, Illinois, whose owner, Eric Hector, and director of photography, Tim Lynn, provided technical filming expertise. Filmed with a RED EPIC camera with 5K technology, the cinematic impact is impressive. “This is the same technology used in such blockbusters as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Spiderman,” notes Lynn.
BAM Studios in Chicago was hired to do the sound design, sound effects and mixing. “BAM has a top-notch crew,” says Bob, who was in charge of all field recording and penned the original musical score for the film. BAM’s credits include production work on the popular TV series Chicago Fire and an impressive list of clients including The History Channel, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, ESPN and PBS. “It’s pretty cool to see Mayo Brothers on their website’s list of clients,” adds Mike.
A Project Management Challenge
“At the end of the day,” Bill reflects, “this movie was probably the hardest project management challenge I’ve ever been associated with—including nearly 30 years of working for a Fortune 50 company.” Bob and Mike agree.
“Our goals when we started were fourfold,” Mike offers. “We wanted to work together as a father-and-sons team. We wanted to make a film we could be proud to show our family, friends and the public.” “And we wanted to honor our dad’s original vision and the greater message of personal faith, while showcasing Peoria,” Bob adds.
The cast is comprised of all local talent—some with only minimal acting experience. The leads, however, have considerable acting credits in university or local stage productions and short film. “We also used local people with the acting bug, but who’ve never had the chance to satiate it,” Bill notes. “We held extensive casting calls, and were fortunate to cast some very talented and dedicated people.”
“We had incredible support from friends and family and the Illinois Film Office (Springfield Branch) for film extras—which numbered in the hundreds,” adds Mike.
“We’ve strayed away from the self-deprecating axiom that ‘it’ll play in Peoria,’” confides Bob.
“The bigger acknowledgement is that Peoria—as a community—including public agencies, private citizens, business owners, artists and accomplished technical experts—came together to support my sons and me as we embarked upon this unbelievable journey,” says Bill. “To see the film now in its finished form, well, we sit back nearly incredulous that it was accomplished.”
“It’s been a two-plus-year project, filled with the expected and unexpected ups and downs of working hard at something you love,” Mike states.
“And real life certainly didn’t slow down during production, either,” adds Bob. (During filming, news of Bill’s cancer diagnosis and treatment was thrust into the mix, while both Bob and Mike welcomed new daughters into the world!)
“But, we all loved the experience,” notes Bill.
“Amen!” the boys add enthusiastically. “And thank you, Peoria!” iBi
To learn more about For Out of the Heart, visit facebook.com/foroutoftheheart. Look for it in a theater near you, on DVD and on Blu-ray.