It's dark and you're riding through the night with your friend when the car starts to sputter and make noises that you know must not be good and it finally coasts to a stop. You have no idea why the car has stalled as you just had it serviced and it had been running fine. You get out to look under the hood and you realize you're stranded on the railroad tracks.
Those railroad tracks – the ones where that busload of kids was killed so long ago, the ones you've heard all those ghost stories about. You hear a low rumble and it brings you out of the daydream of ghost children and you realize that at any moment you will hear the unmistakable sound of a train horn and see its light shine through the darkness.
You yell at your friend to come help you but they tell you they can't get out! The seatbelt is stuck! You get back in the car to help but you can't budge it! The train is getting nearer and nearer. You dig through the glove compartment for something to cut through the strap and you can't find anything. You realize that you cannot leave your friend in the car and you desperately search for something and you keep trying to loosen the belt. The train horn bellows through the night. Your stomach is in a million knots and your friend is crying for you to go and save yourself. You know that you can't do that. The horn doesn't stop now; it keeps blowing and blowing for you to move. All of the sudden you feel the car lurch and it moves forward as the monstrous iron machine whooshes past mere inches from the back bumper of the car. The two of you stare at each other in amazement and you hear a click – the seatbelt comes undone. You get out to purvey the situation and as you approach the rear of the car, you notice something very odd. Very odd indeed - the back of the car is covered in small childlike handprints. The ghost children saved you from meeting the same fate they met so many years ago on a night much like this one.
This particular story is based on a popular Texas urban legend, but similar ones have circulated all over the United States and you hear stories of teenagers and thrill seekers going out to find the tracks and parking on them to see what happens. Some even include people putting baby powder on the back of the car in hopes of capturing the mysterious ghostly handprints.
Texas natives Brian and Jason Cleveland decided to take this story a little further and they wrote a screenplay called Fingerprints. They also wrote a movie called Soul's Midnight that stars Armand Assante and is in post-production right now. Fingerprints is being directed by Harry Basil, who also directed Soul's Midnight, Cloud 9, Funky Monkey, The 4th Tenor, and Back By Midnight and has been involved with several other film projects. Executive Producers are Gray Frederickson, who also produced hits such as The Godfather movies and The Outsiders (set in Oklahoma), and John Simonelli. One of the reasons Fingerprints is getting noticed right now, besides the fact that Frederickson is an award winning producer, is that one of the film's stars is Kristin Cavallari who has rocketed to stardom from her recent appearance on the Laguna Beach TV series.
The movie was shot entirely in Oklahoma in a mere sixteen days. "It was a grueling schedule and I'm glad it's over," said Cleveland. Sixteen days is an incredibly short time to film an entire feature length film.
Fingerprints is about a girl that returns home to a small Texas town from rehab and learns the story about the haunted railroad tracks. When her friends start to disappear, she decides to investigate and discovers that the urban legend was merely a cover up for something much more sinister.
Brian Cleveland has a long time interest in the paranormal, and he is getting to live his dream by doing this movie. They were able to film at some of Oklahoma's legendary haunted locations in Guthrie, Oklahoma such as the Stone Lion Inn and the old train depot. Cleveland said getting to work in some of those locations was a "paranormalist's dream." It's not often you get to film a scary movie in real haunted locations.
Being a fan of the paranormal, Cleveland contacted GHOULI (Ghost Haunts of Oklahoma and Urban Legend Investigations) just to talk about his interest in local ghost stories and when he learned about OPEN Magazine, he invited them to the set in Guthrie one evening. We certainly weren't going to pass up the opportunity to see a real Hollywood film being made, so off we went.
We arrived at the set and surprisingly, we were the only onlookers there that night. When we walked up, there was a crew standing around a big hole in the ground (much like a grave…) and there was someone screaming from it as the director was yelling instructions to them. We met Brian and Jason and they introduced us to Sydnee Harlen, one of the stars of the movie. She was in full makeup and her lips were sewn together, so we didn't get to chat a lot, but she did take a picture with our kids and later when she was out of makeup, we learned that she had been filming for three weeks and this was her last night. She was sad to leave the set as she had made a lot of good friends and probably some amazing memories.
We asked what made them choose Oklahoma and Cleveland said it's the overall experience that brought them back here to shoot the second film. Soul's Midnight was also filmed entirely in Oklahoma. Cleveland said the people in Oklahoma are welcoming, happy to have a movie in town, enthusiastic, and cooperative. He said that in Guthrie and Heritage Hills, people welcomed them with open arms and they have never had a location problem in Oklahoma. "Even with millions more dollars, we couldn't have created more authentic locations," said Cleveland.
What struck us as odd was that no one was aware that this film was filming in Oklahoma. There are major Hollywood names attached to this and not a word about it anywhere, so we felt incredibly lucky that we got to be there on the set and talk to Brian and Jason. We learned that they were using some Oklahomans on their crew which led us to ask them about their experience working with Oklahoma. They told us something that was more than a little disturbing and I hope that many of you film people will take this to heart. They said that Oklahomans charge much more than L.A. people to do work on films. They explained that this is due to the shortage of work in the film industry in Oklahoma so they charge more to make up for less work whereas L.A. people have work all the time and can charge less. The crazy thing is that in doing the stories on the Oklahoma film industry, there isn't a shortage of work – there are tons of film projects going on. It seems that the problem lies in the lack of communication about the projects and the lack of funding for film projects. So, if you do some kind of film work, you might consider lowering the price you are demanding and you may see an increase in the jobs offered to you. Not to be harsh, but if L.A. people that do this every day and live in an area where the cost of living is much higher than Oklahoma are making it on less money, then I feel pretty certain that you could, too. Why would you want to make $1,000 and gain the experience of working on one film when you could make $2,000 by getting the experience of four films? See the logic here?
Oklahoma is moving into the 21st century a little bit at a time and there's no reason we can't be up there with the big guys when it comes to film, too. There are many talented people right here in Oklahoma and why they aren't getting more help with their projects, I don't know. I know from talking to several Oklahoma film makers that their experience with the Oklahoma Film Commission has not been positive or helpful. The Oklahoma Film Society is working to change that. The nonprofit Oklahoma Film Society was founded to promote, educate, and provide for the Oklahoma film industry and its communities. Visit their website at www.okfs.org to learn more about what the Oklahoma Film Society is doing for the film industry in Oklahoma and to learn about their annual Real to Reel event.
Fingerprints premiered in Hollywood at the historical Mann's Chinese Theater this October garnering rave reviews and was voted Best Feature at the NYC Horror Fest. Watch for it to come to Oklahoma soon!