By JASON WEIR
The red carpet was out and cameras were flashing at the Loft Cinema on Jan. 21 during the premiere of Pima Community College graduate Christopher Carter’s new movie, “Overwatch.”
The event had a Hollywood feel in Tucson, with the stars and attendees dressed up and having their pictures taken.
Like many independent filmmakers, Carter had to fill many roles. He was the writer, director and producer of “Overwatch,” and also acted in the movie.
“You have to be as an indie filmmaker,” he said. “I wrote it with the idea of producing.”
Carter, 36, has made two other feature films and four short films. In March 2015, he received a “Best Cinematographer” award at the Almost Famous Film Festival in Phoenix for his short film, “Devil,” which can be seen on Vimeo.
“Overwatch” tells the story of a group of survivors who band together in a post-apocalyptic world filled with blood-thirsty, infected creatures that prey on the living.
PCC alumna Taylor Plecity stars as a woman struggling to find her will as she holds onto memories of her happy life before the outbreak.
Carter makes creative use of flashbacks to draw the audience into the story.
Plecity, who now lives in Burbank, Calif., made a trip to Tucson for the premiere. “How much fun to come see our film at the local theater I grew up near,” she said.
Approximately one-fifth of the talent involved in “Overwatch” previously attended PCC, Carter said.
He shot all the scenes in Tucson and surrounding areas, including locations on Mount Lemmon and at the Slaughterhouse haunted house.
Carter was born in Redwood City, Calif. His family moved to Tucson when he was 4 years old, and he has lived in the city since.
He graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1997. More than a decade later, he decided to pursue a degree in journalism and began attending PCC with that goal.
“I wanted to help people and the community through journalism,” he said.
Carter knew while attending PCC that he wanted to make movies, and his last class at the college was an acting class. “As a director, you should know what it is like to be an actor,” he said.
He received an Associate of Arts degree at PCC and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Arizona.
While writing the screenplay, Carter knew he needed to plan for locations that wouldn’t require a big budget. A downtown action scene, for example, would be far too expensive.
“There is no money for that,” he said.
Both Carter and Plecity called the film a collective effort.
“Chris was great to work with, because it was such a collaborative effort,” Plecity said.
Production of “Overwatch” lasted 18 months. Carter paid all expenses for the first 12 months, and launched a GO Campaign to help cover the final six months of shooting.
The cast and crew were paid in pizza and drinks. “They chose story over pay,” Carter said.
“As the director, there is a lot of pressure to make sure the people involved in the film are proud of it,” he added. “If I can make the cast and crew happy and everyone else hates it, I will be OK.”
Carter knew scheduling the cast and crew would be a challenge, because they had other obligations, such as working at jobs that pay their bills. This is one reason the production took so long.
Weather provided an unexpected challenge. It rained three of the four times they went to Mount Lemmon for shooting, and the limited budget did not allow for waterproof equipment.
Carter is aware that not everyone will like his film and some may even be harshly critical. He also understands the importance of editing and receiving feedback.
“It is important to show to people you trust,” Carter said.
After Carter finished what he hoped would be the final cut of “Overwatch” the running time was close to three hours. He trimmed an additional 40 minutes.
What are Carter’s hopes for the film? “To present a film stylistically shot, and tell a powerful story,” he said.
He’s pleased with the final cut.
“I think we have a great looking movie,” he said. “Our story is good and compelling.”