(Posted Dec. 27, 2017)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
In a darkened movie theater, a small group of people sat with their eyes glued to the screen.
Unfolding before them was the story of the unraveling of a small town as seen through the eyes of estranged brothers and innocent bystanders.
Fully engrossed in the drama and action, the movie-goers barely paid any mind to the young man sitting nearby whose attention was split between them and the screen. Though he had known these people his entire life–they were his family–Aaron Garrett had a belly full of nerves as he tried to decipher their reactions.
The London native is not normally this uptight. He can watch a movie with a crowd of relatives or strangers and not feel anything close to anxious, but this was not a normal set of circumstances. It was something special, something scary, and something he said felt wholly surreal.
“I was watching other people watch a movie I had made,” said Garrett with an almost disbelieving laugh.
The occasion was a private screening of his movie, “Madison,” held recently at the London State Theater. Garrett shot most of the 80-minute film in London and the surrounding area in 2016. Many area residents served as extras. Garrett and his crew wrapped editing and production this fall.
Garrett unveiled the movie’s trailer on social media last month. So far, it has garnered hundreds of thousands of views. It can be seen online by visiting https://m.facebook.com/MadisonFilm/ or https://www.instagram.com/Madison_film.
Though he has yet to sign a distribution deal, Garrett teased that “something may be announced after Christmas.” Until a deal is struck, those interested in seeing “Madison” will have to wait.
As for his next movie project, Garrett said it will be a horror story that involves a cabin in the woods. He said he intends to film in London once again.
Growing up, Garrett said that while he had a flair for theatrics, he never counted writing, acting and filmmaking high on his list of personal or professional priorities.
“I had my heart set on being a professional wrestler,” he said.
A year after graduating from Madison Plains High School, the then 19-year-old traveled to Florida to train at a specialized wrestling school for those who dreamed of performing in the WWE. But, his plans changed and he returned to Ohio where his journey to Hollywood began as something of a lark.
“I had a friend tell me I should try to act in movies, and then I just started looking for auditions,” he explained.
One day, he saw a casting call for extras in what turned out to be “Super 8” directed by JJ Abrams. Auditions were in a neighboring state, so Garrett packed a bag and drove four hours to see what would happen.
Much to his surprise, he was hired and spent the duration of the film’s shoot on set in West Virginia. Though his role was limited to extra and stand-in, he said observing the in-and-outs of making a film was an eye-opening experience.
Shortly thereafter, he was cast in a small role in “Foxcatcher,” starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carell, but most of his scenes and lines ended up on the cutting room floor.
“I was bummed that they cut a lot of stuff but I later learned it’s not such a big deal,” he said.
Nearly three years ago, Garrett decided to move out to California to pursue his newfound passion. Like a majority of fledgling actors, he found it difficult to snag auditions and roles.
“Nothing was really coming my way,” he said.
Harkening back to his days of writing wrestling scripts and filming them for the enjoyment of his friends and family, Garrett began the process of writing his own scripts.
“I thought, if no one wanted to cast me I could just try to make my own movies and cast myself,” he said laughing.
He then wrote, directed and starred in a short film called “Debt Comes Due.” As that was making its rounds, he started tinkering with a half-completed script about unrest in a small town, and he put out feelers for funding opportunities.
Through crowdfunding efforts and local investors, Garrett was able to see his dream of making a feature-length film come to fruition.
The first day of filming for “Madison’ took place on June 8, 2016, in London. Over the course of 21 days, Garrett filmed around town and oversaw the use of armored vehicles rolling through city streets. He even directed London Mayor Pat Closser, who volunteered as an extra, in setting a barrel on fire during a riot scene.
Using only a small cast and crew, Garrett relied on some of his professional acting colleagues, many excited Madison County residents, and local businesses to help complete his movie.
“They were great,” he gushed.
“I could not have done this without the support of so many people,” he added.