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Carle Place native making indie films in Los Angeles
Jonathan Ehlers was born into film in an interesting way.
His father, Paul Ehlers, rushed to North Shore Hospital in Manhasset on Nov. 15, 1980, to see the birth of his son while wearing fake blood and makeup from his ax murderer role in the horror film “Madman.”
When his father arrived at the hospital, the nurses tried to send him to the emergency room, not the maternity ward. Because his mother, Jane, was in labor for almost 8 hours, his father had enough time to clean up.
“He’s been involved in film since before he entered the world,” said Paul Ehlers, 62, of East Northport. “It’s his destiny to be involved in film in one way or another.”
At the age of 26, Ehlers, who was raised in Carle Place, moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to make independent films.
“It instilled in my mind that working in movies was something attainable,” Jonathan Ehlers, 31, said of hearing the story of his birth retold throughout his life. “Right from the beginning, I had this insider knowledge of making movies.”
Growing up on Long Island had its perks for a kid who dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. When he was 14, Ehlers made his first short film — a modern rendition of “Lord of the Flies” — at Jones Beach with his two friends, Nick Serr and Tony Falco.
“My imagination was always running nonstop,” said Ehlers, who’s a 1998 Carle Place High School graduate. “Storytelling is a part of me. Life always made sense to me when I had a camera in my hands.”
Falco and Ehlers have been friends for 20 years, making school assignments into short films and playing in a heavy rock band called “Engine.”
“Growing up as kids, we always had a camera around and this was something we had always dreamed of doing, making movies and music,” said Falco, 32, of Carle Place.
Soon after moving to Los Angeles, Ehlers interned with production company Yari Film Group, and worked with producers Henry Boger and Bob Yari, who are known for their work on films such as “Crash” and “The Illusionist.”
“I got to sit in during development meetings and hear firsthand how writers and directors interacted with producers,” Ehlers said. “It was all very motivating for me to stick with it.”
Last February, the beauty of Malibu, Calif., sparked an idea in Ehlers to make an environmentally conscious sci-fi action thriller. He then began bouncing ideas off his two film partners on how to make the film on a micro budget.
“The idea came out of a deep appreciation for how beautiful Malibu is,” Ehlers said. “We’re outdoors people. We knew we had something hot that could resonate with audiences.”
For the last six months, he’s been working on the independent film “Vivarium,” which takes place in a reality where plant life is extinct and residents pay to experience the virtual reality of Earth as it once was.
“We’re committed to the idea of the film and the significance of the project, so we’ll find a way to make it somehow,” Ehlers said.
His plan is to get the funding they need to create the film and then submit a final version to film festivals within the next year.
His two film partners, Patrick Ward-Perkins and Jason Radspinner, both graduated from film school at the University of Southern California in 2004.
Ward-Perkins said within five minutes of meeting Ehlers, they were pitching stories to each other.
“This was a guy I had to stay in touch with and it really wasn’t long before we were working on a project together,” said Ward-Perkins, 29, of Los Angeles.
In 2009, the trio shot their first web series, called “Nowhere Mary,” which was a six-episode supernatural thriller about a fallen angel in Los Angeles struggling to survive. They also created a short film called “Static,” which was shown at “A Night of Horrors International Film Festival” in Sydney, Australia, in 2010.
Falco said he has no doubt that his friend will someday make it big in Los Angeles.
“He’s building his career brick by brick and he’s at the point now that it’s taken off,” Falco said. “He’s a hard worker and a creative genius. Out of all the people I’ve worked with doing projects over the years I’ve never met someone on his level. He’s always a step ahead of everyone else.”
Tags: Carle Place