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Filmmaker Faces Casting Problems

Tim Vogel's production of "Chasing the Rabbit" is really a personal observation of life's decisions after high school. Vogel, a Lake Braddock Secondary School graduate, hopes the semi-autobiographical story will be a stepping stone into a career in the movies.

"It was really easy to write. I'm kind of witnessing it," Vogel said.

Vogel graduated from high school in 1994 and earned an associate’s degree at St. Petersburg Junior College before attending Florida State University. He was trying to get in the film production program at Florida before family troubles made him abandon that idea. He returned to Virginia and saw old friends and acquaintances from high school in the same place they were before he left, inspiring the movie idea.

In the story, the protagonist, Benji, feels that since he's been away from home and experienced life abroad, his friends are missing out, and he wants to set them straight.

"He feels like he needs to help them," Vogel said. "He learns that some people don't really need or want help."

One of Benji's friends gets into a fight at a party, and there's an outside scene where someone gets his finger shot off. "This is one of Benji's friends that has a few problems. That's going to be the hardest scene. It’s going to be out in the front yard," he said.

Vogel wanted to finish up filming sometime this past summer or in September, but when October rolled around, the Halloween stores came in handy.

"They had a latex hand, I stocked up on fake blood. I'm going to have to use some kind of gun," he said.

Other scenes include a fraternity party, preferably at George Mason University, and a bus full of screaming young people. So far, he has only completed the flashback scenes with a Super 8 mm camera, which accounts for only 20 percent of the film.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS Vogel is having with an independent movie, with virtually no budget and no promises for the big time, is getting actors and actresses. He's checked out the film students at American University and George Mason, where he's had a little success but is still looking.

"It's been a real problem finding people. I'm not really looking for professionals. Sometimes they're over the top," he said.

With all the trouble he's had finding people, Vogel does have two people interested in the part for Corey, a female character. One actress, Joanna Marszal from Bethesda, Md., has shown interest, as has a friend of Vogel's fiancée from Fairfax. He's leaning toward the Fairfax woman.

"She really likes to work with film and stuff. She's an interior decorator," he said.

Marszal is a 2002 graduate from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda that is hoping the film will be a step towards a cinematic career as well.

"I'm basically interested in any kind of films, I'm doing it basically for experience," she said.

She's been in another small film, "Blue Skin Tale," where she played a jealous girlfriend. A lot of her role was impromptu and not in the script.

"I was fighting and I threw him out of the house," she said.

Marzsal is currently attending Montgomery Community College and plans on going to the University of Southern California film school next year.

Vogel also needs four male actors as well.

"It's hard in this area," Vogel said. "It's not a big film area."

Vogel's fiancée, Valerie Rice, doesn't want to be in the film, but she's working behind the scenes.

"She's probably one of the best planners," Vogel said.

Rice helps out a little with the script and music but knows that it isn't her area of expertise.

"He has a vision of it, dialogue maybe [she'll help]. I may have an idea for a song of something," Rice said.

Rice is a 1993 graduate of Fairfax High School. She now works for a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

Another Lake Braddock graduate, J. Michael Whalen, is doing the camera work for the movie. Whalen and Vogel met in eighth grade and were inspired by a history class at school where they re-enacted a Palestine Liberation Organization uprising scene, capturing it on film as a project for the class.

"It was my camera, and it was basically done right in front of my house," Vogel said.

Whalen is also working on an independent film, "Phythona," about a girl coping with depression and mental illness.

VOGEL HAS A PAYING JOB in the administrative office of the Sunrise Retirement Communities. He and Rice live in Arlington. When the movie is done, Vogel hopes to enter it in various film festivals in the area, including the Georgetown Independent Film Festival in September. The two are getting married in February. Sometime within the next year, the newlyweds will head to California, where Vogel plans to get a job in the movie industry. He does have a contact in DreamWorks SKG film studios, where he intends to seek a job when he gets there, possibly starting at the bottom if that's what it takes.