By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Every day, Justin Hannah would drive by a tiny consignment shop in Lexington on his way to work as a marketing coordinator for Meyer Natural Foods.
While stopped at a traffic light, he would look into the windows of the old-fashioned storefront and “for some reason, that place really got to me,” he said.
He began thinking about the vintage items in that shop and “the kind of stories that could happen in a place like that,” Hannah said.
He thought to himself, “I should make a movie there.” However, just a week or two later, the consignment shop closed. But this didn’t stop him.
His film, “Consignment,” will premiere Friday and Saturday in Richmond at the World Independent Film Expo.
This is the third year for the event, with movies airing at both Gillum’s Sports Lounge and Eastern Kentucky University’s Student Success Building auditorium.
“Consignment” is set in 1954. In style and mood, it is a “love letter” to the dark, dramatic films of the 1950s, Hannah said. It’s about objects for sale in the consignment shop and “finding a connection to items that have a life of their own, from whomever owned them before.”
For Hannah and lead actress Abbra Smallwood, the World Independent Film Expo will be “kind of like a homecoming,” the director said.
Both Hannah and Smallwood graduated from EKU and lived in Richmond for several years. The film’s casting director, Chris “Drizzle” Davis, is a Richmond resident and was known to tend bar at local hotspots in town, Hannah said.
The three met while living in Richmond and came together on this project years later. Smallwood graduated in 2008 with an art degree and Hannah graduated in 2001 as a psychology major with a minor in art — neither has had formal training in film or acting, he said.
But Smallwood immediately came to mind to play the lead in this film, Hannah said. “She just had that look, like the heroine of an Alfred Hitchcock movie or Betty Draper from ‘Mad Men.’”
Hannah was inspired by film noir and Hitchcock, he said. He became “sort of obsessive” about watching films from the 1950s and '60s.
After graduating from EKU, Hannah had no idea he would make films, but he hung out with people who did, he said.
With prior experience in short films and animation, coupled with his love of movies, Hannah found the inspiration and resources to create “Consignment” in a little over a year.
In late 2011, around the same time Hannah began thinking about the film, he entered a Beach Boy’s video contest to promote the band’s newly released album, “The Smile Sessions.”
Rumored to be “the greatest album they ever made,” the album was recorded in the '60s but was not released until 2011, Hannah said.
Hannah’s was one of the five videos chosen, and he won about $1,000. This prize money made up about half of his film’s budget.
The cast and crew were “paid in pizza,” Hannah joked. But a willing cast and lots of local collaboration made the film possible.
A Louisville business provided the vintage wardrobe and was used as a filming location.
Local hair studios recreated the 1950s hairstyles, and another shop provided the vintage accessories and antiques.
Much of the outdoor filming occurred on the historic Main Street of Stanford, an archetypical small town about 30 miles west of Richmond.
“It looks like Mayberry down there,” Hannah said.
Antique vehicles were provided courtesy of a Stanford antique auto business. Also, Lancaster resident Jake Gilliam auditioned in Stanford and was cast in a main role, Hannah said.
When the film premiered in Lexington, a snow storm prevented many of the Stanford cast and crew from attending, he said.
“Consignment” won Most Original Film at the Louisville-based Floyd Film Festival just months later, but the distance also kept several from attending, Hannah said.
However, many of the cast and crew are planning to attend the film expo in Richmond, and “we’re all pretty excited about it,” he said.
“Make no mistake, 'Consignment' was probably the most peculiar film of the evening,” said Ruth Burgess, a writer for Kyforward.com, who viewed the movie at its Lexington premiere.
“It was also the most beautiful film of the evening, and the one that stuck with me the most after the final credits rolled,” she wrote.
Burgess said for those who are “intrigued by mystery and ambiguity” and who like to think deeply about movies, “’Consignment’ casts a spell, offering an alluring, multilayered film experience.”
Visit www.consignmentmovie.com for more information about the film or visit wifeexpo.wordpress.com to learn more about the World Independent Film Expo.
Tickets are $6 per show or $30 for an all-access pass.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.