KENT, Ohio – The Ramada Inn on state Route 43 in Kent is hardly what you’d expect for a movie set. Other than a single movie camera, an array of lights, and a cast and crew of about 15 people, things are Spartan.

Facetiously ask assistant director Chuck Moore where the catering is and he’ll offer you a pretzel – a stale one, no less – with a smile. There’s a cooler nearby, and two bags filled with assorted snacks.

Yet for James Renner, this set for “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” could very well launch his career as a feature film director.

Renner, 26, a 2000 graduate of Kent State University, at least has a property from a notable writer to power his efforts. The aspiring filmmaker bought the rights to Stephen King’s story to create his approximately 25-minute movie version.

“Having a Stephen King story definitely opens doors,” Renner said.

Yes, but how does a 26-year-old whose resume includes semifinalist on Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s “Project Greenlight,” working at the Sundance Film Festival and work on films such as “The Battle for Shaker Heights” land an option for a King story – at the low, low cost of a buck?

King published the story in the 2002 book “Everything’s Eventual,” a collection of short stories. King established a policy that allows aspiring filmmakers to submit a script adapted from his short stories. If he likes it, he sells a one-year option for a whopping dollar. He calls these his dollar babies.

Renner confessed that he faces a challenge with the film. Nobody’s had much luck with the dollar babies since Frank Darabont.

Darabont has turned two of the author’s works – “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” – into Oscar-nominated feature films.

Renner said his movie is more akin to “Shawshank” in that it lacks the supernatural elements normally associated with King’s stories.

Renner is off to a good start if you consider he actually has a name actor appearing in his movie. Renner, who while growing up was a fan of drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, secured the services of the lanky writer and sometimes actor (whose credits include “Casino,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and “Face/Off”). Local celebrities Michael Stanley and comic book writer Harvey Pekar also make appearances.

Briggs portrays gourmet frozen food salesman Alfie Zimmer, a man who is contemplating his place in life and whether he should commit suicide.

“I loved the story,” Briggs said between drags on a cigarette. “It’s sort of a mysterious “Death of a Salesman.”‘ Renner plans to submit his film for next year’s Sundance Film Festival. He should know by December whether it has been accepted.

He hopes that he eventually will be able to set up a base in Northeast Ohio to make movies. He has written two scripts and plans to begin filming one by the end of this year. Having worked in Los Angeles on “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” he isn’t thrilled with the prospect of living and working there. He thought it was limiting.

“At that time, I thought I wanted to live there,” Renner said. “I never want to live there permanently. There’s definitely the crew (trades people) to support filmmaking here. I don’t want to make L.A. movies.”

(c) 2004, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio).

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


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AP-NY-04-26-04 1054EDT

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