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Local filmmaker’s short plays Aspen on Sunday

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Courtesy still
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” “It’s the unnameable, the unknowable, the unexplainable.”

And when it came to his new film, that’s about all Justin Owensby was going to give away. It was a few mornings ago, and the Carbondale native was loosely quoting author H.P. Lovecraft, whose macabre stories helped inspire the short movie. Sitting with him was the film’s star, Mike Miller, telling his own thoughts on the piece. “The Vault,” they agreed, is like an episode of the “Twilight Zone” ” in three minutes.

“I think this one’s way out there,” said Owensby, 25. “It’s not easily digestible for the common audience.”



Even so, thus far it’s certainly had its share of popularity. Partially shot in Missouri Heights and the Glenwood Caverns, the piece has been or will be included in more than 30 festivals around the world. Recently, it took home the “Best Short” prize at the Cinema City International Film Festival in Beverly Hills, Calif. The buzz has even become loud enough to perk the ears of producer Suzanne DeLaurentis, who’s currently shopping the movie as a possible television show.

Soon, valley residents, too, will get their peek at the home-grown flick. On Sunday, it will be one of many played at Aspen’s Local Filmmakers Showcase, held in conjunction with Aspen Shortsfest.



But hold on. Wait a moment. Back up. How did Owensby even get here? What is he trying to do? As they say in the acting world, what is his motivation?

As he put it, “It’s actually a pretty cool thing happened to me.”

Thanks to his mother, actress Susan Lau, he grew up around local stages, he said, and actually met Miller, a 30-year acting veteran, almost two decades ago. Even though drama was part of his world, however, directing was never Owensby’s thing ” until circumstance intervened. At 17, he was caught drinking and ended up in MPower, which he called a “media empowerment course.” Sponsored by YouthZone and directed by Alec Raffin, the program was meant to steer teens away from drugs and alcohol and toward something more positive. For Owensby and film, this was the beginning of everything.

He was introduced to the medium, and soon directed his first small thing, “The Milk Bandit.” A professional skier, Owensby would also end up creating ski films as well, but he was yearning for something more challenging, more artistic. This was six years ago, and he was eager to go out, get experience, make things happen. So he up and moved to Los Angeles.

“(Film) was really the only other thing I enjoyed as much as skiing,” he said, nonchalantly explaining the decision.

While you might never have heard of “Chapman,” “In Trust” or “Muscle,” for the last few years, these films have been his life. Some he directed; others he wrote, and all made good showings at festivals and competitions. Hollywood Scriptwriter Magazine recently dubbed him “Best New Writer.” Currently, his screenplay, “The Golden Palm” is being made into a graphic novel.

Tattoos running up his arms, Owensby was low-key as he laid all this down. He didn’t seem as focused on the success of his past as he did on his constant goal, to keep making movies that matter. His favorite films, such as “The Thin Red Line,” and Gus Van Sant’s recent trilogy, stray away from the norm, he said. They might have been box office failures, but so what? To Owensby, their emotion is real, and that’s what counts.

“I just want to tell a story in the most honest way I can, to be true to it in its own way,” he said. “I guess I’m trying to make the movie I feel the lack of.”

Those words brought him right back to “The Vault.” Unlike so many short films, this isn’t a political story, he said, nor is it a quirky tale about a puppy or a kitten. It’s dark and fresh, and people seem to be responding. He was excited to see how, finally, locals would react.

Miller echoed the enthusiasm completely.

“That’s one of those dream-come-true things,” Miller said. “To have it shown here, it’s a treat.”

Though film had never really factored into his career before, Miller was definitely a believer in the movie ” and in Owensby. He felt honored and surprised, it seemed, that Owensby had remembered him from his childhood and had brought him out to California for shooting. While relating to the camera was hard for him at first, Miller said, it was also a great leap into a “more stimulating” and “less repetitive” form of his craft.

“It feels like a positive step toward something,” he said.

That something, of course, is “unknowable.” Perhaps it will mean the actor moving to Los Angeles to film a TV show. Maybe, for the director, it will make him one step closer to his dream of directing a full-length movie in his home valley.

Owensby wasn’t going to predict the future, but he did seem sure on a few things. Carbondale, to where he just moved back, will always be his home. And film ” well, that’s just his world now.

“Oddly, it’s come to fruition,” he said, of his career. “It feels, you know, real.”

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

ssieg@postindependent.com

Post Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado


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