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No Masquerade | By Diane Silcox-Jarrett


This time last year, Fayetteville filmmaker Jeremiah McLamb stood on a country road in the middle of the night with a camera crew, about 50 off-duty firefighters and cops and less than 12 hours to stage and shoot a fiery car wreck. What a year it has been. It led to a red-carpet premiere and three sold-out shows for his first full-length feature film. “Masquerade” has even caught the attention of Sony Pictures. Now, McLamb is planning his second feature film, all while balancing his own production company, not to mention a spring wedding. McLamb is the owner of JerFilm Productions, a company based in Fayetteville but which keeps him busy traveling the world shooting commercials, corporate videos, documentaries and his passion, feature films. Like many a young filmmaker, the “Stars Wars” trilogy first inspired him to write his own scripts, catching the attention of a caring teacher. John Wright, drama teacher at Northwood Temple Academy, asked the freshman student to write and produce the school’s spring production. And for the next three years, he wrote and produced all of the academy’s spring shows. Wright handed him a video camera his senior year and that was all it took. “Each year the spring productions became more complicated and expensive,” McLamb said and laughed. “And the fan base grew, too.” He went on to earn a mass communications degree at Campbell University, all the while filming weddings and his church’s annual mission trips abroad. But it was a phone call from his mother and Northwood Temple Academy principal, Renee McLamb, which spurred him into making “Masquerade.” “She asked me if I was interested in teaching a drama class the next semester. I said yes, if I could create a movie.” It was the push he needed to get his thoughts down on paper. He collaborated with friend, fellow filmmaker and former professor David Acuff of Raleigh. They had a script together in about a week. Renee McLamb provided not only the push but the inspiration for the project. As a school principal, she saw young people struggling with hardships that outsiders never saw. “A lot of people go through life with heavy burdens,” Jeremiah McLamb explained. “They are smiling but, emotionally, for them, things are really wrong. People wear a mask.” “Masquerade” is about two teenage girls, Ashley and Jamie, who are facing some of those burdens. With some fairly heavy script material, McLamb went into auditions last spring. Then he needed financial backing. It didn’t take long for members of the community to step forward. Bryan Kent, a local businessman and owner of K3 Enterprises, recognized McLamb’s talent and contributed to the project. “He is a young aspiring entrepreneur with a lot of passion for what he does,” Kent said. “He has deep moral and ethical values, and he is reaching out to the younger generation.” Buck Hodge also offered money and a key piece of equipment, a digital cinema camera called the Red One that has been used to shoot a slew of large-scale Hollywood pictures. McLamb was ready to start shooting. His actors were mostly students who had to be on call in the height of the sticky summer heat for no pay. “This was a low-budget film,” McLamb said, “and when I could get a place we had to take it, get everything set up for a scene, and shoot it. This meant a lot of last-minute coordinating.” Perhaps the most ambitious scene was the live-action car wreck shot in Buies Creek. McLamb pulled in a friend from college who also worked as a volunteer firefighter and arranged for permission from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to shut down two miles of country roads. By 5 p.m. the day of the shoot, he had assembled 50 or so off-duty firefighters and police officers, 20 to 30 professional crew members on hire from Raleigh and his volunteer actors and extras. They didn’t wrap until the wee hours of the next day. “It was a wild night,” McLamb said. “What would have taken three nights, we did in one night. It was amazing the dedication, and they were out there doing it for free.” Rosa Morales played Jamie, one of the main characters in the film. She remembers those days when scenes had to come together fast. “I would wonder – how in the world is all of this going to get done? But if we needed anything it would be provided and it all came together.” Like other people involved in the production, Morales says she felt led to play the part. “I really wanted to reach people through my character. God put it in my heart to do the movie.” The all-night shoots, the dependence on donations and volunteers and the last-minute scrambles for the right locations all paid off on opening night. “Masquerade” showed to sold-out crowds at the Cameo Art House Theatre for three nights running in October and again to large crowds in November. With some tweaking to be done and music to add, plans are underway to take the movie on the road to film festivals, churches and conferences. McLamb hopes to find a distributor who might show it in theaters or sell it on DVD. In the meantime, he is planning a second feature film, a movie based on the real-life story of Calvin Hunt, a gospel singer from the famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. And that’s not all – the film will coincide with a documentary and book on Hunt’s life. It’s shaping up to be another big year for Jeremiah McLamb.