Erwin studio fostering work of local filmmakers

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 30, 2016 at 9:59 PM

ERWIN — Since its 2014 purchase of the former Love Chapel School, Quantum Ascension Studios has been gradually transforming the 37,000-square-foot facility and its 6-acre lot into a one-stop shop for local, film, animation and audio production.

Along the way, the company has also been forging relationships with local artists and producers who together are giving rise to a new and exciting Northeast Tennessee industry.

“The ball’s rolling,” studio manager Tim Altonen said this week as the studio hosted its largest project to date — a $60,000 special effects package under production by the RodyPolis company of Johnson City.

Watching as crews of film and pyrotechnics experts from here in the Tri-Cities and as far away as Memphis and Chicago captured fireballs and gun flashes for RodyPolis’ upcoming ActionVFX explosion package, Altonen reveled in the studio’s ability to help RodyPolis make the project happen.

Talking to reporters who came to the studio last week to gather information about Friday night’s shoot of explosions on the former school’s playground, RodyPolis owner Rodolphe Pierre-Louis said he had already begun work on the special effects package in Chicago when he met Altonen at a film festival in Asheville, N.C.

After a tour of the amenities available at Quantum’s studios, Pierre-Louis made the decision to bring the project home to Northeast Tennessee, save the cost of filming in Chicago and invest more in the quality of his product. The Red Epic Dragon camera RodyPolis leased for ActionVFX is used in many major Hollywood productions, shoots 6,000 resolution — or six times the resolution of high definition — and retails at around $45,000.

Because of the considerable expense of producing an explosions package, RodyPolis ran a 30-day KickStarter campaign online, offering filmmakers who a backed the project a considerable discount on the finished product. Illustrating the interest the dangerous special effects ActionVFX offers — gun flares, bullet hits, fireballs and explosions that filmmakers can download and insert it into their own projects without risk to their crews, the KickStarter campaign hit its $20,000 goal in just 15 days and in the end generated $59,000 from nearly 500 backers.

Pierre-Louis said said seeing his company reach this level has been “a very exciting process.” Altone said the Erwin studio’s goal is to help other local filmmakers realize the same type of success and the motivation behind the ongoing renovations of the facility.

While remnants of the old school remain, the building now includes a 64-feet wide, 34-feet deep, 18-feet tall cyclorama green screen room in what was once the auditorium, a sound room for music and voice recording and a post-production room where the two are melded together.

Classrooms have been converted into multiple-set rooms where filmmakers can build their sets in close proximity to save time on their productions, a woodworking room and art studio for set building and prop repurposing, an animation motion capture room under construction in the former library, and prop rooms, including “an armory” of toy guns, body armor, helmets and uniforms gathered for a future military academy fantasy film visualized by studio owner Major Ron Capes Jr.

And at the other end of the building, occupying the Love Chapel addition built in the 1990s, there are crew quarters with small bedrooms; a kitchen, a lounge with sofas, big screen TV and pool and ping pong tables; and a gym equipped with weight machines, treadmills and boxing bags — all to help production companies who come to Erwin from outside the area save on a couple of their greatest costs — meals and hotel accommodations for their crews.

With more than 50 rooms to work with, Altonen said the old school has been ideal for compartmentalizing the many different amenities filmmakers need.

“What we hope is to be a beacon for local filmmakers who can come here and share our resources,” he said. And there have been some recent success stories. A traffic safety public service announcement airing on TV stations in the Knoxville area was filmed at the studio last summer and includes a car crash simulated on its back lot.

More information about Quantum Ascension Studios can be found at the studio’s website at www.quantumascension.com. More information about RodyPolis’ ActionVFX package can be found at www.rodypolis.com/actionvfx.html.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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