Archive for Friday, August 3, 2012

Lawrence native using city as backdrop for indie film

Lawrence native Matt Toplikar, right, directs Lawrence musician Brendan Hangauer, left, and actress Kate O'Neil, center, on set at The Jazzhaus Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. Toplikar, who also works on the set of the AMC show "Breaking Bad," has been filming around Lawrence on his indie film "Open Mic Night." Toplikar's sister and Lawrence resident Katy Skepnek, behind Hangauer, works with O'Neil on her hair.

Lawrence native Matt Toplikar, right, directs Lawrence musician Brendan Hangauer, left, and actress Kate O'Neil, center, on set at The Jazzhaus Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. Toplikar, who also works on the set of the AMC show "Breaking Bad," has been filming around Lawrence on his indie film "Open Mic Night." Toplikar's sister and Lawrence resident Katy Skepnek, behind Hangauer, works with O'Neil on her hair.

August 3, 2012, 12:00 a.m. Updated August 3, 2012, 2:10 p.m.

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The film “Open Mic Night” is a love letter of sorts.

That’s how Lawrence native, musician and director Matt Toplikar described the independent movie he has spent the last week filming in Lawrence.

“I’ve been away from Lawrence for four or five years,” he said. “It’s like my love letter to a certain music scene in this town.”

Toplikar now works in Albuquerque, N.M., as a location coordinator for the hit AMC show “Breaking Bad.”

With the show on a mid-season break, Toplikar has some time to film the movie he has been developing for about six months.

Toplikar said “Open Mic Night” will have a much different tone than the show. It’s basically a love story, about one musician’s search for a fellow musician he met at an open mic night.

Toplikar and his crew have been frequenting bars like the Jazzhaus, Eighth Street Taproom, the Bottleneck and Jackpot to make the film.

“We are trying to keep the feeling authentic, using natural lighting and using friends and local musicians,” Toplikar said. “It’s turned out really well.”

Friends are also helping Toplikar, who graduated from Kansas University with a film degree, make the film and save money. He is funding the film himself, and most of those working on the film are volunteer crew members from “Breaking Bad” and friends from Lawrence. But just because it’s low-budget doesn’t mean it’s low quality.

“I was like, ‘wow everyone on the crew works really fast,’” said Alan Weil, a producer on the movie. “They are really cool and really talented and brought top-notch equipment. I want to help out but I don’t want to get into their way, either.”

Weil and Toplikar had worked together before, when they were making films while going to Lawrence High School.

Kate O’Neil, the film’s lead actress, was also impressed with the high level of professionalism.

“I have just always liked working with Matt,” O’Neil said, explaining her reason for doing the film.

It’s not just friends and co-workers adding to this film. Toplikar’s father, Dave, was on hand Thursday at the Jazzhaus to take care of the food and drinks. Toplikar’s sister, Katy Skepnek, a hair stylist, took a few days off her job to do hair and makeup.

Matt Toplikar hopes that in the end it will come together to make a representation of the Lawrence he grew up in.

“This is sort of a dream come true,” he said. “ I get to show off the town.”

The filmmakers hope to finish production in the next few months and plan to show the film in Liberty Hall in late December or early January.

— Staff intern Adam Strunk can be reached at 832-7146.

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