Savannah's Chip Lane wrote and co-produced the feature film Untouched, which will have its world premiere Tuesday, July 29 at the Lucas Theatre. The contemporary drama, with Lane himself in the lead role of a Chatham County attorney whose client is accused of murdering her newborn baby, was filmed —beautifully—in Savannah, and features numerous familiar locales.
A longtime sales rep in the pharmaceutical business, Lane spent much of the 2000s as a part-time actor who worked in low-budget SCAD student films. He used to arrive on set early, to watch the crew set things up. He became fascinated with the goings-on behind the scenes, and as time went on he got more involved in the productions.
Lane’s off-the-books work in film and TV casting led to a handshake agreement with the Savannah Film Office, and the establishment of his own company, which he called First City Films. He was also taking acting work wherever he could find it. Untouched began as a 2006 short film, which Lane then adapted into a feature script.
In 2009, he met Angelique Chase, an independent filmmaker and first assistant director.
“I had done big television shows like Army Wives, and was just getting back into doing SCAD films,” Lane explains. “I met Angelique on-set—she was cast as my wife, actually—and I showed her the script. I was showing it to everybody I could! She read it and said ‘We’ve got to get this movie made.’ She came up with some great ideas.”
Next stop: Financing. Lane and Chase sponsored a First City golf tournament, and a battle of the bands. “The community was unbelievable,” says Lane, “the way they came out and supported it from the beginning.” Eventually, investors came aboard, including a major influx of capital from a small group Lane met at the Hilton Head Yacht Club.
And fate intervened. “The day we started casting for Untouched, I got laid off from pharmaceuticals,” Lane chuckles. “It was a huge blessing, because I hated it anyway! I never looked back.”
Professional actors from California, New York and Atlanta took on roles opposite Lane’s lead. Smaller parts were given to Savannah and Tybee locals.
Area homes and businesses were used as sets. “We shot for 25 days, with about a month for pre-production,” says Chase, who is an executive producer on the film. “We hired a local locations director ... that’s kind of the plus of being here, locally.
“If you come from L.A. you’re not going to know who to go to here, where to ask. The owners aren’t going to trust you, because you’re going to be here today and gone tomorrow, and who knows what kind of damage you’ve done and they don’t know how to find you afterwards. So there was a lot of trust between us and the locations, just because of the rapport that we have here. Just being local.”
Adds Lane: “We would always tell them, if they had any doubt, ‘Well, we have to live here. We’ll still be here when the film’s over.’ And they’d say ‘Yeah, you’re right. We know where to find you if something goes wrong.’”
Filmmaker Raphael Vieira, a SCAD graduate, directed. Jamie Prescott served as director of photography.
Today, First City Films makes commercials, music videos, industrial videos, instructional videos ... and features (Untouched is the first of, hopefully, many to come).
Talks are ongoing with distributors in Hollywood. “People are saying ‘This is like a Lifetime movie,” Lane explains. “So we’re trying to find someone who can get us into a network, rather than just go straight to Redbox or Netflix or something.”