Press Kit

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Log Line

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Games become crimes, and crimes become habit, as a children’s entertainer is driven to extremes by the sinister desires of his alter ego, Mr. Lockjaw.

 

Short Synopsis


Cast

Mr. Lockjaw is a psychological crime drama centered on Miles Brimley, a struggling children’s entertainer with a split personality. The shy and mild-mannered ventriloquist has an alter ego in the form of his sadistic dummy, Mr. Lockjaw. Unlike Miles, Mr. Lockjaw is extremely skilled at talking… especially talking people out of their secrets. Soon Mr. Lockjaw is making a handsome living as an interrogator for a mob boss and using the windfall to settle vendettas. Between the crimes for pay, and crimes for pleasure, Miles is trapped unless he can find someone to help him take back his life. His struggle is set against a backdrop of a crumbing crime empire, dirty cops, drug deals, blackmail, and, of course, murder. And now the talents of Mr. Lockjaw are about to tip the power balance… unless Miles gets his say.
Created by Justin Craig and Byron Conrad Erwin.

 

Long Synopsis

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Mr. Lockjaw is a psychological crime drama centered on Miles Brimley: he’s a struggling children’s entertainer with a split personality but doesn’t know it. Shy and mild-mannered, his alter ego is his ventriloquist dummy, Mr. Lockjaw, who is extremely skilled at talking… especially talking people out of their secrets. Soon Mr. Lockjaw is making a handsome living as an interrogator for mob boss Hubaldus Hercolani and his number one in command, Leonard Stanley. Without other income, Miles is dragged along for the horrific ride. It might be a loosing battle for Miles as each successful crime, whether for pay or for pleasure, makes Mr. Lockjaw more bold and dominant. We hold out one glimmer of hope: a childhood girlfriend, Gwyneth, has recently beaten her battle with drugs and is trying to mend old relations. Perhaps reconnecting with Miles can help both put to rest their painful memories.

This struggle is set against a backdrop of Hercolani’s crumbing crime empire as Mr. Stanley does whatever necessary to keep power. He already has dirty cop Bill Preslin on the payroll and primed for blackmail. And now he has the talented Mr. Lockjaw to weed out stoolies in the organization. His only worry might be Detective Schafley, a by-the-book gumshoe, who just got pulled into a murder case with Miles as the prime suspect, courtesy of Mr. Lockjaw.

Created by Justin Craig and Byron Conrad Erwin.

 

Reviews

“a disturbing new kind of crime drama that fans of more cerebral shows like Hannibal, Bates Motel, or Dexter will enjoy”

– Kevin Powers, 100 Favorite Horror Films

 

“a slick production and a clear vision, equal parts perverse and playful. It builds it’s own universe, a place steeped in shadow, fueled by corruption and teetering on the edge of sanity… I wouldn’t mind spending more time there.”

– Tim Reis, Director IMDb

 

“a mesmerizingly murderous blend of horror and comedy. A schizophrenic psychopath whose alter ego inhabits a ventriloquist dummy is a chillingly unique perspective. Add in high production values and professional-level acting, and you have a pilot that’s ready for prime time.”

– Stephen P Sherwood , Director IMDb

 

Frequently Asked Questions


What is unique about this creepy puppet story?

Unlike many stories about ventriloquism, there is no supernatural element. The ventriloquist is always the one performing the vile actions, whether he realizes it or not. This leaves room to explore the psychosis of the character, as well as the way that other people react to his psychosis. Each new character that is introduced comes with a variety of potential reactions to Mr. Lockjaw. No repetitive scenes where people must be convinced that the dummy is alive or not.

The setup also leaves room for humor. Where normal people will bite their tongues, Mr. Lockjaw says what he pleases, knowing full well that Miles will take the beating.

Miles’ nature is not the only one explored. The concept of dual personalities runs through the other characters as well. Most obviously with Bill Preslin, the crooked cop, who must present himself as both a law-abiding officer, and a criminal with a can do attitude. Other characters’ “dualitic” personalities are explored as well, in more subtle ways.

Also explored is the idea of whether a split personality is a real ailment, or a created malady.

How did you come up with the story?

Justin Craig’s screenplay was inspired by a short film, Mr. Snuggles (2012), that was written by Byron Conrad Erwin. It imagined a ventriloquist like Mr. Rogers contrasted with a puppet that looked like a bastard child of Charlie McCarthy and Bride of Chucky. The short also introduced the idea of a ventriloquist and puppet playing a psychotic version of good-cop, bad-cop interrogators. Justin took that setup and built a world of struggling characters around it. Certain characters were carried over from the short almost unchanged, while others were removed or adapted. Clear backstories were developed to give the characters enough depth to last out a multi-season run.

Why a series instead of a feature?

It came down to budget and quality. We actually had a feature treatment at one point; coverage of a draft was done at the Atlanta Screenwriters Group in 2013. But key parts of the store required some pretty elaborate scenes and special effects that would be extremely challenging. Rather that compromise quality on those scenes, we scaled back the story to mainly character introductions and a few easy (!) killings that could stand on its own. We got coverage of that, a 53-page treatment, at the Blank Page Screenwriters Group, and got a lot of great feedback on how well it worked to set up an episodic. So we still have the more elaborate scenes, and much more story, but it’s deferred to later in the series when, hopefully, we’ll have the funding to execute them brilliantly.

Why don’t we ever see the head mobster, Hubaldus Hercolani?

We actually haven’t cast that role yet! As our top-level bad guy and we are specifically holding that role for a name actor.

What was the budget?

Damn near zero. Everyone volunteered their time so what we spent was on craft services and set dressing (especially the interrogation room and Mile’s apartment). Even the puppet was pretty low budget: a custom build by Justin, and painted by Byron, it was entirely manually operated. With more money we’d have built a puppet with much more controllable features.

Even though this was a micro-budget independent production, it does not show. The artists on board were extremely talented and were able to decorate sets and create costumes that rival any million-dollar Hollywood production.

How long is the series?

This is up in the air to some degree, new ideas are always coming, but currently the first season of 10 episodes has been fully outlined, with a general concept laid out for 3 more, for a total of 4 seasons (40 episodes). More important to us than the amount, is the quality. We want the show to end in a natural way and leave the audience satisfied, not wishing for a reboot.

When can we expect the next episode?

This is up in the air to some degree, new ideas are always coming, but currently the first season of 10 episodes has been fully outlined, with a general concept laid out for 3 more, for a total of 4 seasons (40 episodes). More important to us than the amount, is the quality. We want the show to end in a natural way and leave the audience satisfied, not wishing for a reboot.

 

Behind the Scenes

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First Day of Filming

…was in a dilapidated ranch-style house that probably hadn’t had central heat in years, so it already had a slum look (and smell). Byron and Justin dressed the living room as Miles’ apartment, hanging fake ventilation tubes, plumbing, wiring, and lots of toys. An custom made console tv was set to play the 1941 movie, “King of the Zombies” (public domain!). The same location was re-dressed and used for a junkie house. The property has since been foreclosed and razed so we really we lucky to get it at its prime!

 

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Donut Dojo

T-shirts for Donut Dojo were given out at the show’s screening for cast and crew, an homage to the doughnut boxes that appeared in half a dozen scenes in the show. The recurring product placement for this doughnut business didn’t, however, earn us any revenue: the business is fictitious and the logo is set-dec created by Retemor Graphics.

 

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One Bank, Five Locations

Our slum bank was a composite of several location to get the look and features we need. We filmed the entrance door at one location while the lobby and other side of the door were at a second location. Close-ups and OTS of walking though the door was a third location. The big bank vault door is real: for the fourth location we found a branch bank that had been converted to another business but still had the original vault (something pretty expensive to remodel away, I guess). Alas, the vault interior itself was no more than a closet in size. So for our vault interior, and fifth location, we dressed the corner of a basement. If you look closely you might make out the safe deposit boxes are painted CD jewel cases we stuck to the walls.

 

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The Interrogation

The sequence in the reptile sanctuary was a 3 day shoot, and is the first time we see Miles meet his new employers. Mr. Stanley clearly didn’t know what to expect, and is initially displeased that the expensive information extractor he’s hired is a dummy.

The torture method needed to be a repeating process, and one that Miles doesn’t have to directly engage in. An automatic sprinkler provided that solution. The sequence involves a combination of practical and digital effects. Real sparks fly from the light bulb, and digital ones pour over Ricky. Makeup effects were applied to Diesel to make his skin appear melted, and then digitally modified to increase the grizzliness. Some of the acid sprays are dyed liquid, some are digital composites, and others are both. The final shot of Ricky’s dissolved head was a puppet.

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Last Day of Filming

Our biggest shoot was the last: The Crime Scene. An exterior shoot with over a dozen extras, overnight, below freezing… Too bad for John Schmedes, whose only day on set was this one! Detective Schafley will return, however, and be a major cog in the wheels of Mr. Lockjaw.

Cast and Crew

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Troy Halverson

Miles Brimley and the voice of Mr. Lockjaw

Troy got started doing theater and improv comedy at Georgia Tech, where he received degrees in science and engineering. Since then he has done hundreds of live comedy shows and dozens of independent films… usually as a character actor, and often in heavy roles: sociopaths, psychotics and just plain criminals. Recently he’s played a relentless private investigator in Bad Blood (2015), serial killers in No Experience Necessary (2010), Trader Jack (2011), and Human Supply (2013), a belligerent paramour in Horror Hotel (2014), and a hard-ass detective in The Interns (2016). IMDb

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Mark Ashworth

Mr. Leonard Stanley, a mobster

Mark was also in the short film Mr. Snuggles that inspired this production. Born in Manchester England,Mark and his family moved State side to Tennessee in the summer of 1992. After a brief spell there working as a bricklayer, Mark relocated to Atlanta in 1997 where he has garnered a deep appreciation for the craft of acting through the tutelage of Michael H Cole. Mark is known for roles in Lawless (2012), American Hell (2014), and Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell (2014) IMDb

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Levi Burdick

Bill Preslin, a dirty cop

Levi Burdick is from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. and is a professional actor in Atlanta, GA. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of Shorter University, Levi has traveled the world as a businessman, corporate host, and entertainer. His acting career began on the stage and he as brought to life many iconic roles like Brick Politt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Captain Jack Ross from A Few Good Men, Bogey from Play It Again, Sam and a powerful performance as Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While the call of a live audience will always keep Mr. Burdick returning to the stage, the power of telling a story on the big screen took him to Atlanta where the booming film industry as offered new opportunities in film, television, print modeling and commercial work. Levi has also played lead roles in high quality independent productions across the southeast. His intensity on camera and extreme professionalism have made him a casting director’s dream and a favorite in the Atlanta film community. Five nominations for Best Actor on the stage and a 2012 Atlanta 48 Hour Film project nomination for Best Actor (among 95 films). Mr. Burdick can be seen on the big screen Reese Witherspoon feature The Good Lie (2014) and on the ID Discovery Channel shows, Fatal Encounters, Bloodlands, and Your Worst Nightmare. IMDb

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Keith Brooks

Balto, an unscrupulous clown

Keith Brooks is an actor and director, known for Nerd Love (2014), Deadpool: A Typical Tuesday (2012), For Those Who Are Lonely (2014), and multiple episodes of The Walking Dead (2014). We should note Brooks work ethic: during one long day, he was scheduled for back-to-back shoots on both Constantine (2014) and Mr. Lockjaw, filming until 4 AM on one production, and then going straight to an 8 AM call on the other. We appreciate the dedication! IMDb

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Tomi Lavinder

Gwyneth Peters, recovering addict and past acquaintance of Miles

Tomi and Troy appeared together previously, as an unhappily wed couple, in Attack of the Morningside Monster (2014). Tomi is also known for The Hideout (2014). IMDb

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Diesel Madkins

Ricky Chalmers, errand boy working for Stanley and Hercolani

Diesel is known for Unanswered Prayers (2010), and for two other movies directed by Byron Conrad Erwin: Searching for Signals (2013) and Mr. Snuggles (2013). IMDb

 

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Byron Conrad Erwin

Director and DP, Executive Producer

IMDb. Erwin is also an accomplished painter and graphic designer. He has an impressive body of imaginative artwork at Retemor Graphics.

 

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Justin Craig

Writer, Executive Producer

This is Craig’s first ‘full length’ production. Previous shorts include the science fiction story Orbservers (2013) and the Atheist Dinner Party (2014). IMDb

Stills


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