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Horror film festival selects local student

Dale Thompson , Of the Record staff

It’s a dead giveaway that Jake Topkis is going places.

The Park City High School sophomore’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s "Tell-Tale Heart" was selected for the Eerie Horror Film Festival.

"We got submissions from all over the country and Jake’s really stood out from the rest," festival president Greg Ropp said.

The film, he added, was more professional than what they usually expect in their new student category for those ages 5-17. He admitted to being very "shocked" when he discovered that Topkis is 16 years old.

Ropp began the Eerie Horror Film Festival in 2004. Since then it has grown in size. This year he anticipates nearly 4,000 attendees and one of the honored guests is George A. Romero who directed "Night of the Living Dead."

"Jake’s film was very meticulously crafted and actually showed some very good signs of someone who is going to have a career in film someday," Ropp said. "We’re honored to be an early part of his career."

Topkis said his goal, ultimately, is to make a feature film, but in the meantime he said it is, "really cool," to have his movie be part of the Eerie Film Festival.

For the retelling of Poe’s classic tale he cast his friend Eric Seltenrich as the old man and Jonathan Draxton, a past winner at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

"I can’t tell the difference between him and a professional actor," Topkis said.

He will not be able to make the festival because of school, but he is still excited the film was selected.

"I try to make films that I would like to watch," he said.

In addition to films, Topkis said he is an avid fan of comic books with "Batman" being his favorite. He said any many ways comics are similar to the way films are created from writing a script, creating a storyboard and putting it on film.

He tried his hand at acting too.

"That was fun but it just didn’t feel like the right place for me," Topkis said.

The director’s chair is more comfortable for him.

"I like gathering ideas and putting everything together," he said. "Just making sure all the pieces fall into place."

Patience and humility are also qualities of a good director he said.

Next, Topkis plans to direct, "Lightning Lad," a satire of the superhero genre.

Trying out different genres is something Topkis said he enjoys.

Also on his radar is making a film from the Roald Dahl’s "Lamb to the Slaughter." The story follows a house wife who murders her husband with a leg of lamb, then serves the evidence to the officers who come to investigate.

"This one’s going to be a dark comedy," Topkis said.

In all his films, he said the focus is not necessarily on the action or special effects.

"I focus solely on telling a story," he said.

Some directors he admires include Steven Spielburg and Christopher Nolan who directed the recent "Batman Begins."

He said he hopes to attend the University of Southern California to study film and someday maybe have an entry in the Sundance Film Festival.

"I’m not at that level, but I think it is possible for me to get there," he said.


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