Romeo Must Hang Wins 3rd Award...

Romeo Must Hang won Best Documentary at the Appalachian Film Festival in Huntington, WV... Got this cool Blinko Glass original...

Last fall the film won "best film" and "best documentary feature" at the West Virginia Filmmakers Fest in Sutton, WV. Hope to have some news on distribution soon. In the meantime were developing a television series and it looks like we have the funding for our pilot. As soon as it goes down I'll be sharing photos and stories from the new adventure.

visit www.romeomusthang.com to check out the trailer...


Rent Shades of Gray on Netflix

"Shades of Gray" on Netflix Streaming... "Romeo Must Hang" will be coming soon, we just locked the picture last week. Visit romeomusthang.com to check it out.

FestivALL's new 72-Hour Film Challenge seeks participants


CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bob Wilkinson, co-organizer of FestivALL's new 72-Hour Film Challenge event thinks entering the competition should be a no-brainer for any local filmmaker.

"There's no entry fee," he said. "First prize is $500. Second prize is $300. Third prize is $100. And like I said, there's no entry fee."

The contest was conceived by Hollywood producer and location scout Jesse H. Rivard, who is a native of Duck. The concept is simple. At noon on Thursday, June 16, entrants will be given a theme and subject. After that, they have 72 hours to shoot, edit and submit a 10-minute film that will be screened June 19 for three judges.

Those judges are Jeff Tinnell, Bill Hogan and Chuck Frostick. Tinnell, a Fairmont native, is a film and graphic novel producer. Hogan is the director of Charleston's Image Associates, which provides advertising, public relation and media production services. Frostick is an editor and videographer at West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

"It does have to be family friendly," Wilkinson said. "FestivALL is a family event, and we don't want to restrict audiences."

Other than that, filmmakers are free to run wild -- as long as it fits in with the challenge guidelines.

"We want people to have fun with it," Wilkinson said.

The deadline for the 72-Hour Film Challenge was set at June 1, but Wilkinson says that was never intended as a hard deadline. It's a new event and they're still trying to get the word out.

"We've got a couple of weeks yet," he said.

And while Wilkinson says he's had a number of calls from people interested in the challenge, so far no one has committed to taking it on.

"Best case scenario is we find six to 10 people to do this," he said.

Wilkinson, a local filmmaker and a videographer at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, says with only a small pool of competitors, the odds of winning a prize are pretty good.

"If I wasn't helping to put this thing together, I'd do it."

For an entry form for the competition, visit www.festivallcharleston.com. For more information, contact Wilkinson at 304-532-4233 or astraydogf...@gmail.com or Rivard at 310-339-1881or purpleprese...@mac.com.

Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


Border Crossings, New Places and the home of the Buffalo Wing...

One great thing about this job is the adventure involved and the people you meet along the way. I always say that with documentatry filmmaking you get to experience a different walk of life with every interview and new place along the way. "Shades of Gray" took me to sunny Key West, Frozen Minnesota and to Cleveland, Ohio where after the interview I got to see Roger Clemens take the mound for the New York Yankees. With "Adopt a Jesus" I went to the streets of Nashville, Shreveport and Houston to name a few and met folks who go unnoticed for the most part by our fast paced world. Next up, Romeo Must Hang took me to Buffalo, New York, Independent filmmaking is always an adventure.

After finishing up my 40 hour work week at WVPBS at 7pm on Friday evening we took to the road. Steve Schmidt and I were headed off to Erie, PA where we would stop for the night. On the way we listened to some of the tracks that Jeremy had cut for the film, the different perspective you get listening to music at varying times of the day is interesting. Suddenly a Angelo Badalamenti quality crept from the tracks that I had listened to months before. Some filmmakers prefer to have a score cut to the finished film but I like to have a sound in my head while I'm gathering my interviews. The documentaries I've done in the past are shaped by the soundtrack that I lay out in advance and it allows me to construct the world in which my characters live.

The next morning we finished the trek to Buffalo, NY where the mission was to interview David Schmid, author of "Natural Born Celebrities." We met David at his house and followed him to his office at the University of Buffalo where we sat down for the longest interview I've conducted or been a part of. Steve also said it was his longest he had been apart of. I prefer to call my interviews conversations, I don't write down any questions to take into the interview, this feels forced to me. I do have a specific outline in my head to which I will attempt to cover during the conversation but what happens in-between those bullet points is anything goes. The most important thing going into a "conversation" is you've got to do your homework. You've got to know first of all about the subject and characters in your film. Second you need to know about the subject your about to sit down with to have a conversation.

The interview went more than well, it was the kind of interview that takes a story to the next level. Each film has one or more, Shades of Gray had multiple interviews of that nature, hopefully "Romeo" will turn out to be as fruitful. My goal with David was to paint broad strokes with my questioning to generate deep discussion, I wasn't concerned with the details of the Powers story at this point. By this I mean rather than asking What Powers personality was like, I would ask Why is it every time a serial killer surfaces in a neighbor hood everyones reaction is, Well he was such a nice quiet guy. The scary thing is these monsters are just like you and I... average unassuming people. That is the level of conversation I was trying to get, and I more than got it. Thank you David.

After the interview it was off to the Anchor Bar in downtown Buffalo. Its a contentious issue but the Anchor Bar claims to be the place that invented the Buffalo wing, there is another place in town that claims the same. I'm not much of a wing fan but being a fan of history I ordered up some, I must say it tasted like a Buffalo Wing.

At this point it's 8pm and when making a film business comes first but it's also important to have some fun along the way. With this you see and do things when time allows, this means a night trip to Niagara Falls and across the border to Canada. I've never been to the falls and even at night it was impressive. It was nothing like I had cooked up in my imagination, I pictured a secluded area lot of forestation and a giant waterfall with a guy in a viking hat riding a barrel to the bottom. I hadn't dream up the towns and casinos that had grown up on each side of the border. It was a short lived trip because it was 5 degrees on the U.S. side and it was -15 across the border. It was cold but we didn't have to give it much thought, we were heading back to West Virginia in the morning. Canada here we come.

At the border they didn't seem too keen on us bringing $8000 worth of gear into Canada. I told them we had carried the sensitive gear into the hotel and were just too lazy to carry the rest. "What do you do for a living?", asked the border guard as he searched the car. "I'm a Filmmaker," I said. "What is your film about," he said. I replied, "Actually a Serial Killer." The second guard laughed and said, "Did he do it?" To which Steve replied, "Hell yeah he did it." "Where you guys staying?" "Buffalo," I answered. "I wouldn't leave my stuff in Buffalo either," he said.

After the car was searched it was onto Immigrations to get a background check to be cleared to cross the border. Once in Canada we walked beyond the tourist traps to a little bar with curling on one screen and hockey on another. After a few hours in Canada it was back to the U.S. where once again we were searched crossing the Peace Bridge. The guard asked mostly the same questions with one exception. "What did the Canadians say when you brought all that equipment across the border?" I didn't have the heart to tell him.


Gray Barker, an Apple and the Men in Black…

… sounds like a good idea for a Disney movie except we can exchange the gay man for a brunette princess. And oh yeah the Men in Black can be Dwarfs.

“Insert the FINAL CUT STUDIO instillation disk…”

The new edit system arrived today, decided to take a crack at a Screenplay and the snow that is falling as I write brought back memories of the first step on a long journey to where I am today. I have to say that the hour that I’ve spent with my new Mac Book Pro has sold me on Apple. First it was an iPod, then the iPhone and now the Mac Book. I’ve been a skeptic all along but I’m now a full-fledged junkie or whatever term is hip to apply. Now only if Final Cut is as good as Avid. I’ve spent the last 9 years cutting on an Avid edit system at WVPBS and own my own Avid Express system that I work on from home. The same system that I cut “Shades of Gray” on and “Adopt a Jesus.” I can only hope that Final Cut can stand up to the Avid program… To be continued

Not that I’m busy or anything but I think Charessa (my wife) and I are gonna begin working on a screenplay. All of the research is stored in my head so the easy part is out of the way, now its time to put it together in an entertaining fashion that resembles nothing of the true events. You know based upon a true story. We’ve got the index cards out and the opening scene ready to go, should be a fun process... updates to come.

This next few paragraphs should be titled “The road to where I am,” or “The first step in a journey I had no idea I was about to begin. As I get in the way back machine, I think I was a senior in High School or maybe a Junior, and one of the biggest snow storms to hit the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia in my lifetime had just passed through. The only bigger storm I can remember I had to walk home from school with my dad and almost got frostbite. My mom used warm wash cloths or maybe a hair dryer, memory in the way back machine is hazy, to keep my ears from falling off. Anyway… I got snowed in at the Thaxton’s house, which was good planning; I got to hang out with my future wife Charessa while the snow melted. I ended up spending a lot of time on that hill in high school and we ended up buying a house and living there the first ten years or so of our marriage.

So during the snowstorm I call up the local video store and see if they are open and how long. The guy on the other end of the phone tells me he’s about to close. I tell him I can be there in 10 minutes, we have to walk because of all the snow, he says OK. That was the first time I met Jeremy Brightbill, to make a long story short we became instant friends, I got a job at the video store and we started a band together along with another friend of mine Antonie Zorio. We would be known as Watership Down after the Richard Adams Novel. Jeremy is now working on the soundtrack to “Romeo Must Hang,” I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with, he’s truly a great musician.

My time at the video store allowed me to study filmmaking and watch a lot of movies, and they paid me to do it. At the time my Favorite Actor = Dennis Hopper, Favorite Movie = Raising Arizona… It was a journey that began there and after a few detours I ended up studying film in college. I was fired from the job at the video store once and like a good producer I talked them into hiring me back, besides I had a lot more movies I needed to watch.

Well it’s 12:30 am and I’m on disk 3 of 7 of the final cut install… it’s gonna be a long night. I think I’ll go read A Clockwork Orange.


Evil Tatters of the Ghost of Quiet Dell…

…or the journey to become a filmmaker… or spending time with serial killers makes for interesting dreams.

In the next four months I will attempt to finish my newest film, “Romeo Must Hang,” self-distribute, “Adopt-A-Jesus,” and hope that “Shades of Gray,” which was picked up by Entertainment One hits store shelves. All while holding down my 40 hour a week job at WV Public Broadcasting. In the end this will be a handbook on “how to” or “how not to” make it in the film world. Failure is not an option!!!

Over the course of 2010 I will attempt to document how all of this unfolds, the ups and the downs. Before I conform to a mundane existence in a day to day job I must make an attempt to make it in this world on my own. If I’m successful I’ll have a long career ahead of me telling stories through a lens and I’m inviting you to come along for the journey. The great Yogi Berra once said, “If you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” My journey began with a trip to Clarksburg to read through the papers of one Gray Barker, that grew into a partnership and friendship with brothers Jeff and Bob Tinnell along with John Michaels and now a distribution deal with Media 8 / Trillian Entertainment and Entertainment One.

I’ll fill in the back-story as we go along but for now, Ladies and Gentleman… Harry Powers.

From "Romeo Must Hang"

The year began with lots of snow and allowed plenty of time for pre-production on “Romeo.” Researching serial killers is not my cup of tea but the story of Harry Powers is a compelling one indeed. Who knows maybe I’ll get a good short-film out of a crazy dream or something? Research is always interesting for documentary films because you must get inside and become the best friend of your main character. Living subjects are easier because you can communicate with them, as for the Gray Barkers and Harry Powers you must have that dialog internally. Gray Barker wasn’t such a bad guy but Harry isn’t exactly someone I would seek out for friendship. Getting to know Harry means reading books about other murderers, (Gacy, Bundy, Gein, HH Holmes) this has allowed me to somewhat understand how Powers mind worked. It has also brought other questions that will become themes in the documentary. Such as the consumer publics desire to watch as such atrocities play out in our 24 hour news of today, due-process and the death penalty.

Davis Grubb, author of “Night of the Hunter”, the book based upon Harry Powers once wrote, “Evil tatters of the ghost of Quiet Dell still drift out and fume in Harrison County. Not so much for what he did to us but for what Harrison County and the state of West Virginia did to him. Evil like his is our cancer and one does not cure cancer by hanging it in the noose or electric chairs. The witness of these spawns more Harry Powers.”

The challenge for me with all of my films is how to engage the audience in a intelligent conversation and at the same time entertain them with a compelling story. This is one reason you must become closely aquatinted with your subjects. With Gray Barker, “Shades of Gray,” I read through his papers and person correspondence, with Harry Powers, “Romeo Must Hang,” I read the newspaper stories, his court transcripts and I studied others like him. With Brandt Russo, “Adopt-A-Jesus,” I spent time on the road with him living his lifestyle and we became friends. Once you find a good story that has a character who is complex the next step is to get to know them.

Next for me it’s off to Buffalo, NY to interview David Schmid, author of “Natural Born Celebrities.” The edit system is also due to be here in the next couple of days. After 7 years of editing on an Avid it’s time to learn final cut and the Mac OS. Makes the journey all that more interesting, hope you’ll come along with me and we can have a dialogue at this fork in the road.


Filmmaker, a Marshall grad, puts face on homelessness

By Rusty Marks
Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Filmmaker Bob Wilkinson spent 17 days on the road with street preacher Brandt Russo, eating out of dumpsters and stealing used cooking oil from restaurant trash bins to fuel a bio-diesel powered bus, all to help capture the plight of the homeless on film.

"You live off a lot of crackers and hummus," the 34-year-old independent filmmaker said. "If you look in three dumpsters, you usually find something to eat, but you may not find something you want to eat or that's nutritious.

"It's kind of hit and miss. You get what you get."

But hit and miss is exactly the way that America's homeless population lives, and it's one of the reasons Wilkinson wanted to record their stories on camera.

"Adopt-a-Jesus," Wilkinson's documentary about the trip, will show at West Virginia State University in Institute at 7 p.m. Monday, Marshall University on Tuesday and West Virginia University Parkersburg on Wednesday. For additional screenings, visit www.adoptajesus.com.

Screenings are free, but DVDs are being sold for $15 to help defray production costs.

Marshall University graduate, unofficial promoter, film producer and Wilkinson's wife, Charessa Wilkinson, said 40 screenings of the film already have been scheduled in locations as far-flung as Atlanta and New York.

"We're booked all the way until the end of March now, almost every day," the 33-year-old said.

News of the film has traveled largely by word of mouth, and Charessa is booking screenings at just about any venue that's interested.

"Here in Ripley," she said, "I contacted a tattoo shop."

The Wilkinsons consider themselves Christians, but, like Russo, they stepped away from the organized church to pursue a more grassroots, personal Christianity that stresses direct action over church politics.

Accompanied by Wilkinson, Russo took his cooking-oil-powered bus on the road last summer to help the homeless, record some of their stories and crawl into corners mainstream churches often miss or ignore.

"It opened my eyes to a lot of things, and made me think about things I wouldn't have," Wilkinson said. "It seems to strike a chord with people who watch it."

Wilkinson has shot five 30-minute documentaries for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. "Adopt-a-Jesus" is his second independent film.

He said he was surprised at how hard life on the streets is. "You see someone panhandling for money, and you think, 'What a lazy person that is,' " he said.

He said he and Russo spent much of their time looking for food or oil for the bus. Wilkinson found the experience exhausting, and he knew he would be able to go to a permanent home when the project was over.

"You're constantly working for survival," he said.

Wilkinson concedes that some people might view their actions as not very Christian.

"There's no way around it," he said. "We were stealing.

"It was a survival instinct at that point. In a lot of poverty situations, you have that.

The Christian thing to do would be that the people who have things should give them to the people who need them, rather than throw things away, rather than accuse people of stealing.

"That's a tough one."

Charessa Wilkinson said the couple's seat-of-the-pants approach to shooting and promoting the documentary has paid off. She believes the project is in God's hands. Whenever she needs something, someone pops up to help.

"It's totally a God thing," she said. "One day I needed someone from Canton, Ohio, to come to my house on Dec. 6, pick up Brandt and take him to Ohio," she said. A screening was scheduled in Youngstown on Dec. 7, and Russo's ride had fallen through.

"Wouldn't you know, the next day someone called from Canton wanting to have a screening on the sixth."

Bob and Charessa Wilkinson said the purpose of the film is to open the public's eyes to the real needs of the homeless and to encourage direct action. "That's been at the heart of this from the beginning," Bob Wilkinson said.

He said he has gotten offers from distributors to market the film to a larger audience, but he has declined.

"It becomes an exploitation, rather than a genuine project about changing peoples' minds," he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


Adopt-a-Jesus - a review - showing at WVSU Nov. 30th and Huntington Dec. 1

by Steve Fesenmaier

Bob Wilkinson sent me a preview of his new film about Brandt Russo called “Adopt-a-Jesus.” It truly opened a door in to the world that has been making headlines ever since The Great Recession began - the life of America’s homeless. I recalled that Mr. Russo made a stop in Charleston recently, and I guess that is when Bob decided he was worth making a film about. The film is very well made, with great interviews, editing and most interesting in some ways, the music which was credited at the beginning. It was definitely NOT the usual rock and roll nostalgia used in films these days.

Russo is a person who found himself homeless and decided to do something about it, creating a bus that runs on vegtable oil and has the words “Can’t ignore the Poor” on the white side of the bus. The bus is his mobile kitchen/home, and it shows him for two weeks traveling around Louisiana, Texas and other spots where he endlessly dumpster dives, looking for food he can feed the poor with and get more vegatable oil to run the bus. After watching the entire film, one can almost see how easy it is to do - and how thousands and perhaps one day millions will be doing the same.

He visits places that feed the poor like “Common Grounds” and “Loaves and Fishes.” ( I guess he visited ManaMeal when he was in Charleston.) During the film, there are interviews with a few other people involved in the crusade to feed the homeless, but 90 % of the film shows Russo who presents is simply philosophy of applying Jesus’ statement that “anyone who feeds the poor feeds him.”

I particularly enjoyed the final scene of the film, showing Russo and friends outside the largest church in America with 40,000 members as they actively tell the incoming members about is program. 7 sign up. Like he says, “be the church, not go to church.” He does discuss the misuse of religion in homeless shelters and really focuses on the simply facts of life on the street. He revisits one place where he used to live in LA. It brought tears to my eyes to think of the hell he and millions go through in our criminally capitalistic society every day.

As I have written earlier, the film is being shown in film festivals around North America. The film is being shown locally at several places. Visit the website for dates including Nov. 30th at WVSU Institute and Dec. 1 in Huntington at Marshall U. Maybe the ManaMeal people would like to see it. Maybe the church people of the state would like to see it - and see how one man has become a contemporary Jesus.


Local filmmaker documents plight of homeless; film making a big impact - Ripley, WV - Jackson Newspapers

Local filmmaker documents plight of homeless; film making a big impact - Ripley, WV - Jackson Newspapers

Posted using ShareThis

By Christina Bright
The Jackson Herald
Tue Nov 17, 2009, 11:15 AM EST

Ripley, W.Va. -

Traveling by a bus that ran on cooking oil, eating out of dumpsters when necessary, seeking out those many people try to avoid. It might not sound like an experience many would want, but for local filmmaker Bob Wilkinson, it was all part of a documentary to show the plight of homeless people in the south.

It all started a couple of years ago when The Bridge, an area ministry started by Wilkinson’s wife Charessa, was hosting the Rock in Love Tour. She had invited Brandt Russo to attend and share his story with the young people who attended the multi-town event. Russo had become jaded by the religious establishment and followed the instructions of Jesus: sold his possessions and dedicated himself to helping those less fortunate.

Russo spent a week with the Wilkinsons during that time. “We became really good friends,” Charessa said. “At the time, he was really timid. We helped him make that transition and became like a family for him.”

It was during the Cornerstone Festival, which Charessa called a “hippy Christian music fest,” that Russo said he was not going to allow any more media access or film footage of him. Bob jokingly asked if that meant he couldn’t make a film featuring Russo. But when Russo said he would allow him to, Bob began to take the idea seriously.

After finding a diesel mechanic and military man in Ripley who was willing to help make repairs to the bus emblazoned with the motto “Can’t Ignore the Poor,” Wilkinson and Russo left Jackson County and headed south with no money and no idea what the next two weeks would bring. “I told him I’d go out and live like him,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson has making films since 2000 as a college student and has made a career of it. He has been working for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. He has produced several documentaries including “Rounding Third,” a history of Charleston’s minor league’s Watt Powell Park, and “John Brown’s Body,” a look at the legacy of Brown’s raid in Harper’s Ferry. His first independent documentary was “Shades of Gray,” a portrait of the man behind the Men in Black legend. It was picked up for distribution by Media 8/Trillian Entertainment.

This latest film is called “Adopt-a-Jesus,” named for the project Russo was trying to get off the ground in Houston. The project involved photographing homeless people around the city and encouraging others to “adopt” them – by seeking them out, learning about them, bringing them some food, and other small gestures to show them people care.

Between Ripley and Houston, they stopped in major cities along the way, interviewing homeless people, learning their stories, and feeding them. Wilkinson said he and Russo, accompanied by Jonathan James who photographed their trip, mostly found food stores and restaurants had thrown out – food that was still perfectly good but wasn’t sold. At one point they found 100 boxes of crackers that had been thrown out because the boxes were dented. Those crackers were donated to a local soup kitchen.

They had to rely on the fact people threw out cooking oil to literally fuel their trip. People were reluctant to give them used oil, which meant they had to take what was being discarded. Bob explained the bus ran on diesel until the oil reached a certain temperature and then the conversion would happen automatically. “We made it to Houston on very little money,” he said.

The trip certainly was eye-opening, not only in terms of the conditions of the homeless, but also in terms of how they are treated by everyone, including the church. Often, they would be run off church parking lots where they would park for the night.

Eventually they ended up at Lakewood Church in Houston, home of television evangelist and best-selling author Joel Olsteen. When Russo, with his long hair, piercings, tattoos, and raggedy clothes, walked in and sat down in the front row, he was escorted toward the back where cameras would not film him.

An usher later apologized, saying that he did not feel the same as the other ushers, and neither did Olsteen. The Adopt-a-Jesus project was set up outside the Lakewood Church. However, security guards quickly broke up their demonstration as people walked passed, paying little attention to their pleas for the homeless.

But they did find some positive stories along the way. A stop a Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen was one. Wilkinson said anyone is welcome to eat there regardless of their ability to pay. They also found a family who purchased a former crack house and refurbished it to make a group home.

These are the stories that helped shape the film, one Wilkinson said will cause everyone who sees it to “question your position on things.” Originally set for a 10-day run, it is turning into a five month run across the country. Russo is traveling to be at each screening during this time to help share his story. The film will have a few showings in West Virginia beginning at the end of November.

On November 30, “Adopt-a-Jesus” will be shown at the student union of West Virginia State at 7 p.m. On December 1 Marshall University will show the film in Smith Hall. Several campus groups and departments are joining forces to show the film and hold a coat drive in conjunction.

The film will be shown in Ripley on December 4 at 7 p.m. at Phoenix Rising Tattoo on Main Street.

A trailer for the film can be viewed at YouTube. For more information on screenings, visit adoptajesus.com.


Photos from the "Adopt-A-Jesus" Tour

From Adopt-A-Jesus Screenings

From Adopt-A-Jesus Screenings

From Adopt-A-Jesus Screenings

Opened my eyes to a whole new world..

from Lindsey Hamby's blog...

Before the film Adopt-A-Jesus, when I saw a homeless person on the side of the road I would swerve and just go on my way not thinking how that person could of been feeling that day. I never gave them money because I always thought they would use it for the wrong things. I watched the film Adopt-A-Jesus last night with a group of college students and it changed my way of thinking tremendously. I thought the movie was a great documentary which not only opened my eyes to homelessness but opened my eyes on how we can help the homeless. When I saw the card board cut-outs of homeless people that others can pray for I thought it was a great idea. The film stirred a message in my heart and also in the hearts of many others that I talked to after the movie. The movie took my mind off of me and placed it on a much greater population that I didn’t think of often.

–Lindsey Hamby (Gardner-Webb University, NC)

-to read the rest of Lindsey's Blog Post click on the the title of this post-


"Shades of Gray" a new WV masterpiece

Shades of Gray - a new WV masterpiece
By Steve Fesenmaier

Bob Wilkinson and Robert Tinnell, two of West Virginia's most creative filmmakers have combined forces to make "Shades of Gray," a masterpiece film about one of the state's most interesting personalities since WWII, Gray Barker (1925-84).

Wilkinson is a WVPBS filmmaker who previously had directed a great film about Harpers Ferry called "John Brown's Body." Tinnell is a well-known graphic novelist and filmmaker, best known for his hit graphic novel, "The Feast of Seven Fishes," and a long previous career making films in Hollywood. The film is called "Shades of Gray," a new 55 minute biography that is full of insight and dark humor. Congrats to both for making an accessible and intense film about a man who helped create the contemporary obsession with UFOs and local monsters.

The film includes fascinating interviews with Barker's family and friends, revealing that Barker never really believed in all the amazing things that he wrote about including UFOs, the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman, "Men in Black" (MIB) but apparently enjoyed the invention. He was just a small town man with a very great imagination, and the intelligence and energy to invent worlds that only he could really imagine.

This biography includes clips from two of the Hollywood films that have been made based on Barker's inventions - "The Mothman Prophecy" and "MIB." Both films starred the biggest actors in Hollywood, and the second became such a hit that a sequel was made.

I particularly enjoyed the recreation of Barker writing at his typewriter, showing a lonely character who almost single-handedly invented the world that super-star directors like Spielberg and thousands of others were able to mine for their own creations. Could there have been a hit TV series like "The X-Files" without the work of Barker? Could Spielberg have invented E.T. and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" without "Saucerian" magazine? I doubt it.

There is an earlier film, "Whispers from Space," by Ralph Coon that also profiles Barker. Coon came from L.A. back in the 1980s to explore the life and times of Barker, interviewing some of the same people shown in this film including Merle Moore, the Clarksburg-Harrison County library director who purchased the Barker Collection for her library. (She once called me on a Saturday, asking me to come to town to evaluate the collection. At that time I had no idea who Barker was and declined the invitation. I did work with Coon then, programming the world premiere of the film at the Spring WV International Film Festival, and put Wilkinson and Tinnell together since they both expressed great interest in Barker to me.) This film, unlike Coon's, explores the very dark side of Barker's life including his homosexuality and his possible death from AIDS. Barker was arrested for illegal sexual activities, and as Moore says, being gay in a small town can be dangerous.

This film is for adults, and probably will not be shown in West Virginia grade schools. However, I think that it would be great to show in West Virginia high schools and colleges, studying the vast UFO universe that came from Barker's typewriter.

The film has been shown at the 2008 Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia and will be shown in Sutton, Braxton County in early October. Hopefully Barker's family, some of whom still live in Braxton County, will attend the premiere. I hope that there is a Clarksburg showing of the film since David Houchon, the curator of the Barker Collection, is one of the main experts interviewed. Hopefully, the will be shown all over the U.S. and world. The people of West Virginia can be proud of this honest and artistic film about a man who made our universe a whole lot bigger despite having little to work with except his own intelligence and flare for the amazing.


Letters from Stanton Friedman & Jerome Clark about "Shades of Gray"

Jerome Clark author of the UFO Encyclopedia:

Hi, Bob,

I am frankly thrilled at how well this film turned out.

I love the way you tell the story, which keeps circling back on itself, each time exposing new levels of insight and revelation. The final part, integrating Barker's public life as a UFO personality and his private one as a deeply closeted gay man, is a stroke of genius, and entirely persuasive. The first part so brilliantly parodies a cheesy, gap-mouthed cable-TV UFO "documentary" that you had me fooled there for a few minutes. Watching it, I was lulled into thinking, "Oh, another one of those." Man, was I wrong.

You've made a smart, unexpectedly moving film, and I give you my heartiest congratulations. I've watched it four times now, and it stands up each time. I've also learned things I didn't know from it.



Leading Ufologist Stanton Friedman:

That was a touching film. Thanks for sending it. Well done. A sad tale but a fascinating one. As best I can tell you have captured the man.. warts and all.

Stan Friedman

Visit theyknewtoomuch.com or email astraydogfilm@gmail for more info...


Adopt a Jesus Screenings

Adopt a Jesus Screenings

November 1- Morris, Minnesota
Where: University of Minnesota-Morris, Edson Auditorium
600 E 4th St. Morris, MN 56267
When: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: Free! Bring food for the Stevens County Food Shelf if you are able.

November 2- Minneapolis, Minnesota
Where: The Fallout
2609 Stevens Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55408
When: 7:00 p.m.
November 3- Boiling Springs, North Carolina
Where: Gardner-Webb University (specific location TBA)
110 S Main Street
Boiling Springs, NC 28017
When: 9:30 p.m.

November 4- Greenville, South Carolina
Where: North Greenville University (specific location and time TBA)

November 5- Syracuse, New York
Where: Palace Theater
2384 James Street
Syracuse, NY 13206
When: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: None- please bring donations of canned goods and winter clothing to help local shelters.



Adopt-a-Jesus Now Booking Screenings

Adopt-a-Jesus is now available for screenings . . . to set up a screening in your town send an email to adoptajesus@gmail.com . . .

We are also now in production of "ROMEO MUST HANG" . . .

And available soon through Trillian Entertainment "SHADES OF GRAY" . . .


Marsh Fork Mountain Top Protest - 6/22/09

Here we are in the middle of the action . . . very interesting being in the middle of a protest as an observer . . . Chuck Roberts is on Camera while I was rockin' the mic . . .


Blog on "Romeo Must Hang" in the Gazz (Click Here)

Here is a blog in the "GaZZ" by Steve Fesenmaier about "Romeo Must Hang" and Davis Grubb . . .

Bob Wilkinson, director of “Shades of Gray,” the award-winning 2008 feature documentary about Clarksburg’s UFO pioneer Gray Barker, is working on “Romeo Must Hang,” (new website with link to trailer) a new film about another famous person from Clarksburg, Harry Powers. He was famous as one of America’s first serial killers and the basis for Davis Grubb’s landmark book/film, “The Night of the Hunter.”(1955)

Wilkinson, with support from Robert & Jeffrey Tinnell’s Allegheny Image Factory, has traveled the region to interview people who knew Harry Powers and have chronicled his evil life. Interviewees include Merle Moore, former Clarksburg library director and good personal friend of Davis Grugg, Gerald Milnes, Elkins filmmaker/writer/musician who interviewed many people on audio tapes before they passed away. The film should be completed some time this coming fall. Hopefully, Wilkinson and team will finally make a good film about Davis Grubb, who also grew up in Clarksburg after leaving Moundsville, and spent some of his last days there.

WVLC has a videotape copy of a local Clarksburg play that was performed several times there called “The Harry Powers Case.” Recently, Stan Bumgardner, creative advisor to the new WV State Museum, wrote a story for Goldenseal about the case.

As I have written recently, there is a renewed interest in Davis Grubb. I loaned Wilkinson DVD copies of Grubb’s other great film, “Fools Parade” plus a documentary on the “making of Fools Parade” which was filmed entirely in Moundsville in 1970. Hopefully, WV native son Professor Tom Douglass will finally published his long-awaited biography of Grubb. ( Douglass wrote an introduction for the republished novel of “Fools’ Parade” several years ago, talking about Grubb’s life.)

Film Mentioned in USA Today

Click on the title link above . . . "Adopt a Jesus" was mentioned in The USA Today ... kind of Crazy!!!! Thanks Amber for the heads up.

Romeo Must Hang (Trailer)

The website is now up and running . . . www.romeomusthang.com

In 1931 a woman and her three children left their home in Chicago, en route to a new life with a man who promised a home, affection and security. Three weeks later they were found dead - buried in a ditch in a small West Virginia Town . . . and they were not alone.

This is a story that transfixed an entire nation for months; a story that came to be imortalized in a classic Hollywood film (Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum); and even as it has faded into obscurity, its effect echoes even still - every time the news media latches on to a serial killer in an attempt to make a profit from scaring the living hell out of you.

The newspapers screamed, "ROMEO MUST HANG!" Rest assured, he did.

His name was Harry Powers.


Cowboy Junkies on Mountain Stage

An interview I shot and edited for Mountain Stage, I grew up listning to the Junkies.



Radical Christianity
Published/Last Modified on Sunday, May 24, 2009 7:16 AM CDT

New Iberia native Brandt Russo has been kicked off the properties of more churches than most people probably attend in a lifetime.

He has been stepped over and avoided. He’s been arrested. He’s been asked to leave by federal agents — all while attempting to live “like Jesus calls me to live.”

Russo, 25, is voluntarily homeless.

From "Foxes Have Holes"

Brandt Russo is pictured on the bus he has converted to run on used vegetable oil. He travels the country, voluntarily homeless, to talk to people about his 'underground Christianity.' - Mary Catharine Martin / The Daily Iberian

Russo graduated from Assembly Christian School, attended Bible college, and became an ordained minister. He was living in a gated community and working two jobs in Texas a few years ago when he decided to buy a plane ticket to Portland, Ore., give up all his money, drive back to Texas and see what happened. The car he bought there broke down after only six hours on the road and he was welcomed into the home of a family in Idaho.

Encouraged by the hospitality of that family, Russo began a life of train-hopping, wandering, digging in trash bins for food, making friends, and inadvertently becoming “very successful at trying not to be successful.”

Russo has spoken at universities and churches, and has now participated in several documentaries. He’s become a figure in the “underground Christian” scene.

He started a T-shirt company (Can’t Ignore the Poor) he’s trying to register as a nonprofit and gives away most of the proceeds.

He drives a school bus powered with cooking oil, not for political or environmental reasons, he said, but rather because he can’t afford diesel — used cooking oil is free. Russo uses the bus, which has “Can’t Ignore the Poor” written on the side, to pick up homeless people and hitchhikers and give them shelter and food.

Recently, West Virginia PBS producer and independent filmmaker Bob Wilkinson traveled with Russo for two weeks, making a documentary with the working title of “Can’t Ignore the Poor,” a trailer of which can be seen from www.astraydogfilm.com. Wilkinson said the documentary is “a lot to do with Brandt and his choice to live the lifestyle he lives.”

As a person, Wilkinson said what stands out most about Russo is his authenticity.

“He’s real compassionate, and he’s passionate about his beliefs,” he said.

On his own terms



"Article in the Gazz" by Steve Fesenmaier


WV filmmaker Chip Hitchcock finishing film based on Davis Grubb story

Chip Hitchcock shooting his film based on a short story by Davis Grubb

Chip Hitchcock is one of the state’s most active filmmakers, working on both WVPBS projects and many others including Mike Lilly’s landmark indie feature, “Correct Change.”(2002) Most recently, WVPBS aired his “Bridgeport to Baghdad” documentary about WV military traveling from their homes in WV to Iraq. One of his many other projects includes a film version of Davis Grubb’s story (posted) “The Man Who Stole the Moon.” ( Interesting article about Grubb’s “weird” stories.)

It seems that there is a renewed interest in the life and times of Davis Grubb. Several years ago Kate Long won national awards for her radio documentary series, “In Their Own Country” about some of WV’s greatest writers including Grubb. Hopefully, this summer Prof. Thomas Douglass’ biography of Grubb will finally get published.

Northwestern University Press recently published Jeffrey Couchman’s book, “The Night of the Hunter - A Biography of a Film.”

WV filmmakers Bob Wilkinson and Rober Tinnell are working on a documentary about the source of the story Grubb used in “Hunter,” Harry Powers of Clarksburg. ( They recently finished a great new doc on Clarksburg UFO man, Gray Barker, called “Shades of Gray.”) Grubb spent his last year’s living in Clarksburg with great assistance from Merle Moore. His family was forced to moved to Clarksburg after his family was evicted from the family home in Moundsville.)

Hitchcock hopes to have his Grubb film finished in time for the 2009 WV Filmmakers Festival held in Sutton. I hope that he does. Maybe Prof. Douglass will even be able to give a presentation at that event as he once did several years ago when he spoke about his book “A Room Forever,” about another great WV author, Breece Pancake. His presentation was given in support of a showing of Russ Barbour’s unique film on Pancake that received an award that year. ( The ONLY extended film made about Breece Pancake was recently shown in primetime WVPBS for the first time since it was made in 1989. ”Elegy - The Life and Work of Breece D’J Pancake” is a shorter student film made about Pancake that uses some of his footage. The shorter film won an award at the 2004 Rural Route Film Festival.)

I contacted Brad Stalnaker of WVU who co-directed the great WV animated film, “The Griffin and the Minor Canon.” He wanted to make an animated version of Grubb’s great Christmas story, “A Tree Full of Stars.” At that time, Grubb’s brother had just died, not leaving a will. As the executor of his brother’s estate, there was no way to get clearance to make the animated film. Presently, Susan Grubb (suzbud@hotmail.com) and her step brother Trevor McNeil are in charge of the Davis Grubb estate. Given Davis Grubb’s great imagination, I for one hope that there are many more people out there who will eventually make film versions of his many books and short stories.

Who knows - maybe someone like Bob Wilkinson and Robert Tinnell will finally make a feature film about WV’s great writer finally? ( I have been trying to get one made since I met Grubb in 1979, attending a party in Clarksburg for one of his works.)

by Steve Fesenmaier


"The Draft House"

While scouting locations for "Romeo Must Hang" in Sutton, West Virginia. I decided to drop in on Madeline Dodge to see how she was doing. Madeline is at best guess in her eighties and runs a bar in Sutton called the "The Draft House". Beer is only a dollar and your limited to about three choices, and oh yeah, you better get there before 2pm or chances are Madeline has closed up for the day. If it's a WVU gameday, you better go down to the Rite-Aid and pick up your own beer.

Madeline . . . owner of the draft house
madeline dodge. . . owner of the draft house

It's hard to describe the folks that patronize the "Draft House". Their a rugged bunch that filter in from the mountains of Braxton County to begin drinking at 10am is probably the best way to put it. I walked in the door first followed by Steve, the chatter coming from the dozen or so people in the bar screeched to a halt. I have a feeling even though I'd been to the draft house on a number of occasions while shooting "Shades of Gray", that I didn't quite look like I was from around "these here parts". I proceeded up to the bar to where Madeline faithfully sits each and every day to serve patrons.

"How are you today?" I asked. Looking back at me with a look that appeared to say "Who are you?" she said, "Are you still doin' that there TV?" "I guess I am." I said. There was a small laughter that built in the room and the chatter once again began. Steve stood back trying to get a photo while I spoke with Madeline. Our conversation was interrupted by my phone ringing out my Bob Marley ring tone once again lead to an uncomfortable situation. I told Madeline I would see her again and we left. We were now off to the town of Gassaway to meet the Mayors wife so she could take us to see the jail.

Sutton WV, the town with character
sutton wv. . . the town with character

Sutton is a great little town with lots of character and of course the charming little draft house sitting on the corner is a must visit for anyone visiting. Braxton County is starting to feel like a second home with all the filming we've done there over the past few years. Gray Barkers hometown of Exchange is just down the road from Sutton and then of course there is the Braxton County Monster there in Flatwoods. We'll be making many trips up there this year including being a guest at the Flatwoods Monster Festival in September. Should be fun, that will make it 2 for 2 in appearances at the Monster Festivals here in West Virginia, Mothman being the other.

Bob . . . the director
boB . . . the director

Steve . . . the d.p.
steve . . . the d.p.


"Romeo Must Hang"


In 1931 a woman and her three children left their home in Chicago, en route to a new life promised them by a man who promised a home, affection and security. Three weeks later they were found dead - buried in a ditch in a small West Virginia Town . . . and they were not alone.

This is a story that transfixed an entire nation for months; a story that came to be imortalized in a classic Hollywood film (Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum); and even as it has faded into obscurity, its effect echoes even still - every time the news media latches on to a serial killer in an attempt to profitize from scaring the living hell out of you.

The newspapers screamed, "ROMEO MUST HANG!" Rest assured, he did. And his name was Harry Powers.

Were woking on the website now and should have it up and running in early June with a trailer for the film. www.romeomusthang.com




For 14 days we traveled through the south in a bus that ran on used cooking oil. We picked up hitchhikers and listened to the stories of the homeless and those who devote their time caring for them. We survived on the street skills that Brandt Russo acquired form the time he spent on the streets of Houston and hitchhiking throughout the US.


"Shades of Gray"

This is my newest film, it has been picked up by Media 8/Trillian Entertainment.

GRAY BARKER stood at the heart of America’s UFO phenomenon almost from its inception. His investigations led to the publication of his best-selling book, THEY KNEW TOO MUCH ABOUT FLYING SAUCERS. He probed the mysteries of the Men-in-Black, Mothman and the Philadelphia Experiment, which in turn invited unwelcome visits from the government in an effort to silence him.

SHADES OF GRAY peels the layers off one of the great American hoaxter’s of the late twentieth-century. Part Fox Mulder, part Mark Twain, Barker almost single-handedly created or perpetuated much of what is now taken as the “gospel” of UFO’s. But Barker’s twisting of the truth didn’t stop there. In some ways, his entire life was as much a myth as anything he ever wrote. This documentary strives to present a complete picture of a complicated, and ultimately influential, modern American myth-maker.

For more info visit the films website www.theyknewtoomuch.com or send me an email @ astraydogfilm@gmail.com.