Thursday, December 03, 2009
Filmmaker drawn to wrestling camp
Brien Wayne Powell uses Boogie's Wrestling Camp in Shawsville for many of his projects.
SEAN KOTZ | Special to The Roanoke Times
James Griffin (left) films Brien Wayne Powell (right) as he throws a punch at Jimmy Valiant during the filming of Powell's current project, "Magnet Man vs. Bigfoot."
SEAN KOTZ | Special to The Roanoke Times
Director Brien Wayne Powell interviews wrestler James Gregory, aka Megatron, for his part in the film. Gregory drove from West Virginia to make the shoot.
| Sean Kotz
Special to The Roanoke Times
SHAWSVILLE -- Boogie's Wrestling Camp, Jimmy Valiant's camp for professional wrestlers, is a lot of things to a lot of people.
For Brien Wayne Powell, the camp is becoming a regular location for his film projects.
Powell, a Lynchburg native, gladly drives to Shawsville when possible to take advantage of the unique atmosphere for his quirky, offbeat short films set in a world of pro wrestlers, strange creatures and suburban Joes.
His current project, "Magnet Man vs. Bigfoot," is an extension of his previous films featuring his understated masked character, Magnet Man, which he originally created for a comic strip.
"Magnet Man is basically a guy who wears a mask and it does not go a whole lot further than that," said Powell, who also plays the character.
As Powell explained, Magnet Man's pro-wrestling father put him in a mask as a child and he's carried on the tradition without questioning it.
And the tie pinned to the T-shirt?
"He likes to be fashionable."
And while Magnet Man does have magnetic powers, it is more or less an accident of his life.
"He's not a superhero," Powell said. "He doesn't want to go out and save the world necessarily."
Instead, he lives a weird suburban lifestyle that tends to bring him in contact with the extraordinary.
Powell's first film with Valiant was the 2008 short, "Mistaken Liberty," in which low-tech, misguided aliens mistake BWC for New York City and try to abscond with Valiant's replica of the Statue of Liberty, confusing it with the real thing.
The movie comes to a head when the alien brazenly challenges Valiant to a contest of his choosing to settle the matter.
Cut to ... a poker game at a picnic table.
In his current project, Magnet Man returns to the wrestling camp to face off with Bigfoot, who seems to be stalking the area.
However, what he is really looking for is a worthy badminton opponent, but this is what one must expect from a character who keeps his socks in the oven and spare change in the dishwasher.
Powell's friend James Griffin works as a camera operator and production assistant, and plays Magnet Man's wacky friend Phil.
"It can be a little stressful at times," said Griffin on the pace of the filming, "but for me it is a stress reducer in the long run."
Additionally, the wrestlers at BWC are happy to take a few minutes away from their training to provide ad lib, high-blown commentary about Magnet Man and Bigfoot.
"Magnet Man is such a special character," Valiant said, "and, of course, at BWC, we have nothing but characters."
Valiant added that developing charisma and being able to think on your feet is part of the lesson at BWC and being in front of a camera is a good opportunity for them.
Valiant said that he and his wife, Angel, welcome Powell "with open arms because he gets our students involved."
"And all of our students are such big hams or they wouldn't be here trying to get into professional wrestling."
One wrestler, James Gregory, known as Megatron in the ring, drove from West Virginia to make the shoot.
True to wrestling form, Megatron promised both that Bigfoot would be found in the hills of Shawsville and that eventually Megatron would be better known than Hulk Hogan.
Wrestler Damion Diamond arrived not knowing about the movie, but dropped his bag and went over for an interview without hesitation.
"When I heard about it, I thought it was an interesting opportunity and I was thrilled to do it," he said.
On top of that, Angel Valiant has a line of custom pro wrestling gear and created the masks and costumes used in the film.
Consequently, Powell is very thankful for the friendship he has developed with Jimmy Valiant, who was once a distant, larger-than-life hero for the filmmaker.
At the moment, Powell produces his films on DVD to sell at wrestling shows, but he also puts them on YouTube for the entire world to see under his production company name, Pressed 4 Time Pictures.
In the long run, Powell would be happy to expand his audience and reach, but for now, he says it is all about having fun and sharing it with people who get it.
"The main thing for me in doing this is to have a good time," he said.
"But once it's done I want people who enjoy that type of humor to be able to see it more than anything."