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Film noir rock opera premiers in Tacoma

"Rock-a-Bye Dead Man" features all local talent

ROCK OPERA: Lance Zielinski, left, and Darrly Small star in "Rock-a-Bye Deadman," a film noir rock opera directed by Tacoma native Joseph Kephart. Courtesy photo

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"It all started when he fell in the shower..." begins Darryl Small. 

Scratch that - that must've been the introduction to a different story. For Tacoma director/writer Joseph Kephart, it started with another film.

"I was watching a 1940's rock musical and I had an epiphany," Kephart says. "I needed to do something different."

And it was then he began to create the film noir rock opera, Rock-a-Bye Dead Man. He would pen out lyrics and anxiously call his brother, John.

Small, a local business owner and actor, met Kephart at a local meet-up for those in the film industry and immediately began to brainstorm on how to bring this concept to life. As they began casting, it wasn't just a matter of finding great actors here in Tacoma but about finding singers who could act or vice versa, oftentimes coming across stage actors who were perhaps too grandiose as the stage expects you to be. When all was said and done, Rock-a-Bye Dead Man, the love child of Hooligan Street Pictures and Sway Productions, found its cast of 12 - all local talents. The cast includes Michael Self, Small, Lance Zielinski, Holly Rose, Jenny Aarde, Rich Bundy, Loretta Deranleau Howard, James Moniz, Doug Mitchell, Lorraine Gill, Nate Dybevik and Rhiannon Burnett.

The project took a cumulative two years and included six musicians and two sound engineers laying the foundation of the film. You see, Rock-a-Bye Dead Man is no average musical with a musical intermission between dialogue. There is no spoken word; it is a purely lyrical production. After music was composed to fit Kephart's prose, actors had to hit the studio and pre-record their parts before filming even began. Goes to show it's not just pop stardom that calls for lip-synching.

Director of photography Ian Price loaned out his home for the majority of filming, while the Weyerhaeuser Mansion grounds also makes an appearance. Production designers Glenn Ripple of Rampart Antiques and Rebz Salter can be credited for setting the tone and ambiance of the black and white, classic who-dunnit.

Now that the work has been invested, the staff has "begged, borrowed and stole" for costuming, precious time has been poured into the filming and editing, we the people get to attend the premier! Set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Mount Tahoma Auditorium inside of the Washington State History Museum, you will get to watch the locally produced and filmed 26-minute feature. This will be the first showing to the public and a rare chance to meet the cast and crew.

Suggested donation of $3 is requested to help the team enter the film in a Short Film Festival. Visit www.rockabyedeadman.com for details on the crew and cast and to watch the trailer.  

[Washington State History Museum, Rock-a-Bye Dead Man movie premier, Monday, Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m., $3, 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 888.238.4373]

LINK: Rock-a-Bye Dead Man, the early years

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Comments for "Film noir rock opera premiers in Tacoma" (1)

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el gato negro said on Oct. 26, 2012 at 3:51pm

Great article. Great couple of film makers. They're the Coens of Tacoma!

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