In Focus

To everything there is a season, a time to be silent, and a time to speak. For Ross Chapman, it was time to be silent, get to know Evansville, and listen to what people had to say about the community.

His listening led to the formation of a group of people — Chapman as executive producer, writer and producer Jonathan Boettcher, and director and cinematographer Chris Weatherly — who made their first short film “Left Turn,” which premiered in August 2017 and won an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy a year later, to inspire people to look outside the comfort of their norms. In early 2018, the second film, “Care,” premiered about the foster care system in Evansville with Leah Roop joining the trio as a producer.

And later that year, “Left Turn II” was released and prompted viewers to think about race in the community.

“All of the films deal with something we think is an important issue to know about and consider in our community,” says Chapman. “Like in the first [Left Turn] film, the only thing the runner does differently is choose to run in a different direction, and he exposes himself to something totally different.”

▲ Ross Chapman, Chris Weatherly, Leah Roop, and Jonathan Boettcher pose on the overpass near Harrison High School, featured in their firm “Left Turn II.” The group wants to not just inform viewers about issues in the community but inspire them to really listen to the people around them. “It’s not a judgy approach; it’s not preachy,” says Weatherly. “It’s more introspective.”

The first step for each film was researching how each issue affected the city and talking with people in the community who were impacted. Instead of making a documentary-style film on each topic, the group chose to use people’s real-life experiences they discovered through their research to weave together a narrative story. Chapman, Roop, Weatherly, and Boettcher all say working on the films forced them to face their own assumptions.

“‘Left Turn II’ was even more that way because I’m white,” says Boettcher. “I can’t relate to the experiences we wanted to portray in the film, so I knew I had to take a lot of extra care to try to understand the issues as much as I could and have sometimes awkward or difficult conversations with people.”

The hope for the films, all of which were shot locally and whose casts and crews almost entirely comprised local residents, is that they inspire difficult conversations that will lead to more understanding and less barriers. While Left Turn Productions has hosted screenings in churches, schools, and businesses around the community, the films all are available online with provided discussion guides to assist conversations.

The team says the goal is not to give viewers a new perspective, but that the films will inspire people to seek new perspectives through relationships with other people.

“You almost have to step out and engage in some way if you’re really digesting it and absorbing everything, but it gets to be your choice of how it happens,” says Roop.


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