In the pursuit of independence

by Bradley Hartsell


Grantville’s Colby Doler sets up a shot in the woods for his award-winning short film, “Red River Ode.” The film placed top five in Louisiana Film Prize’s annual contest. 

The term “independent filmmaker” doesn’t get much more apt than with Grantville’s Colby Doler. Doler turned $1,000 and three days of shooting into an award-winning short film, “Red River Ode,” all while working a day job to pay the bills.

Doler says he became interested in film at 17, when the 2006 movie “Broken Bridges” was filmed in Grantville. From there, Doler began reading books on film and networking with other filmmakers.

“The next step was picking up a camera and figuring out who I was behind it,” said Doler.

Wanting to be independent, the 2006 Newnan High graduate opted against film classes. Rather than learn the same things as everyone else, Doler chose to experiment on his own. Once he found his own way with a camera, Doler sent his work ethic into overdrive.

“The last three years, I’ve really been into film hardcore,” he said, referring, in part, to the set work he did for movies like “Dumb and Dumber To” this year and “The Fat Boy Chronicles” in 2010.

In 2011, Doler made a found-footage film he shot in Grantville. “It’s a terrible film, but it’s still my history,” said Doler of one of his earliest works. He says he’s working on a sequel, one he’s confident will turn out better than the first.

That confidence is largely sparked from finishing in the top five of the Louisiana Film Prize. The Louisiana Film Prize was established in 2012 by a group who saw the need for a short film contest by small-time independent filmmakers. The idea was spurred on by a decade-rise of movies being filmed in Louisiana, similar to the boom Georgia has experienced over roughly the same time period. The new film contest found its way into Doler’s sights just before time ran out.

“We found out about the Louisiana Film Prize a month before the deadline, which was ridiculous,” recalled Doler.

“We had a $1,000 budget, and we filmed in three days. I edited for two weeks and then submitted it.” “I crossed my fingers and found out in July we were selected,” Doler said of the hectic shoot, one that sent his co-director, Corey Hamett, to the emergency room after filming in the woods for three days.

“I’ve never gone to film school. I always wanted to be independent. It felt really good to be recognized for this award,” Doler said.

Doler, co-wrote, co-directed, edited — even acted in — “Red River Ode,” a 12-and-a-half minute short film about a prisoner in 1918 who goes on the run after escaping from a chain gang. While attempting to hide in the woods, the prisoner realizes all is not as it seems.

Doler claims there’s “no other film like it.” 2013 was the year Doler earnestly began honing in on short filmmaking. In addition to “Red River Ode,” Doler created numerous YouTube videos, simply as a way to make film on a trial-and-error basis. He was able to gain knowledge of varying filming styles and experience on several film sets.

Doler is already hard at work in pursuit of this year’s Louisiana Film Prize. For placing top five, Doler and his cohorts received a $3,000 grant to make another film and come back again for the next contest. Doler, who works for NuLink to pay the bills, including the expensive film costs he racks up, is hopeful he can find someone to match the $3,000, even offering to return and double the money if they win the $50,000 top prize.

The film he plans to enter in the next Film Prize is titled “The Ninth,” which is about a world-renowned sculptor in 1924. He’s also working on another short film called “Beaumont.” It tells the story of a teenage girl dealing with a recent suicide of a girl that she and her friends bullied in school.

At just 25 years of age, Doler doesn’t shy away from tough, mature subjects. He points to cinematography and directing as his two strong suits, and he hopes to turn that vision into career in the future.

“Being a feature director is exactly what my goal is,” said Doler. “It’s a process, but that’s my dream and my goal. I’ve got my own style that’s paid off for me. My own cinematographic style is unique. You have to see it to know what I’m talking about.”

For now, Doler will continue grinding out paychecks at his day job and hoping to turn his finances and growing reputation into more success on the short film circuit. Right now, he’s focused on the top prize he sniffed last year without even knowing about the event two months prior. With more time to prepare, Doler’s confidence is running high and justifiably feels as if he’s auditioning for his potential big break down the road.

“I’m really doing [short films] right now because it’s what’s available to me both financially, and I feel it’s the best development and showing people who I am without showing too much.”

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