by Norm Winick
As if working at Hill Correctional Center isnt funny enough, three guards at the Galesburg prison have a vision of producing a series of short films spotlighting Galesburg and some fictional residents but definitely not from the Chamber of Commerce viewpoint.
The first half-hour episode of "Meet the Stumps" is in the can and Andy Rutledge, Steve Gans and Paul Hevland and their 21- Keg Productions are well on their way to making local history.
The Stumps, Darwin and Zeke two bumbling northern rednecks are played by Hevland and Gans. Rutledge mans the videocamera and directs them as they and their friends stumble through life in the burg.
Its a labor of love for the three. "Were not in it for fame or money," says Gans. "Were just having a good time."
The three all have some background in the "entertainment" field. Gans was a theatre major at Western Illinois University; Hevland used to be a clown and Rutledge has taken film and radio classes at WIU. Theyve made some short films before but this was their first production for commercial distribution.
"Its taken an incredible amount of time to put our first Stumps film together," commented Rutledge. And while five more scripts are ready for further episodes, shooting is on hold until the days get longer again; the trio did their film production after work at the prison.
The pilot episode of "Meet the Stumps" combines a little social commentary with a lot of verbal and physical slapstick comedy. It would probably be rated "R" for some language and its definitely not for kids. "Future episodes may get a little heavier into the social or political realm," added Rutledge, "but these are comedies."
Comedy isnt the filmmakers only love. Hevland and Gans are seriously into Goth and horror films and hope to do a full-length horror flick one of these days.
Its a low-budget almost a no-budget production and the props are from local thrift stores and basements. They scrounged for whatever they needed and shot 6 1/2 hours of footage for the 30-minute episode at a cost of under $200 not including the computer and video equipment. Even the editing software is freeware.
The original plan was to shoot two episodes and have a DVD for the holidays but that didnt quite work out. The trio does have a hilarious website, <21keg.biz>, that gives the life story and more than you ever wanted to know about the stumps.