Produce Iowa
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Produce Iowa

The cast and crew of “Ghost of a Chance” shoot a scene in Des Moines’ historic Sherman Hill neighborhood.

‘The Film Lounge’ Gets Spooky

It’s one of the simple rules that parents teach their kids: “Don’t take things that don’t belong to you.”

That’s the premise behind Iowa City filmmaker P. Sam Kessie’s “The Last Summer,” a short movie about friendship and a mysterious charm bracelet that leads to haunting consequences.

“It’s based on an old story my mom told me,” said Kessie, who was born in London and raised in Ghana. “In Ghanaian culture, it’s a tale of caution because (the stolen item) could be possessed or it could have belonged to somebody who was bad.”

In “The Last Summer,” Kessie said she used that timeless admonition to show how different cultures share similar stories and universal life-lessons.

Two friends in “The Last Summer” discover a mysterious charm bracelet that leads to haunting consequences.

“We have all these different stories from around the world such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and other stories from Eastern folklore and folktales,” she said. “This (movie) was my take on trying to bridge the gap between a Ghanaian story and Western culture.”

Kessie’s “Last Summer” is one of nine short films selected for “The Film Lounge — Halloween Style,” which will air at 10 p.m. Oct. 29 on Iowa Public Television.

The Halloween show is a special episode of “The Film Lounge,” a collaborative TV series that premiered last winter to high praise from filmmakers and fans. It’s produced by Iowa Public Television in partnership with the Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, with generous support from the Gilchrist Foundation.

The nine films were culled from submissions made for the second season of “The Film Lounge,” which will air next February.

“As we were gathering film submissions for the second season, one thing became clear: Iowans like to make horror films,” said Liz Gilman, executive producer of Produce Iowa. “So we decided to launch an episode devoted only to short films that frighten and intrigue and have a little fun with the incredible work being done by Iowa filmmakers.”

The hour-long Halloween episode will be hosted by “Inspector” Ian Miller, the driving force behind the theatrical program “The Nitch,” and was supported by the Slaughterhouse haunted attraction a​t the Barnum Factory ​in Des Moines.

Des Moines writer and producer Michael Berg’s short film “Ghost of a Chance” is included in the special Halloween episode.

Berg had been working on a screenplay for a project called “Spooked” when he shifted gears to create “Ghost of a Chance,” a cautionary tale about doing seances in an abandoned house. They shot the story in October 2015 in the historic Sherman Hill neighborhood in Des Moines.

“It was a long process overall but the actual filming was about six hours on one night and 12 hours on another night,” he said.

Cast and crew from “Ghost of a Chance” shoot a scene in Des Moines’ historic Sherman Hill neighborhood.

The film has been included in a couple of festivals in Iowa and Milwaukee, but Berg is eager to see it broadcast statewide.

“The cast and I are really excited to have it premiere on TV,” he said. “That’s a huge honor and we’re looking forward to it.”

For Kessie, the Halloween show marks the third time one of her films has been selected for “The Film Lounge.” Her “Body & Form” aired in the series’ first season and “Transplanted” will air in the second season.

“I’m three-for-three, so I’m feeling very lucky,” she said. “(‘The Film Lounge’)” is an amazing platform, and I am especially excited for the other people in the program. I’m intrigued by the other films that I’ll be seeing.”

Here’s a quick list of the films in the Halloween lineup, scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Oct. 29 on IPTV.1:

(2009): An animated, musical homage to monster movies. By Steve Couch of Davenport.

(2017): A poetic reminder of the mysteries behind the masks of the season. By Bruce Walters of Davenport.

(2017): A look at one man’s attempt to recall an abduction — of the alien variety. By Juan Acuna Esparza of Des Moines.

(2017): A bizarre look at the last days of sunlight. “The Eye” is part of the Evil Grin Gift Box web series of more than 40 dark comedy shorts. By Justin Norman and Shrieking Tree of Des Moines.

(2016): A ghost story about the perils of performing seances in abandoned houses. By Michael Berg of Des Moines.

by Poison Control Center (2011): A timeless black and white music video filled with caskets and levitation. By Patrick Tape Fleming of Des Moines.

(2017): A haunting and etheral music video ponders whether we are free spirits or floating ghosts. By Serena Illuminati and Annalibera of Des Moines.

(2013): A cautionary tale of friendship and a mysterious charm bracelet. By P. Sam Kessie of Iowa City.

(2011): A trio of troublesome trick-or-treaters visits a haunted funeral home one spooky Halloween night. By Beau Batterson and Adam Orton of Waterloo.

— Jeff Morgan, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

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Iowa’s State Office of Media Production

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