Andrea Shreeman is working on an "end-of-life comedy" to be shot around Roanoke.
For Sara Elizabeth Timmins and Andrea Shreeman, the combination of the place, the people and the funding makes the Roanoke area their personal set for creating films.
Roanoke’s two home-grown moviemakers are cranking away on small-budget, independent projects that are bringing money and attention to the Roanoke Valley.
When Sara Elizabeth Timmins and Andrea Shreeman sat down to lunch together for the first time in late August, it wasn’t quite 10 minutes before they were finishing each other’s sentences.
The similarities here are striking: small, slender, 30-something actresses hell-bent on making movies top to bottom. They live in L.A., but have strong ties to the Roanoke Valley. They like making movies here. They raise their own money – much of it from around here. They are driven, outgoing, naturals at sales and each has a creative bent that is off the scale. Little wonder they connected.
You probably know about Timmins, the 36-year-old moviemaker who filmed “Lake Effects” two years ago at Smith Mountain Lake and just put in the can a movie based on David Baldacci’s book “Wish You Well.” Timmins’ parents live at the lake and she met Baldacci while making “Lake Effects.” She is in the midst of putting together two more movies, “Chesapeake,” with Keith Carradine and a “true sports story out of Lynchburg” that does not yet have a title. Both will be shot in Virginia. All her movies, like Shreeman’s first one (“A Good Day to Die”), are low-budget and independent.
Shreeman, a Roanoke native who’s home for the movie, has lugged her new son, Maverick (born last December), with her throughout the process of putting together her “end-of-life comedy,” which will be shot “within a 15-mile radius of downtown Roanoke” this winter and spring. She’s still casting, still raising money, still tying up loose ends, but, like Timmins, she knows the ropes and knows where to find people and institutions willing to help.
Both women have collaborated on writing their movies and have been involved in virtually every aspect, especially raising the money, something each has had to learn to do.
“All of my films have been financed by private equity (mostly Virginia),” says Timmins. “Many of the investors from [‘Lake Effects’] joined our team again for [‘Wish You Well’] and I think it was because they had a fun and positive experience. I did what I said I was going to do, I treated their money like it was my own and I kept them updated, involved and made sound decisions.”
Shreeman is putting together a support package: “There are a lot of individuals, companies and organizations locally who have been supporting us as we move through this film’s development.” She ticks off names: John Lugar of Virginia Varsity Transfer, Lisa Soltis of Roanoke’s economic development department, Roy Bucher at Chas Lunsford and Sons, Jim Hale at LeClair Ryan, Ellen and Jim Wade, Karen Branch, Ed and Katherine Walker, Anna Lawson, William Fralin, Ginger and Darrell Morris and on and on. Downtown residents “have embraced me and my son during our stays here in town and are a unique group of trendsetters who bring Southern charm to city living.”
Timmins is in love with the low-budget, independent form of moviemaking.
“I’ve had a taste of high-budget films,” she says, “and I prefer this. Low budgets make sense. We are forced to be more creative when there are more constraints, to think outside the box. It’s a kind of forced creativity.”
Shreeman has found help and solid advice at every turn: “The Virginia Film Office is savvy when it comes to the entertainment industry, and it is very busy,” she says. “It has made excellent suggestions about how to interface with the City of Roanoke and is guiding me in how to get the most out of the tax incentives and grants offered in [the Commonwealth] for filming.”
For Shreeman, “Shooting a movie in Roanoke is a dream come true.” For Timmins, the dream just keeps going and growing. Next, it’s to the coast and then back toward the mountains. And then, to the Caribbean.
“I think maybe I’ll do one of every five movies in the Caribbean,” Timmins says, smiling.