Oklahoma filmmaker Adam Hampton brings “Unusual Calling of Charlie Christmas” to deadCenter Film Festival
A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma filmmaker Adam Hampton brings “Unusual Calling of Charlie Christmas” to deadCenter
Column: The costumed vigilante drama is among 14 features that were made by Oklahomans, star Oklahomans or were made in Oklahoma that will be shown at the 12th annual festival.
“There were a lot of things that we had never done, and so it is kind of interesting, actually, the parallel between Charlie and his growth and then our own confidence in regards to shooting at night or shooting fight scenes and dealing with the bigger aspects of the story we wanted to tell,” said Hampton, 34, in a phone interview this week from his home in McLoud.
“I mean, it’s not an epic by any stretch, but I think if you compare our first fight scene and how we started and sort of the trepidation and fear (we felt) vs. our later stuff, there’s definite growth. I think it probably mirrors Charlie a little bit.”
The darkly comedic costumed vigilante drama will make its world premiere at 6:45 p.m. Saturday at Harkins Theatres during the 12th Annual deadCenter Film Festival.
The Dale High School graduate has been involved in two other deadCenter films — he was among the actors in the 2006 thriller “When I Find Bin Laden” and wrote and directed the 2008 horror short “A Beautiful Day” — but “The Unusual Calling of Charlie Christmas” is the first feature he wrote and directed to be accepted into the Oklahoma City festival.
“I’m just extremely excited. It’s a tremendous stage to be playing on Saturday night in Bricktown,” Hampton said.
“I think deadCenter is an elite festival. I think deadCenter wants to be taken seriously and it doesn’t want to just say, ‘Well, let’s include every Oklahoma film and that’s how we’re gonna boost our attendance.’ They’re pretty serious about what they’re promoting and what they’re presenting. To be accepted was a huge deal to me.”
Lance McDaniel, deadCenter executive director, said the festival uses a blind review process, so the 30 reviewers who watch the films don’t know where the submissions originated.
“We do have a lot of people asking us, ‘Are you an Oklahoma film festival?’ It’s like no, we’re an international film festival, and the good news is that so many Oklahomans are making great movies that those are being included even though we’re not specifically seeking them out,” he said.
“More than a third of the feature films that we’re showing have a connection to Oklahoma, which we’re thrilled about.”
Of the 34 features on the slate for this year’s deadCenter, 14 were made by Oklahomans, star Oklahomans or were made in Oklahoma, he said.
McDaniel’s comedy “Just Crazy Enough” will screen at 4 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Harkins, with star Chris Kattan in attendance.
Best known as an “X-Men” actress and Bond girl, writer-director Famke Janssen filmed her dramedy “Bringing Up Bobby” in Oklahoma City, Nichols Hills and Arcadia. She and Oklahoma-bred executive producer Cole Frates will do an audience Q&A after the film’s screening at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. The movie will be shown again at 8 p.m. Sunday at Harkins.
The festival closes at Harkins at 8:30 p.m. Sunday with “Robot and Frank,” starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon and former Oklahoma City resident James Marsden, who is expected to attend.
Other directors with Oklahoma ties include Mark Potts (“Cinema Six,” 6:15 p.m. Friday and 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Harkins Theatres); Stefanie Leland (“Where Did the Horny Toad Go?” 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Harkins); Neil Berkeley (“Beauty Is Embarrassing,” 8 p.m. Friday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art and 5:45 p.m. Sunday at Harkins); Liz Oakley (“Awaken the Dragon,” 6 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Harkins); Diane Glancy (“The Dome of Heaven,” 11:14 a.m. Saturday at Harkins) and Greg Mellott (“The Grand Energy Transition,” 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Harkins).
“The Unusual Calling of Charlie Christmas” is the fourth full-length feature for writer-director Hampton, an East Central University graduate who started his Outsider Productions with a close circle of friends in 2004 as an end-of-college project.
His pal Kenny Pitts stars as Charlie Christmas, a socially awkward 32-year-old school janitor who has been tormented or ignored his whole life. Fed up with the bullying he sees at the school and the domestic violence he knows his next-door neighbor Gracie (Julia Curry) endures at the fists of her abusive husband Brad (Hampton), Charlie is inspired to become a costumed vigilante crusading in his hometown of Shawnee. The movie was filmed in Pottawatomie County.
In the six years Hampton and his band of “elbow-grease filmmakers” have been working on “Charlie Christmas,” movies about costumed vigilantes and superheroes have been trendy, from “Watchmen” and “Kick-Ass” to “The Dark Knight” and “The Avengers.”
“There’s this idea of these simplified heroes that are gonna come in and save us and solve all our problems. They kind of John Wayne in or they Superman in and then they fly off, and for problems like these intangibles, it’s not like robbing a bank (that you can stop easily). It’s stuff that just persists and it’s cancerous,” he said.
“It wasn’t about ‘let’s make comic book scenes,’ it was ‘let’s take someone who’s very pure and very sweet and almost like the Frank Capra sort of character and then watch him deal with something that’s so ugly.’”
With virtually no budget, it took the indie moviemakers almost three years to complete what amounted to 60 days of filming. They got their own “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment when more than 50 backers donated $7,700 to their Kickstarter campaign to fund post-production.
“It was just tremendous, very inspiring to get people that believed in what we were trying to do, even if they thought it was crazy, to support it and show that support,” he said.
While working on post-production, Hampton made a comedic short called “Charlie Christmas: Corndogs and Justice” that played at Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee, won best short comedy at Trail Dance Film Festival in Duncan and was voted “funny” at FunnyorDie.com.
After deadCenter, the full film and a comic book Hampton created based on it will be featured later this month at SoonerCon 21 in Oklahoma City and the San Antonio Film Festival in Texas.
“I love doing what we do, and I’m absolutely in love with where we’re doing it,” Hampton said. “I just love telling stories … There’s an element of it that’s magical.”
deadCenter Film Festival
When: Through Sunday.
Where: Multiple screens and venues throughout downtown Oklahoma City.