Got A Song? Want It To Be Used In A Movie?

February 15, 2009

Staff writer

While Connecticut has long been on the film industry’s radar, Synthetic Cinema International, based in Rocky Hill, goes well beyond using the state for just filming, editing or acting talent. It keeps virtually its entire production in state.

“We use everything in Connecticut that we can,” said Andrew Gernhard, a co-owner and producer.

That includes the tunes of local bands.

Through February, the company is accepting contributions to the soundtrack of its sixth feature film, “Sasquatch Assault.”

The company’s films are gruesome and a bit campy, Gernhard said. They are also low budget, which is why Synthetic wants music of all sorts — anything from rap and rock to classical and bluegrass for use in the background of scenes — that are already professionally recorded and mixed and can be used free. Contributors can reuse and sell their songs and will be listed in the movie’s end credits.

“We’ve gotten a good variety so far,” Gernhard said, including tracks that have been e-mailed by bands and multisong discs sent by music producers.

So far the company has focused on making monster movies. Most of its monsters have been created digitally, but Sasquatch is played by a costumed, 6-foot, 8-inch actor who  will be touched up digitally by Colin Theys, one of three full-time employees at the company. He’ll add facial movements and other details to give the creature a more human quality.

“We try to kind of stay ahead of the curve,” said Theys, who studied film and psychology at Wesleyan University in Middletown. “Every time, you have to improve.”

This film even has celebrity cameos, although the celebrities will likely be unknown to most: Don and Murph, nerdy comedians who do horror movie reviews on

“Sasquatch Attack” was shot over 15 days in November on a budget like that of the company’s other monster movies — between $150,000 and $250,000, most of which is earned back within two years of a film’s release.

The film crew took advantage of Connecticut locations, often gaining free access from land owners thrilled to take part. “Sasquatch” also includes scenes from a tunnel in Hartford, an abandoned police station in Norwalk, various locations in Middletown and Michael Angelos Pizza in Rocky Hill.

The company, intent on being centrally located after three years in New Haven, looked at Middletown the ultimately moved to Rocky Hill  in December 2007. They have small offices in a professional building that could easily be mistaken for a doctor’s or attorney’s suite, save for the ubiquitous computers and other equipment and garish film posters.

The horror movies on those posters, however, account for only about a third of the company’s business.

Backed by Richard Lucas and Bonnie Farley Lucas and in partnership with Vijaya Cine Enterprises and — as of Feb. 2 — Manchester’s Onyx Soundlab recording studio, the company also produces commercials and short films for schools and corporations and does work for the communication department at Mitchell College in New London.

Despite its emphasis on the local, “We’ve done better internationally that we are doing domestically,” said Gernhard, a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University who is making “Sasquatch” his Synthetic directing debut.

Its most recent film, “Banshee!!!” was sold into several foreign markets and enjoyed a two-week run in India (a long run by Indian standards). Its films are also popular in Asia.

The films have had limited theatrical release in the states — including showings at The Palace in Hartford — but are available on DVD. Universal and Lion’s Gate have distributed Synthetic films, and Blockbuster buys copies for its stores. They are also available from Netflix, and Gernhard said the new DVD should be in Red Box rental in many grocery stores and other locations.

That exposure is great for actors and actresses such as Cristina Santiago, a Rocky Hill resident. Alerted to the company by an acting teacher, she had a small role in “Banshee!!!” and is featured in much of “Sasquatch Assault.”

“I’m very glad I found them,” she said.

Santiago, who began acting seriously about five years ago, said it is great to be part of a production that she knows will be seen. But in addition to a good resume builder, it’s a blast to work with the company, she said.

“It’s just nothing but laughter on the set,” she said. “They’re just great guys.”

Despite its small staff, Santiago feels the company constantly improves its work.

“I was very impressed with ‘Banshee!!!,’  ” she said. “They really seem to be getting better and better.”

While the current film will be ready for the market in India this spring, it will likely be a year before it’s available on DVD in the United States.

For more on the company’s work, go to or call (860) 908-3956. The Web site also links to the company’s YouTube channel.

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