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Microcinema creeps into Covington
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With the recent slew of small-town slasher remakes released by the film industry, it's little wonder Covington's Daniel Heisel picked his own hometown as the setting for his recent ghoul-inhabited feature.

For this budding filmmaker, as well as dozens of more prominent directors, the quaint southern charm afforded by the historic square and surrounding antebellum homes seemed to make Covington an ideal shooting location.

And with Heisel's latest project, this entails an infestation of the undead.

Along with his wife of seven years Andrea and their two-year-old son Miles, Heisel moved to Newton County two years ago from Clarkston. And since their arrival, he hasn't stopped pursuing his passion for film.

"I definitely have a love for movie making," said the 32-year old.

Heisel said he first realized he wanted to get involved in film production when he was 17.

"That's about the point where I got more interested in the technical aspect," he said. "I always loved movies but the idea of making one seemed so unattainable. Then I met a friend who had been doing it for quite a while, and I saw how easy it was and how much fun he was having."

After that, things just fell into place.

"My parents had always been very supportive of anything creative like this," Heisel said, "and I can remember my dad trying to get me more interested in computers and videography. I guess it worked."

Though Heisel says he loves Covington primarily for the sense of community it fosters, its aura of small-town innocence can't help but appeal to a horror filmmaker's darker instincts.

As a result, Heisel has taken full-advantage of his surroundings. With the support of family, friends and local residents, he's thrown himself headlong into his independent production company Shybyday.

"My friends and I are in a category we call 'microcinema,'" he said.

Microcinema, Heisel said, refers to a type of film production where the participants rely primarily on ingenuity and creativity in the absence of a substantial budget.

"Unfortunately, it incurs a lot of out-of-pocket expense," Heisel said.

The perk, however, is that with a limited budget comes artistic license.

"Luckily with our budgets," he said, "we don't have to worry about pleasing everyone else."

Coming in at a budget of a mere $700, Heisel's latest effort, "Jesus H. Zombie," has raised more than a few eyebrows.

"The subject of the movie has brought about some great discussions about religion, which was my intention," he said. "When I wrote the movie, I wanted to make a commentary about how easily people fall into the trap of not thinking for themselves and pushing their views unto others."

And according to Heisel, the message wasn't lost on the crew.

"The movie is not intended to be critical of religion," he said, "only critical of those who abuse it for their own gains. The majority of the cast and crew are devout Christians, Muslims, Buddhist and everything in between. Each one read the script and got the message right from the start, which made me happy."

As far as the title goes, however, Heisel readily admits he chose it just for shock value.

"I really just wanted to choose something that would make people want to talk about the movie and its subject matter," he said.

With the help of family, friends, and neighbors, Heisel has managed to overcome numerous production challenges ranging from practical concerns such as funding to the anxiety he encounters during the pre-production phase.

"My family's been good," he said. "They've always pushed me to do more stuff like this."

Despite Heisel's commitment to cinematic terror and gore, when it comes to his hobbies, he lists "family time" right at the top.