About Utah: Rebel filmmaker promises unique kind of teenage horror flick with 'The Mine'

Published: Thursday, Sept. 13 2012 11:58 p.m. MDT

Filmmaker Jeff Chamberlain shaved his head for the release of his nonformulaic "The Mine."

Lee Benson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Jeff Chamberlain doesn't look like a rebel. From outward appearances, you'd never know he's gone rogue. He's still got the leading-man looks, the brilliant white teeth, the honest-to-goodness IMDb pedigree, with credits as an actor, producer and dialogue coach.

Go ahead. Look him up. He was Dr. Granger in "One Life to Live." He was Hastings in "As the World Turns." He was in "Rich Man, Poor Man" back in the day, and "Billy Jack Goes to Hollywood" and a dozen more you might remember.

Maybe not the biggest blockbusters ever, but, still, how many guys do you know who can list "professional actor" on his resume and back it up?

But it's precisely because of his Hollywood background that Chamberlain, 58, has gone off the grid with his new movie, "The Mine," set to make its commercial debut this weekend at two area theater complexes — The District in South Jordan and the Megaplex at Thanksgiving Point.

He knew Hollywood would never make "The Mine," a "different kind" of suspense film aimed at teen audiences.

"Hollywood has a formula," Chamberlain says — and either you use it or you're out of luck.

This is how he sums up the ingredients in the Hollywood Formula to Attract Teens:

"One, splatter the lens with blood; two, profanity; three, sex; four, nudity; five, horror that's disgusting; six, two-dimensional characters; seven, appeal to the lowest common denominator."

What's left, he says, are movies that have "zero redeeming characteristics, that demean the audience and insult their intelligence."

Half a dozen years ago, Chamberlain got it in his head that he could and would prove Hollywood wrong. He set out to make a scary teen movie that would stimulate intelligent thought, challenge the target audience's attention span and have everyone exiting the theater with a positive experience for their $7.75.

And one other thing: It would turn a profit.

Between now and November — his plan is to gradually release "The Mine" to more and more theaters in Utah and surrounding states through Halloween — he'll find out if he was right.

"Let's make it clear, I'm not suggesting this is a career path for anybody," he says.

Just for him.

He credits/blames his crusade on his upbringing. He was raised in a Mormon home in movie-mad Los Angeles, which gave him what he calls an "interesting perspective" on those two often-conflicting cultures.

He caught the film bug early. He was an extra as a teenager and by the time he was in his 20s, he was landing speaking parts. By his 30s, with his Redford-looks, he was in demand by the soap operas, getting roles in "All My Children," "As the World Turns," "One Life to Live" and "Capitol."

But by the time he was 40, he'd had enough. He went back to school at UCLA, got his MBA degree and was hired by CBS in its corporate finance department.

"I was a ponytail, now I'm a suit," Chamberlain says.

Eventually he branched out as an independent consultant for entertainment companies. He never lacked for clients. He knew the Hollywood Way inside and out.

All the while, though, he couldn't shake this nagging feeling that he could make a successful movie the Non-Hollywood Way.

During all this, he and wife, Lachelle, raised four daughters. When the girls became, inevitably, teenagers, he had a personal incentive to give his agenda a try.

So six years ago, he put on his sunglasses, rolled up his sleeves and, armed with a script about teenagers getting trapped in a mine, came to Utah to start scouting locations.

How did it turn out? That's never for the writer/producer/director to say. But the public can chime in starting tonight.

"There are no cheap tricks. You're not going to see anybody eating the arm off some corpse," Chamberlain says.

Something else he promises is that you won't see any preaching — at least not that you'll notice.

"There is a thematic moral tone," he confesses, but it's not overt. "Tell kids what to do?! Tell them what to believe in?! I've learned... I have daughters.

"My challenge is to be as crafty and clever as the adversary is in pushing his agenda."

Oh, and one other thing:

"Do not leave early," cautions the rebel with a cause. "You'll miss all the fun."

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: benson@desnews.com

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