By R. Gregg, The Raleigh Telegram
RALEIGH – What would happen if the power went out for a day or two? Maybe not much — there would be a run on gas and milk and bread which usually takes place during a snowstorm or hurricane. But what if the power went out for more than a few days and all telephone lines, the Internet, TV, and radio went out? What would happen then? Would people panic?
A film shot in the Triangle called “The Carrington Event” by local director Rob Underhill takes a look at what would happen if a major solar event shorted out power grids in America and caused a large power outage.
It’s not just a fanciful “end of the world” type scenario — damaging solar events have happened in the past and even in modern times. In recent years, solar mass ejections of charged particles have hit the earth, causing damage to electrical grids, power lines, electrical devices, and satellites.
A huge solar flare knocked out phone communications across part of Illinois on August 4, 1972, prompting phone companies to change the design of their long distance cables across the Atlantic, says a NASA science report. The space storm of March 13, 1989 melted some electrical transformers in New Jersey and knocked out power for millions of people in Quebec for nine hours.
More recently in 2005, NASA says that GPS satellites were knocked out briefly by solar activity.
An even larger solar event in recorded history over a hundred years ago was the inspiration for the movie and lends its name to the film.
In 1859, a major solar event actually caused telegraph communications to fail and some telegraph equipment even caught on fire as a result. “The Carrington Event” was named after an astronomer who observed part of the sun’s flareups through a telescope. The solar storm caused auroras so bright that people on the east coast of the United States could read newspapers at night time.
The film made right here in the Triangle might just be the first to take a look at what could happen if a “Carrington Event” took place in modern times.
Triangle director Rob Underhill said he wrote the screenplay for his film along with fellow filmmaker Larry Gardner, formerly of Trailblazer Studios, in the hopes of getting the film picked up as a series for a cable or TV channel.
Underhill says that co-writer Allen Gies of Michigan has written 13 episodes based on the 48 minute pilot for “The Carrington Event” penned by himself and Gardner. Filming on the pilot film took a full two weeks and was done on location in Chatham County, Pittsboro, and in rural areas around Jordan Lake.
At a screening for the film for cast and crew of “The Carrington Event” at the farmhouse owned by Kim Crenshaw Photography in Chatham County where much of the filming took place, we talked with Underhill about the film’s premise.
“If a solar event like the one in 1859 happened today, it would be a devastating thing,” said Underhill. “You would have a very steady breakdown in communications.”
Underhill said the plot of the film presents an interesting psychological thriller and poses some questions to the audience. What would you do personally in that situation and how would you react during an extended power outage?
“Imagine if today your phone stops working…you have no TV, no radio, no idea what’s happening? What would you do?” he asked.
“You might barbecue the first night, but then you could be grabbing your guns the second night,” Underhill commented.
The Carrington family in the film lives on a self-sufficient farm away from the city, but soon finds that they are not going to be alone for long. After the solar event, neighbors need their help and eventually city dwellers start roaming out into the countryside, looking for food.
Similar to AMC cable channel series “The Walking Dead,” but without the zombies, “The Carrington Event” is about a group of people who are struggling to survive in an apocalyptic world while still falling in love, caring for each other, and learning new skills along the way.
Shooting the film was not easy for Underhill and director of photography Aravind Ragupathi. Including extras, there were some 200 people involved in the making of the film. They held auditions for the different roles and had to edit hours and hours of film. They had to get the help of the fire department during a burning of a building in the movie and for some scenes they had to block off Highway 751, which didn’t make some people happy.
At the premiere of the movie, one cast member told a funny story about one scene that involved an angry mob with torches coming up to the farm house. The man who lived in the area, who evidently had no idea a movie was being made, drove up and demanded to know what in the heck was going on.
THE NO-NONSENSE FATHER
In the film, local actor Rusty Martin, Sr. played the role of Joseph Carrington, the no-nonsense father. With his ruggedly handsome good looks, Rusty Martin looks like a Hollywood leading man or perhaps a hero in a Western from the 1950′s.
Martin said that his character is a “salt of the earth” kind of guy, who has a wide range of skills that are an asset in that type of situation. Handy with horses, cars, guns, and tools, he’s a country-raised farmer who can handle his own. He is married to Hannah Carrington who works as a doctor at a local hospital, while Rusty runs their horse farm.
Martin says that after the event knocks out the power, obviously their priorities have changed.
“You don’t know how long the kids can go hungry,” he said. “We could be dark for a year.”
Martin said making the film was lots of fun, but that it was also a lot of work.
“The time commitment was huge,” he said, referring to the fact that they shot for two weeks straight to complete the film.
In addition to this role and others in local movies, Martin shoots commercials as well so you may recognize him from television spots. He said his son Rusty Martin, Jr. also is following in his footsteps and taking roles in productions.
Joking in a conversation at the film screening, Martin said while filming one scene, he wasn’t given much notice that he would be taking his shirt off in front of the camera. While other actors like Matthew McConaughey were given months to work out before appearing shirtless in films like “Magic Mike,” he wasn’t exactly told too far in advance.
“Matthew McConaughey got 14 months notice and I got about three minutes,” he joked.
THE HEALING MOTHER
Playing the role of Hannah Carrington in the film was Regina Mackenzie, who has done some film work in the Triangle before “The Carrington Event.”
In the film, her character tries to work at the hospital as long as possible after the power goes out, but eventually has to return home to help her family. The situation is not an easy one and she must try to reconcile with her husband, who is more focused on looking out for their own family as opposed to efforts to helping strangers.
Mackenzie says the shooting the film was really a wonderful time.
“It was a very enjoyable experience,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to be with such a great cast.”
She added that the Crenshaw family, which owns the Crenshaw Photography Studio and rustic southern farmhouse where they did much of the filming, were great to work with.
“The Crenshaws took us in like family,” she said. “They were so gracious and made our film family seem so much a part of theirs.”
Mackenzie said that shooting the film was very exciting.
“It was an exciting set,” she said. “News crews were here. We had the crowd scene here at the farm with torches. They made everything seem so real.”
Up and coming actress Katie Garfield plays the role of the daughter, Tracy Carrington in the film. Garfield does an excellent job of playing a teenager who is growing up into a young woman on the farm and falls in love with one of the sons of a neighbor close by. As they say in Hollywood, Garfield is one of those actresses that the camera seems to love, so look for her to appear in more upcoming feature presentations.
OTHER ROB UNDERHILL PROJECTS
Director Rob Underhill hopes that a major network or cable channel will pick up the series and they’ll be able to flesh the film out for a full 13 episodes. He says they are currently in talks with one network about the film, which has a high production value while keeping it in budget. Funding from a major network would expand the production’s resources, allowing him to tell a more complete story beyond this first film, he said.
Currently, Underhill said he is putting the film on the film festival circuit and is networking with other producers and film executives. He has already seen great success with another feature film called “Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till,” which has won six best film awards at film festivals around the country.
Based on a true story, the film starring Mike Wiley as all of the characters in the film, is set in the 1950′s and follows a journalist who is seeking answers in the wake of a lynching of a 14 year old in Mississippi.
Whether examining our modern lives that are so closely tethered to electricity or reviewing racial strife in our not so distant past that resulted in abhorrent acts, Underhill’s films make you think and ask yourself questions that may not result in easy answers.
Underneath our modern facade of civilization, there is an undercurrent of humanity that is not always so pleasant to look at.
“We’re all so comfortable in our lives, we don’t think about what would happen to us if it were taken away from us,” said actress Regina MacKenzie. “How quickly would we revert back to human nature.”
“Our humanity can come to the surface so quickly,” she added. ::
Article Posted: Tuesday, July 24th, 2012.
ON THE WEB: http://www.thecarringtonevent.com
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