A local filmmaker is developing a seasonal showcase to ignite a spark in the local independent film community. Dwight Cenac is also hoping his “labor of love,” Crown Studios, will capture some attention ( The 1,500-square-foot film studio with a green screen and sound stage is one of the few of its kind in the region, but its resources have remained largely unknown.
The converted warehouse and industrial “back lot” is located in Orange Park and has served as the set for independent science fiction shorts, corporate promotional materials, commercials, music videos and even a horror film. All of the sets were created within the space, which doubles as a workshop, and includes sets of a spaceship with control panels and cockpit, a mineshaft, a morgue and a talk-show set.
“When filmmakers ask me what they can do in there, I tell them it’s pretty much anything they can imagine. It’s not huge, but you can get a lot accomplished,” he says. “It really takes walking into my studio to realize that there are some awesome things that can be achieved in a real studio that can’t be achieved anywhere else.”
All of the projects filmed at Crown Studios were shot by local filmmakers and artists, but Cenac isn’t looking to expand his clientele beyond the city limits. “I haven’t had the pleasure of enticing a foreign crew to come in. We’re not well-known, so the big cats get the foreign guys, which is great because I love local film, and that’s what I’m trying to encourage in this town,” he says. “That is what my studio is for.”
Cenac is working to lock down the old Arlington Theatre as the venue for his indie film fest. He will post updates on the Crown Studios Facebook page under Crown Films
The quarterly events will feature a theme based on the season. The inaugural festival will be held in June or July with a summer blockbuster action theme. In October, he will host a Halloween horror series followed by a holiday series in December. He hopes the showcase will provide an outlet for local filmmakers to share their work with new audiences and an opportunity to collaborate with other filmmakers. The idea is to create working partnerships that will help nurture the local film industry.
Submissions will be accepted from two to 15 minutes in length. There are no entry fees and the screenings will be open to the public free of charge, but a minimum donation of $5 will be encouraged at the door. All proceeds will be divided among the participants at the close of each event. “We don’t keep a dime of it. It goes right back into the community to encourage them to make more movies,” Cenac says. “We are hoping to create an event for filmmakers to network. It’s just one other way we are trying to help out.”
His desire to give the local guys a leg up was the motivation for Cenac to create a space for independent films to reach new heights. He recently awarded the winner for best direction of a music video at the 2012 Jax Film Fest with two free days at Crown Studios. The majority of the filmmakers that approach Cenac also have limited budgets, and as an independent filmmaker himself, he always works with what they have.
“I keep it in operation by the gigs that I do. It’s almost suicidal, but I hope and pray that someday, it will be a sustainable thing,” he says. “Jacksonville is my home, and film is what I do, so it only makes sense that I focus on helping to cultivate the film industry here.”