Hollywood in the Bluegrass

| June 22, 2011

It’s 80 degrees outside, and the area around the tennis courts at the Jewish Community Center is swarming with activity as crew members from the film “Tan Lines” set up lights for a shot.

Before being wired for a microphone, Josh Hopkins, who stars as Owen Match in the tennis-themed comedy being shot in Louisville, is handed a can of spray cologne.

“Hollywood, baby!” he deadpans as he sprays his sweat-soaked shirt.

But in a way, the star of ABC’s “Cougar Town” has hit the nail on the head (or maybe served up an ace – to stay with the tennis theme).

“Tan Lines,” which is being produced by Louisvillian Gill Holland, brought a bit of Hollywood to the Bluegrass over the course of three weeks this month.

“It’s really a Hollywood film just made independently,” Holland said.

Producer Gill Holland and writer James Marketer.

Producer Gill Holland and writer James Markert.

In addition to Hopkins, the film’s cast includes veteran actors Cameron Monaghan, Alexie Gilmore, Billy Magnussen, Kevin Sussman, Guillermo Diaz, Sam McMurray and Dash Mihok, as well as a host of locals.

Louisville native James Markert wrote “Tan Lines,” which follows Owen “Game Set” Match, a down-and-out tennis pro who finds himself working at the local Derby City Recreation Center after being fired from the prestigious Fountain Club.

“He ends up leading this rag-tag group of pros to a showdown at the Louisville Boat Club against his former employers,” said director Tim Kirkman. “In the process, he find a little romance, he finds his self-respect and earns the respect of the people around him. It’s really a sweet movie. It has a lot of heart … and it’s hilarious.”

Holland saw the script as a perfect chance to shoot a film in Louisville.

Tan Lines.“James (Markert) wrote it for Louisville, and ever since I moved here five years ago, I’ve been looking for a film to shoot in Louisville,” he said. “But there’s a lot of pressure for the first one to be a hit, so I finally found one that I think will be a hit.”

Markert, who wrote the award-winning novel “The Requiem Rose,” has taught tennis for 17 years.

“Teaching over the years, you experience things and you’re just thinking that has to go in a movie at some point,” he said. “They always say, ‘Write what you know about.’ This is the one time I’m writing what I know about.”

The film’s 35-person crew is mostly from Louisville, but Holland also recruited three out-of-town pros.

“Tan Lines” is Holland and Kirkman’s fourth collaboration.

“The crew that we did bring in is insanely experienced,” Holland said.

After associate producer Kathryn Tucker is working on Judd Apatow’s new flick.

Director Tim Kirkman.

Director Tim Kirkman.

“Tan Lines” was shot in just three weeks, which is ambitious even by independent film standards.

“Hollywood films have three to six months,” Holland said. “Indie films try to shoot for a month, but to shoot three six-day weeks is insane – especially a sports movie.

“Basically we have to shoot a little over 5 percent of the movie each day,” he continued. “We’re on schedule because we have a great crew.”

“Most films of this budget have fewer characters and certainly fewer locations,” Kirkman added.  “We took on a lot by doing this, but we’ve had incredible help and generosity from the people of Louisville.”

Besides Louisville landmarks such as Churchill Downs and Slugger Field, the film will include many familiar sights, such as a shotgun house in Clifton, Whitehall, the Louisville Boat Club, BBC Beer, Heine Brothers’ Coffee and of course, JCC, Holland said.

“It’s all Louisville. Everything’s filmed in Louisville city limits,” Holland said. “No one will mistake this for being filmed in Toronto.”

Hopkins, a Lexington native who apprenticed at Actors Theatre of Louisville 18 years ago, was happy to be back in Kentucky.

Josh Hopkins.

Josh Hopkins.

“I’ve played a pro football player, a pro basketball player – my time of being the player is running out,” he said. “I’m more the coach from here on out, and now I get to be a pro tennis player – this is my swan song I think for pro sports, so I wanted to do it while I can.”

Seventeen-year-old actor Cameron Monaghan, who stars in the Showtime drama “Shameless,” plays Jake, a shy, “goth” kid who sees Owen as a father figure.

“I really liked the script,” Monaghan said. “It was a fun, quirky comedy – a sports movie as well.”

Alexie Gilmore, who has a long list of acting credits to her name, plays Sherry, Jake’s mother and Owen’s love interest in the film.

Alexie Gilmore.

Alexie Gilmore.

“I’m the lucky one who gets to fall in love with Owen, but at first it doesn’t start out like that,” said Gilmore with a laugh.

Most of the cast had little or no tennis experience, which proved to be a challenge.

“I had one lesson before we shot, so hopefully there’s going to be a lot of movie magic to make me look good,” Gilmore said. “Most of us hadn’t played tennis, and everyone did very well.”

Hopkins just fakes it.

“Mostly I’ve been trying to look like I can play more so than even learning to play,” Hopkins said. “I’ve been trying to swing the tennis racquet where it looks good, and where the ball goes has not been my point.”

Holland hopes to complete the film in time to debut at spring film festivals. He expects the film to make its Louisville debut at the 2012 Flyover Film Festival and to play at Baxter Avenue Theater.

Tim Kirkman directing a scene.

Tim Kirkman directing a scene.

He’s not sure where it will go from there.

“Comedies either hit really big or they go to Comedy Central and you do a DVD deal,” Holland said.

A perfect scenario would be to have a major studio buy the film and distribute it nationwide, he added.

As work continues on the set, someone calls out, “Rehearsing, quiet please!”

Markert steps away from watching the scene to offer a few more words.

“You’ve got so many people doing so many things, but everything just seems to work,” he said. “It’s like ants on an ant farm: everybody has a job, and they’re doing it.”

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Jacob Glassner

Jacob Glassner, News Editor/Plate Spinner

Jacob usually has his eyes glued to a computer screen, editing stories and making sure the paper gets out the door each week. Multi-tasking is his modus operandi – similar to the plate spinners you’d see on the old “Ed Sullivan Show.” Turn ons: freshly-sharpened pencils. Turn offs: exclamation points!!!

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