Metro-East Living

Couple collaborate on short film ‘SARGE’

Jessica and Ben Dewhurst during a recent visit to Belleville, where Jessica grew up.
Jessica and Ben Dewhurst during a recent visit to Belleville, where Jessica grew up.

It might be a great pickup line, but when Ben Dewhurst asked Jessica Lampe to be part of a movie he was making, she knew she wasn’t going to be a star.

“Craft services is very important,” Ben said with a grin, referring to the feeding of a cast and crew on a set.

Jessica, who grew up in Belleville, smiled back and nodded. “Well, if you’re not going to get paid, you should eat well. I love to cook. I have a food blog. Besides, I have no interest being in front of the camera.”

They met in 2013 in Indianapolis and have been collaborating in their spare time on short, independent films, which up until now have been “self-funded,” without a budget and with actors who donated their talent.

Ben proposed to her behind home plate at Busch Stadium in December 2014, “filmed, of course, with two cameras and two angles,” he said. They married last September.

If you have a veteran or an elderly parent with dementia like I have, this is a project you want to be a part of.

Deborah Wood on supporting “SARGE”

In February, they will begin filming “SARGE,” a short film about a World War II veteran living in a nursing home and his relationship with his family and those around him as he struggles with dementia. Ben wrote the script based on growing up with his grandparents, including a veteran grandfather, and is the director. Jessica is an associate producer who helped edit the script and will do the feeding on set, as well as the photography and social media work needed to get the word out as the film progresses.

It’s always a struggle, Ben said, to find financing and in-kind help when making an independent films.

But with “SARGE” something special happened. The couple are employed by Avant Healthcare, Ben as a senior producer and Jessica as a copywriter. The company specializes in creating medical education documentaries, podcast series and interactive learning aids for physicians and staff.

Believing Ben had handled the subject of a dementia patient with care and thoughtfulness, they pitched the film idea to DWA Healthcare Communications Group, Avant’s parent company. “SARGE” garnered both financial and heartfelt support.

“If you have a veteran or an elderly parent with dementia like I have, this is a project you want to be a part of,” said Deborah Wood, CEO of DWA.

The company has pledged $25,000, as well as the use of its staff and equipment, Ben said. An equal amount of money is needed to pay for other expenses, such as props, actor salaries and wardrobe. The couple establised an Indiegogo link to help with that.

To their advantage, “We get to work on it during worktime,” said Jessica, 27,who graduated in 2006 from Belleville East and in 2010 from Bradley University in Peoria with a degree in journalism. Her parents are Anne and Mark Lampe, of Belleville. In 2014, they moved to St. Louis to be closer to Jessica’s family and began telecommuting with Avant.

Ben, 32, grew up outside Indianapolis, raised by his grandparents. He graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., in 2006 with a degree in multimedia/telecommunication.

The “SARGE” screenplay by Ben made it to the quarter finals of the 2015 Screencraft Short Screenplay Contest. The movie will be filmed in Indianapolis with six principal characters, chosen from the ranks of Midwest theater and film actors.

Sarge is the elderly nursing home patient who sometimes is visited by the apparition of a war buddy. His wish is to leave the home and attend his granddaughter’s high school graduation.

“We’re still working on a location,” said Ben of trying to find a nursing home to use as the main setting of the film. It will take about six days to film on site and a day of green-screen work that is part of a World War II flashback on the beaches of Normandy.

“Our No. 1 goal is to tell a good story,” said Ben of the 20-minute film. “We’re trying to make post-production by middle May, then we can submit it to four (film) festivals” where it might catch some attention.