Maze brothers making cinematic ‘psychedelic nightmare’ thriller in Nebraska

OMAHA — Todd Lowe settled into an overstuffed living room chair as his phone rang.

Answering it, he began an animated conversation, telling the man on the other end he was a fool to have run from police. Lowe then stomped across the floor when he learned the man was coming over to his house.

A few minutes later, Lowe, playing a character named Jimmy, did it all again, making some changes in the dialogue, stomping a little harder as he walked.

Then he did it a few more times — until one of the Maze brothers said “that’s a cut.”

The May 20 filming in Omaha of a scene from “La Flamme Rouge” had ended, sending crew members off to the next set-up and giving the brothers a few minutes to talk about their movie.

“La Flamme Rouge,” written and directed by the Mazes, Brent Scott and Derek — is “a thriller about an injured professional cyclist and a renegade detective who navigate the bizarre criminal underbelly of a steroid ring intertwined with the exclusive art world.”

With red lighting bathing the set in the Omaha home, “La Flamme Rouge” — which takes its title from the red flag displayed 1 kilometer from the end of a cycling race — was looking for distinctive visual and narrative sensibility.

“We’re trying to capture some sort of psychedelic nightmare, some fever dreams,” said Brent Scott Maze, who also serves as the movie’s director of photography.

The Maze brothers moved from Falls City to Lincoln to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where Derek earned a journalism degree in 2013 and Brent Scott graduated from the Johnny Carson School of Theater & Film a couple of years later.

Having made music videos in Nebraska and, in Brent Scott’s case, one in Los Angeles, the brothers wrote the “La Flamme Rouge” script and found funding to make the independent movie. Among the movie’s supporters is former Nebraska running back and now Minnesota Viking Ameer Abdullah, who serves as one of the film’s executive producers.

“It’s gotten bigger than in the original plan,” Derek Maze said. “We’ve had a lot of great help. It’s much bigger now than we expected.”

In part, the bigger production comes because the film obtained funding from the city of Fremont, via a state law that allows cities and villages, with voter approval, to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes.

Those purposes include making films. Previously, the legislation has helped provide funding for a movie shot in Valentine, according to Ehren Parks, one of the “La Flamme Rouge” producers.

“It can function like the state incentives down in New Mexico and Georgia,” said the Fremont-based Parks, who is working with Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln to develop a similar statewide program, beginning with a proposed study.

To cast the picture, a Screen Actors Guild independent film, the “La Flamme Rouge” team looked at a specific set of actors.

“We went after some people, a lot of them who had worked with David Lynch,” Brent Scott Maze said. “They understood the things we were after, what we wanted this to be.”

Topping that list is Balthazar Getty, one of the stars of the 2017 version of director Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” who signed on as one of the film’s executive producers and plays the lead, Rick Van Pelt, a man who’s having a very, very bad day.

Also from “Twin Peaks” are Nicole LaLiberte and George Griffith. Lowe spent seven years on the HBO vampire series “True Blood.”

Veteran character actor Clint Howard rounds out the top-list cast, playing a character named Conrad Wilhelm.

While the nature of Howard’s character isn’t known, he was on hand May 14-15 when “La Flamme Rouge” was shooting at Kiechel Fine Art in downtown Lincoln. So it’s likely he has something to do with the film’s art aspect.

The production took over the four-story O Street gallery, shooting in Buck Kiechel’s second-floor office and in a third-floor gallery space.

“I don’t know if I can touch anything or not,” Kiechel said in the office as the filming went on a floor above. “They’ve really changed this around. I’m just going to get out of here for a while.

“This is great. When they asked about using the place, I said ‘yes’ instantly. We’re honored to help the Maze brothers on their debut film — and to expose art in Nebraska to the people from all over who are going to see it.”

Back in Omaha, crew members were starting to pack up lights, cameras, monitors, laptops and other equipment, as they were headed to the Fremont Golf Club for a late-night shoot as the production neared the end of its 15 days of principle filming.

Eight members of the film’s 20-person crew were graduates of UNL’s Johnny Carson School — some who returned to Nebraska from around the country to work on the film, and at least one who picked up his diploma this spring and went immediately to Fremont to serve as the movie’s sound recorder.

“My partner and I have done a lot of movies and this is one of the best crews I’ve ever worked with,” said producer Chad Bishoff of Syncretic Entertainment. “They’re very well grounded in their crafts and exceptionally good at what they do.”

Principle shooting, most of which took place in and around Fremont, had wrapped up by May 23, leaving a weekend of second-unit filming before the production ended. Second-unit filming includes establishing shots, exteriors, insert shots and other scenes that don’t require the involvement of the leading cast.

In the case of “La Flamme Rouge,” because of the March flooding, that second-unit shooting had to be adapted from the original plan to film everything in the Fremont area.

“A lot of the fun roads to shoot on in Dodge County are swoosh — washed out,” Parks said. “We’ll probably shoot some of that around Lincoln.”

Once the shooting was finished, the film will go into editing and putting the soundtrack together.

“Doing the editing will be great, but getting to direct Balthazar Getty has been the dream of a lifetime,” Derek Maze said.

The deadline for a rough cut of “La Flamme Rouge” to be completed is Oct. 15, a date that will allow the film to be submitted for entry into the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals, Parks said. Those are first festivals on the annual circuit where indie films are shown and can obtain distribution.

“That’s an eternity to us,” Derek Maze said.

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