Regular readers of On the Aisle are fully aware I primarily cover the performing arts, which includes music, theatre and dance. However, starting with this story, the first in 2021, I am branching out and adding film to my repertoire of subject matter. Having started my career in television as a producer-director, I also owned a film/video production company that produced primarily educational and marketing videos, plus documentary films, including “James Dean and Me,” a 1996 Emmy-Award winner. Additionally, I have been on the other side of the camera, having acted in commercials and independent films. My interest and passion for film are also informed by my love of going to the movies before the pandemic and my current diet of endless content on streaming platforms during quarantinee.
Speaking of streaming content, a feature film titled “No Place” is currently available on Apple TV, DirecTV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNOW, and other platforms, came to my attention via an email from the film’s publicist. Grabbing me immediately was the fact the movie was filmed in Indianapolis. Distributed by Indican Pictures, “No Place” (for some, a pejorative reference to Indy) was released in December. Promoted with the tagline “Revenge, Redemption and the Scam of the Century,” the film was directed and co-written by Peter Matsoukas. What else piqued my curiosity was the star of the film, local actor Benjamin Madrid, an acquaintance of mine. Madrid plays Mac, a grifter, who has a fixer named Les (Forba Shepherd) operating in the Midwest who hooks him up with a job in Indianapolis that will lead to a large dividend. Along the way, he meets up with an old girlfriend, Evelyn, played by Afton Shepard. Mac, who is seeking to tie up loose ends, soon realizes getting involved with her again is placing his life in danger.
Formerly employed by Helen Wells Agency in business development, Madrid is represented by HWA for his commercial and print modeling. Capitalizing on his 20 years of experience, Madrid also owns and teaches at Lumiere Academy, which provides education for professional actors, print models and filmmakers. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Madrid via a Zoom call, in which we discussed “No Place,” its inception and his role in it.
Madrid said he previously collaborated with fellow Indy resident Matsoukas in a film called “Mr. Not Too Bad,” in which he played a comedic role. Living in the same area, they frequently ran into each other at their local Starbucks. Both lovers of the noir genre, the pair sat down in 2018 and decided to pool their resources and produce a feature film together. With Matsoukas directing and co-writing the script, the film is essentially a crime drama shot in 2019 at various locations around Indy, such as Burnside Inn and sets created at The Box media production space. “I always wanted to make a heist movie,” Madrid said. He described his character Mac as someone “who has become good in a number of things that are illegal, but decides he wants to change his life, which he feels has become empty, and redeem himself.”
Indiana has been the backdrop for such iconic films as “Hoosiers,” “Breaking Away,” “Eight Men Out,” “Rudy,” and “A League of Their Own.” But since the state stopped offering tax incentives to filmmakers, relatively few big-budget films are made here nowadays, with the exception of Pigasus Pictures “The Good Catholic” and “Ms. White Light,” and a few others. When I asked him about the film’s production crew, Madrid said, “Though we have a fine commercial production community in Indianapolis, we have to build one for film, so when tax incentives are offered again, we will have experienced people here to work on feature films. In the meantime, though, we can’t worry about tax breaks. We just need to go ahead and shoot. Let’s create a community, so we can keep getting better and better at doing this.”
I asked Madrid why he likes making films, to which he replied, “I’ve always loved the process of how they are made and now that I know the business well, I see a lot of the gatekeepers aren’t necessary. I’ve always loved circumventing the system and that process ends up leading me to people who are willing to do the same. That, in turn, brings about friendships, and to me, life is all about pushing ourselves and doing it together.”
As we wrapped up the interview, Madrid wanted to make sure he gave credit where credit is due. “I think it should be said that I am simply one face in this film. I don’t and can’t do films myself. There were 100 people or more involved. While the core was Peter, myself and our producers, we could not have done it without the wealth of professionals in Indianapolis. This is ‘the crossroads’ and that means we’re all heading somewhere soon and not many will stay. So, this is a very special moment in time and testament to the love of film by a special group of people.” The movie’s production team included Madrid’s daughters Lexy who was the 2nd assistant director and Chloe who was wardrobe director.
Reinforcing the independent status of “No Place,” Madrid emphasized, “In the end, our film was never given credit by local film commissions, nor the state commission. Film festivals were not interested, nor was the local arts community. We had to go to L.A. and abroad to get it recognized. These 100 people pushed this project through on their own. That’s the real story here. This $27,000 movie was created with zero tax breaks and a hell of a lot of noes along the way. And do you know who was interested in the end? Hollywood.”
“No Place” will be released on DVD on January 26, 2021. For more information about the film, go to indicanpictures.com.