Colleen Lyon is a busy woman in a club of one. The owner of Vermage Productions, a Western Mass movie production company, Lyon laments that she is the only female movie producer in the area. When asked if she gets lonely, she sighs and says, “It’s lonely. Very, very lonely. I know other female producers, but none of them make movies like I do.”
Lyons has produced and directed films that have been aired on television, local theaters, and big screens, and tonight, Lyon’s Vermage Productions and Baer Budget Films will premiere their film Silenced at the Greenfield Garden Cinema.
The film, written and directed by Turners Falls native and Lyon’s friend, Julian Lowenthal, was a labor of love for Lyon. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into the production of Silenced, but in the end, Lyon says it was all worth it.
Although she took the project on as a lark, it turned into something much greater. “This project changed my whole perception of film making,” she says. “There’s so much … you have to deal with when you produce. You have to take care of locations, wardrobe, special effects, different sound studios, music…” she trails off noting there were more concerns that fell upon her as the producer of Silenced than she had expected.
Between bites of a cookie, Lyon explains that producing wasn’t always her dream. By nature, she is a writer who applies her craft everyday and says she’s filled “stacks of notebooks” with her thoughts, things she’s learned, and information she’s collected.
“First and foremost [I’m] a creative concept script writer for the film industry,” she says. “I’ve written over 30 scripts and screenplays. I’ve written pilots and whole series.” She says sent her scripts out to L.A. and industry people told her she had “’what it takes.’”
But it was too difficult to sell a script. “I didn’t know how to do that,” she says, but the distance between writing a script and having it produced is light years. So Lyon took the bull by the horns and applied to film school. “I didn’t want to wait for it anymore. I decided I’d make it happen myself.”
Lyon enrolled in the New England Institute of Art (NEIA) and completed a two-year accelerated program in Brookline. After volunteering with Northampton Community Television, Lyon started making her own films. The Blair Bitch Project was her second foray into film making. It’s a spoof of the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project. For the most part, Lyon’s body of work, although spoofy, often deals with the horror genre. “I like creepy,” she says. “I like to get the goosebumps.”
So when Julian Lowenthal came to Lyon with his creepy script for Silenced in 2014, Lyon agreed to be his producer. “I really liked the story,” she says.
Silenced is about a gang of vigilantes who decide to burglarize homes in a town, but the criminals end up murdering the protagonist’s aunt. Alexis, the protagonist, who is a mute, then seeks revenge on the killers. “It all takes place in the dark of night, where personalities clash and secrets are revealed among thieves. Slowly, their plan unwinds from what was originally a victimless crime into a bloody nightmare.”
Even though it sounds like a slasher flick, Lowenthal’s goal was to pay homage “campy horror films of the past.” Campy or not, both Lyon and Lowenthal expect their movie to make the film festival circuit. “We’ve got people interested in showing it already,” Lyon says.
When the lights come up at the Greenfield Garden Cinema and the premier has concluded, Lyon says she’s going to relax and let projects come her way. She’s going to take it easy. But when asked if she would welcome questions from young filmmakers, she doesn’t hesitate.
“I would love to mentor someone,” she says. “I would want them to know it’s not easy. I wish somebody would have told me all the pitfalls. A producer make everything come together. Schedules, food, locations, sound, travel, per diems, cameras and equipment. We take care of the intricate parts so that things run smoothly.”
As for being the only member of the female film producers club, Lyon hopes she’ll have company soon. For all the aspiring female filmmakers, Lyon says, “This is your year. And thank you Harvey Weinstein for being a jerk–he opened the doors. It’s our time.”
“Silenced” premiers Thursday at Garden Cinemas on Main Street, with showings at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Greenfield Garden Cinemas, 361 Main St. Greenfield.
Gina Beavers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.