A Greek tragedy in Crawfordsville
by Wade Coggeshall
July 25, 2006
Reynaldo Pacheco's love of acting dates back to his youth in La Paz, Bolivia, where he performed in a gypsy street theater troupe. After being accepted to Wabash College, he immersed himself in their theater program, acting in numerous productions and even having a play he wrote performed there.
As he ships off for the University of Southern California's film school (one of only 10 students accepted), Pacheco has one more project to complete. And Crawfordsville plays a prominent role.
Pacheco '06, who double-majored in theater and French, with a minor in political science, is filming and starring in a movie at Crawfordsville called "Inertia." His producer is Andrew Dits '07, who's entering his senior year at Wabash. Together they've already made five films, in such exotic locales as Paris and Ecuador. For "Inertia," Pacheco is using veterans from the Vanity Theater as his cast, along with a host of citizens serving as extras. Much of the feature-length movie is being filmed in Campbell's, where owner Jake Spore and his employees have been very accommodating to the crew. Other sites in the downtown figure in, as well as rural parts of the county. Wabash College loaned Pacheco digital camera equipment.
"Inertia" centers on a man, Amadeo, played by Pacheco, caring for his wife Telma, who's in a vegetative state. Amadeo is slowly losing his mind as he tends to her needs, spending hours applying her makeup and having unrequited conversations.
Telma's family has come to town. Amadeo has hidden her, fearing they will let her die if they take control. And yet for all his love for Telma, Amadeo's also bitter because she's taken his life away.
Pacheco calls his screenplay, originally written for the theater, a "scary story. You get this dark side of humanity, this complex situation where you have somebody you love, but who is very ill. Your life stops; everything changes. We're getting inside the emotions (of this). It's so complex. That's why the project is called 'Inertia.' When you have somebody ill, you become a little ill yourself."
Simultaneously, he considers "Inertia" a tender love story. "It's really different because you have this horrible situation, but at the same time you have this beautiful story, which is this human being taking care of another human being," he says.
"It's something incredibly artistic that I don't think a lot of us are exposed to every day," says Abby Gillan, a Crawfordsville native who's portraying Telma. She'll be a sophomore this fall in the theater department at Boston's Emerson College. "I'm rarely exposed to such an artistic script and idea. It's just incredible how collaborative the process has been. You never get too experienced."
Pacheco was inspired to write "Inertia," in part, by the Terri Schiavo case. He found the whole ordeal - a woman in a persistent vegetative state, her life hanging in the balance as her husband wants to take her off life support and her parents want to keep her alive in hopes of a medical breakthrough - a shocking study in sociology. Worse yet was the apathy displayed by his peers while the drama was unfolding.
"There was a person dying," Pacheco says of the case, which ended with the husband winning a protracted court battle and Schiavo dying on March 31, 2005, from starvation. "It was a huge controversy politically, emotionally and morally. And nobody cared. For me, that's very depressing.
"What we're trying to do with 'Inertia' is bring this huge Greek tragedy to Crawfordsville," he says, which explains the names of the characters.
"I am beyond amazed and impressed with this guy," says Stephanie Pool, a local actress who's playing Vera, Telma's sister. "His knowledge is just amazing. I've learned so much from being in this." She's impressed by Pacheco's attention to detail - whether it be checking camera angles or applying makeup. "He's going to go places."
As important, Pacheco wants to dispel the naysayers who say a community like Crawfordsville doesn't foster or appreciate art with "Inertia."
"Everyone keeps saying I want to get out of Crawfordsville. I want to go to New York to become something," he says. "But you can do big things here. Just look at Lew Wallace. He was one of the most respected writers in the United States. But that's what we kept hearing: You can't do anything here. We're trying to prove that, yes, you can."
Pool recalls one night, about 11-11:30, when they were filming a scene on Main Street. Some skateboarders happened by, and one of them went over to talk to them.
"He said, 'You guys shooting a movie?' "
"He said, 'In this town?!' "
" 'Huh. That's pretty cool. I'll have to check that out.' "
Filming started July 10 and is expected to wrap by the end of the month. Throughout the intense shoot, Pacheco's had technical support from East and West Coast acquaintances, as well as guidance from Northanger Productions out of Arizona. A philharmonic conductor from Bolivia flew in for two weeks to help with scoring. Mostly, though, "Inertia" is a Crawfordsville production. Local police officers have loaned their talents. The cast got part of its wardrobe through an antique store here.
"(Crawfordsville is) the perfect spot," Gillan says. "The arts are embracing Crawfordsville a lot more, and Crawfordsville is embracing a project like this. I just think it's a great learning tool for both parties involved."
Pacheco leaves Aug. 8 for USC. Before he goes he's having an art exhibit Aug. 1 at the Crawfordsville District Public Library, featuring stills from his various movie projects. One last performance before he departs his adopted hometown.
Of "Inertia," a film he plans to screen at Wabash and the Vanity Theater, he says, "It's something that was inspired by (Crawfordsville) and came from here and happens here. That's the important thing."
Coggeshall is a reporter for the Crawfordsville Journal Review.