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Horror filmed here: "Wormwood Falling" screens at Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival

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Shreek Theater
Mike Head stars in 'Wormwood Falling,' directed and co-written by Twinsburg native Marquette Williams. His producer and co-writer, Nance Nickels, says shooting the film in Cleveland provided both opportunities and challenges compared to working in Southern California.

The cat-and-mouse horror story shot right here in Cleveland, “Wormwood Falling,” plays this weekend at the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival in Shaker Square.

The film takes place over a single weekend as the characters battle supernatural happenings and natural burglars in an empty office building. Co-writer Nance Nickels was inspired by a visit to a friend's loft in his native New York City.

"At that time, it just so happened that there was a lot of talk about the Wormwood Star passing over the planet," he said. "All these weird things [were] going to occur."

He worked on the script with Twinsburg-native Marquette Williams, his business partner and also the director of the film. That drove the decision to shoot in Cleveland.

"Obviously, Los Angeles has a lot more resources because they're set up for [film production]," Nickels said. "That being said, there's a lot more jumping through hoops. It's a little easier... in Cleveland because of the permit situation, so it's a little bit more forgiving."

Nickels said weather can also be a challenge when shooting on the East Coast. It was raining during much of the "Wormwood" shoot, although they were filming indoors. And when they moved outdoors, they found the social climate more forgiving than the West Coast.

"We had to shoot a bar scene," he said. "We really just did it guerilla style, and they were totally cool with it. We were like, 'Hey, is it alright if we just have our guy walk out?' And they were like, 'Yeah, no problem, only don't get in the way of customers.' Here in California, you're going to go through some stuff [for that]."

Nickels does see the potential for a film industry to grow in Cleveland. He also hopes to grow the number of Black directors working in the horror genre.

"We're a very big demographic when it comes to watching film," he said. "I think we're driven more towards dramas and comedies. There's been talk before that Black people feel like, 'Well, our daily lives are horror. Why would I want to go see horror?' But that's not a truism. We love all genres. So, I think when you start going back towards the 1960s -- when you had people like Mario Van Peebles coming up -- I think they just wanted to do content that related closer to our community. And maybe they believed that horror was not it. I think, as we're expanding, you come to find out that we like all genres and we'd like to participate in [them]."

The Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival runs now through Sunday night at Shaker Square. "Wormwood Falling" screens on Saturday night. A full schedule is available here.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.