It was a project Josh Doke envisioned since he was in high school.
Directing and producing his first feature-style movie was something he worked toward through four years in college, then about three years of finding what it was he would create. What the western Kansas native came up with was an idea of a suspense-thriller that ended with the name of his hometown — Goodland.
Now, after nearly a year-and-a-half promoting the film through Facebook, Twitter, a webpage and other ways necessary, Doke’s directorial debut with a feature length film will be open to the public for the first time. The movie will be part of the Kansas City FilmFest that runs Tuesday through Sunday at Cinemark on the Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. “Goodland” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Since it was announced the film would be made, Doke said the reaction from people has been positive. Doke grew up in Goodland and graduated from the high school in 2008. He went to the University of Kansas and graduated in 2012 with a degree in film.
“To be honest, I was a little surprised at first,” he said of the excitement he heard from people about the movie. “I think having the film called ‘Goodland,’ it got spread around faster than it may have been if was something else.”
The name wasn’t what Doke first came up with, but it was catchy enough to producer J.S. Hampton that he suggested it. Once he heard it from Hampton, Doke knew it was the name to go with.
“It even went along with some of the themes that the film has,” Doke said in naming the movie. “When people watch the film, it’s a completely fictionalized version of Goodland.”
What the story is about is a man who arrives in town for the first time on the same day a body is discovered in the countryside near Goodland. The town sheriff is suspicious of the newcomer. The sheriff is played by Cinnamon Schultz, who had a part in the 2010 film “Winter’s Bone.” The stranger is played by Matt Weiss, who is from Kansas City and now lives in New York as an actor.
Doke said some of the characters in smaller roles are local people, many he’s known for most of his life.
“It was really cool for me to work with people who I had known or grown up with,” he said. “I had fun with that.”
Filming for Goodland started in October 2015. While some of the production was done in and around Goodland, Doke said, there were scenes shot in Brewster and St. Francis. There also were a few in Lawrence and Kansas City. Doke’s company he operates with business partners producer/editor Edward Schroer and cinematographer Iain Trimble is in Lawrence. The three met while they were students at KU.
In the early stage of writing the movie, Doke started with a $12,000 budget that grew to $50,000.
“I wrote this script knowing I was going to make it for a really small budget,” Doke said. “I knew it would look like it was high-production value, and I could call in all my favors and get it done, so the film would look like it had a much higher budget than it actually did.”
While the movie name is “Goodland,” one thing Doke tried to do was not depict the fictionalized place as the real town.
With the Kansas City FilmFest being the opening of the movie, the plan is to try and have it shown in other film festivals this year. Doke hopes if it is well-received, he might be able to talk to movie theaters in Kansas about having the movie shown at least one night in their venue.
“The whole idea with this film is it really will be our introduction into the feature film world,” Doke said. “We really wanted to capitalize on getting into the film festival circuit — get into that world and network and see what that was all about.”