A loss for East Bay theatergoers -- the closing of the Willows Theatre Company in Concord and Martinez in August 2012 -- might turn into a winning scenario for indie film fanatics.
Rising from the ashes like a phoenix, Eric Inman --the Willows' former artistic director, is returning to his celluloid (well, digital) roots.
"Bound by Blood," an in-development feature-length film based on his play of the same title, is scheduled to be finished in October. Maxed Out Productions in association with Dolores Productions is supporting the project. The hope, Inman said, is to show the film as soon after that as possible in San Francisco and somewhere in the East Bay.
In an interview, Inman spoke of post-Willows life and his incarnation as a filmmaker.
"It was hard for a good six months," he said. "I don't have children, but I imagine it was like losing a child. All five stages of the grief process definitely kicked in. It was devastating, not liberating, but the silver lining is that it forced me to be creative on the next steps."
Taking a one act play he had written in 2004 while attending Cornish College in Seattle, Inman expanded it for a stage production at San Francisco's Box Car Playhouse. At the same time, he enrolled in a filmmaking class, returning to a world he had not visited since college.
"The medium has changed since I was in school," he said. "The cameras, the editing flexibility -- is incredible! And postproduction can fix all lighting errors, a stage director's fantasy come true."
Converting a play to film structure is huge, and Inman says he took the basic message and "wordsmithed" the entire script.
"Two talking heads is a stage," he pointed out, "whereas film is visual. Using imagery to tell the story is vital. The proscenium arch isn't a limitation, so I had the ability to be in the hospital, in a park, in an apartment, to tell the story."
The story, about a dysfunctional family with a closeted son, a nearly invisible daughter, an abusive father and a mother who insists life is rosy while secretly burning with rage, is anything but fluffy entertainment.
"The son dies, right at the start of the film," Inman explained. "And his secret lover has to learn his relationship with the mother. It's about the flaws and what we have to give up to really accept who (someone is) and who we are with them."
His favorite movies, like "Requiem for a Dream" and "American Beauty," are raw, gritty, uncensored and often run in reverse of what he calls "the King Lear concept."
Broken people rising up, he agreed, is his favorite theme. "Cynthia," the mother in his film, is perhaps the most broken character.
"Part of the trick is getting an actor you really like right away, because we have to really care about her in the end," he said.
Fortunately, Inman found his "Cynthia" right here in the East Bay.
"Sally is just so lovable," he said, about Sally Hogarty, an Orinda-based actress and theater columnist for this paper. "She's the opposite of Cynthia, which lets the complete character show up. Sally can be genuinely likable in unlikable circumstances."
Hogarty said "being another person" is amazing and the experience provides a deep appreciation for the human condition.
"I know this sounds weird, but being in someone else's shoes for a while helps me live life to the fullest," she said.
Channeling Meryl Streep's "The Devil Loves Prada" character helped her find the insecure rage behind her role, but Hogarty said she prefers to rely on personal life experiences.
"I lost my own mother during rehearsals for the play version of 'Bound by Blood,' so I had lots of raw emotions available to transfer."
Inman meshed personal and professional truth also, especially around the concept of acceptance.
"I came out in high school and it brought out bullying. My car was dismantled, I got spit on during a curtain call. It just happened and no one responded to it," he recalled.
But unlike the son in the screenplay, Inman had an accepting, loving mother. "Cynthia" is based on the mother of a friend.
"I've made peace with my past," he said, "so my writing is about how it does get better."
Inman and his co-producers have sent the script to a half dozen "name talents," and hope to land an actor with a local connection for whom the leading role would be a homecoming.
"There's such a vibrant film community here in the Bay Area, so I want the rest of the cast to primarily be from here," he added.
"Bound for Blood" will work on one of three micro-sized budgets ranging from $30,000 to $115,000. From shoot-to-edit-to-post-production, he estimated, will require seven months. Most of the filming will occur in a San Francisco apartment, Golden Gate Park, and a hospital room studio set.
For information about auditions or investing in the film, visit http://www.ericjpinman.com/bound-by-blood.html