Locals only: Wagner vows to get Anjlz off the shelf

Charlottesville's Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Paul Wagner, recently announced plans to make his second feature film. Unlike his first dramatic feature, Windhorse, shot surreptitiously on location in Tibetan China, this one is all local– with volunteer actors, a shoestring budget, and weekend shootings at a Free Union mansion.

"I've referred to it as a cinematic Live Arts," says Wagner.

Wagner's new film is based on a screenplay by Charlottesville writer Karl Ackerman. In Anjlz , a character named Bobby Buchanan– a "first-class jerk" as a release describes him– makes a deal with the devil. When the angels of death arrive to collect, Buchanan has 90 minutes to find someone who loves him.

Wagner, who won an Academy Award for his 1984 documentary, The Stone Carvers, has yet to break even on Windhorse. How will Anjlz avoid the pitfalls that have sidetracked such projects as Where the Red Fern Grows– not to mention Mickey, which was backed by box-office wonder John Grisham?

Wagner says that landing Anjlz on the art house circuit and selling it to a cable television channel or two may pay the bills. But he concedes that the project may not wind up in the black.

"It's an artistic endeavor," says Wagner. "The worst case scenario is we have a local screening for the people who worked on it and for the community, and we have one hell of a party."

While financial success would be "the gravy," says Wagner, "Believe me, we do not want to let it sit on the shelf."

Before Mickey, partially made in Covesville one summer ago, the last feature to employ lots of local talent was Hearts Lonely Hunters. Shot on 35mm film, it debuted at the Jefferson Theater in 1995 and promptly disappeared.

"Paricularly now in the digital era," Wagner says, "there are probably thousands of feature films made each year that don't get distributed. There are a lot of good films sitting on shelves. And a lot of bad ones."


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