Film production gets nod to use Aspen airport

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – A movie crew shooting scenes around the Roaring Fork Valley will get a shot, literally, at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

Film productions that want use of Pitkin County facilities don’t always get an open door from county commissioners, but Basalt High School graduate Justin Owensby’s request to use the airport after hours to shoot a scene for his film, “Chapman,” won a thumbs-up from commissioners Tuesday.

The movie’s philanthropic motives and local ties appeared to sway commissioners Jack Hatfield, Rob Ittner and George Newman. Commissioners Rachel Richards and Michael Owsley were absent.

Owensby, today a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, wrote and directs the 85-minute film. Most of the shooting for the movie is taking place locally; the production crew will be on location at Chapman Reservoir in the upper Fryingpan Valley this week, according to the film’s producer, Doug Weiser, an Old Snowmass resident.

Filming is expected to wrap up Aug. 20. The action at the airport is scheduled to be shot after hours, on the night of Aug. 7. The lead character in the film arrives at the airport, collects his bag and rents a car from a woman he doesn’t recognize but knew in high school.

The film, moving back and forth in time, is about two best friends who fall in love with the same girl and lose her tragically, nearly destroying their friendship.

“It’s really about being responsible in your life – dealing with the things you bring about,” Weiser said.

The film’s producers have agreed to pay for any airport costs associated with the shoot – a sum that essentially amounts to staff overtime.

The first $500,000 the film clears beyond its production costs, if it makes a profit, will go to Mpower, a youth advocacy organization in area schools that Owensby credits with helping set him straight as a troubled teen. The actors, crew and production personnel working on the movie are working at reduced rates or donating their services to keep the filming costs low, commissioners were told.

As a local student, Owensby, now age 29, enrolled in Mpower’s media empowerment program and classes in media literacy and film studies, helping inspire his career. Budget constraints have since limited the availability of the media program for area students; Owensby hopes to provide the funds to expand it, Weiser said.

The film’s cast includes Jesse Johnson, a graduate of Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale and son of actor Don Johnson, and Caitlin Thompson, who appears in the new Warner Bros. release “Crazy Stupid Love.” Other professional actors and locals are also in the cast.

A low-budget effort without a distributor, “Chapman” likely will be pitched on the film festival circuit when it’s finished, Weiser said.