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Movie maker from Midland

From "jock" to movie producer and actor, Justin Koehler has co-written and co-produced a full-length movie which will be released in April. He also acted the part of the main character's best friend, Brad. Koehler is from Midland, SD, and was a mass communications major at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, where he and co-writer-producer, Gus Karinen, set the movie.

Justin Koehler started at Black Hills State University as a basketball player. Now he is one half of a strong friendship and partnership which has produced a full-length movie which will premiere in April, 2005, at BHSU on the big screen.

Koehler, son of Mike and Cindy Koehler of Midland, and his partner, Gus Karinen, have written, directed and produced the drama “10:15 Salem Park.” With no budget, no paid-for cast, and little movie-making experience, they have put together a film about secrets. As the movie’s teasers state, “I promised I’d never tell anyone her secret ... but I can tell you how she became mine.” And “People will do anything to keep their pasts hidden.”

Opposites can destroy a venture, or they can be the ingredient that makes it work. Koehler and Karinen make it work. Koehler is a 24-year-old “jock”, interested in sportscasting, is easy-going but is the realistic drive behind the team. Karinen is 29 years old, a “nerd” computer whiz, the main film editor, somewhat easily distracted and a perfectionist, but has the patience that a lot of people don’t or can’t have with actors.

The movie began with a short story etched out by Karinen. Koehler kept prodding if anything else was written yet, and later took the story into about six pages of script. Fourteen months later a slight acquaintance and a short story ended up as a great friendship and an hour and twenty minute quality movie.

“This last summer we really hit it hard. I’ve done all kinds of work, but I’ve never been fatigued as much as acting and making a movie,” said Koehler. He also acts the part of “Brad”, the main character’s friend. “I had to almost cry in one scene, then had to be in someone’s face in another. It doesn’t bother me; but it’s actually weird. Sometimes when I see myself on camera I don’t like it; mostly because the character is a jerk.” Again, opposites make this movie work.

Koehler holds down a job, has been working around other people’s schedules (they are volunteering), and has filmed night scenes in the park till 5:00 a.m. It’s been over a year now of seven-days-a-week work. “It’s been great; it’s been crazy; but it has gone by like that,” said Koehler.

“The only thing that kind of stinks is it was about two-thirds the way through before we hit our stride. We learned a lot of tricks of the trade along the way,” said Koehler. “We (Karinen and Koehler) butted heads a lot on some ideas, but finally ironed it out. It’s the right story. We read the script and it flows, but you rewrite it for timing, depth and angle. It has been a fun little ride.”

The filming for the drama was done almost all in Spearfish or Deadwood. Very small amounts of footage for flashbacks and the movie’s end was taken during a quick work trip to Oregon. The two producers want to promote South Dakota, its students, its actors and its potential. The out-of-state footage illustrates that the movie has larger scope, in-depth planning and plot realism.

Neither Koehler nor Karinen go for green-screen effects or unnecessary fighting. They want the audience to use their minds. The audience should easily figure out some of the plot’s secrets. For the big secret in the movie, though, the audience will wonder “Why didn’t I see that one coming?”

“With the hard work and experience, at the very least it will be great resume´ material for everybody concerned,” said Koehler. “I love doing cinematography – creating and setting up shots – and the writing.” The movie has at least 45 fairly heavy scenes and a tremendous soundtrack. Already Koehler has a script for a comedy and another drama begun, both based in South Dakota.

The movie’s plot is about secrets, pasts and relationships: “Shelly” is living a sheltered life under her overbearing mother. “Dylan” and Shelly meet in the local video store, but must keep their relationship hidden. As they begin seeing each other under the cover of darkness, their two worlds begin falling apart. Dylan struggles with a possessive ex-girlfriend and his best friend's jealousy. Shelly faces her deepest secret after stumbling upon her mother's dark past. When Shelly reveals everything to Dylan, the secret lives of those around them quickly come to light. Dylan must decide whether to hold onto Shelly or let her slip away. Others will do anything to keep their pasts hidden.

After being first seen at BHSU in Spearfish in April, the movie might also show at the Spearfish Arts Festival before it begins filtering through the film festival circuit. Koehler can only hope where it will go from there.

“I know there will be critics; and that is fine if it eventually helps me. This is what is scary – there are a lot of people who know about this movie. There is even one person who contacted us from California and wants us out there for a film festival.”