‘Lotawana’ is Labor of Love for Local Filmmakers

Trevor Hawkins, the driving force behind the new film “Lotawana,” launched his moviemaking career with little more than a camera and a belief in the power of film to tell a compelling story.

“I got started in high school, filming friends who were skateboarding and wakeboarding,” he says. “I never knew movies could do anything interesting until I went to a friend’s house and he showed me ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ in his basement. I got this feeling of awe. I was hooked and became obsessed with relating emotions through film. It was always my dream to make a full-length movie.”    

That’s exactly what he and his wife, Cori Jo, have done. Just as the name suggests, “Lotawana” was shot on location in eastern Jackson County. Trevor’s own life experiences inspired the concept.

 “The movie is based on me in my mid-20s, fighting wanderlust and trying to escape the 9-to-5 in favor of a different lifestyle,” he says. “It is an exploration of the idea that the characters create an idealistic dream world. Can they survive and rewrite their own rules of modern existence or will they discover that society operates as it does for a reason?”

The couple oversaw every detail of the movie, from the initial concept in 2014 through writing, fundraising, casting, filming and post-production.

“We went into this with no idea of the timespan involved,” Cori Jo says. “One thing we learned is how much a film becomes part of your life and that you need to treat it as its own company.”

Funding is always a major hurdle for independent filmmakers, especially if they want to retain full creative control.

 “We pretty much didn’t follow any of the rules,” Trevor says. “We had a few early offers for funding, but they came with a stipulation of using a name actor or actress, which would have shrunk our shooting schedule to a week or two. We weren’t ready to compromise creatively to make the movie we wanted to make.”

The couple eventually raised the needed funds through relationships they had established at their video production company, Mammoth Media.

“I was fortunate and did not have to advertise for investors,” Trevor says. “Everything was word of mouth. I was doing commercial work, and that helped lead to funding,   although we also took out a loan on our house.”

Cori Jo produced the film, and Trevor wore multiple hats as writer, director, cinematographer and colorist. Although the actor, Todd Blubaugh, is from Los Angeles and the actress, Nicola Collie, is from New York, all of the production crew was local.

After its premiere at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Kansas City, the couple is seeking a national distributor.

“Finding distribution for an indie film is challenging,” Cori Jo says. “It’s even more difficult because of the fact that we decided to make a creative-driven film.”

They are entering “Lotawana” in film festivals to garner exposure. In the meantime, their next production already is in development.

“They always say to have the next movie on deck,” Trevor says. “The working title is `The Velvet Elk,” which is a much dreamier movie loosely based upon a park ranger. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to shoot it locally because of the setting, so we are looking at the Pacific Northwest.”

The hit Netflix series “Ozark” has brought national attention to the Lake of the Ozarks region. With a few breaks, “Lotawana” just may do the same for Lee’s Summit.

For more information and to watch the trailer for “Lotawana,” please 
visit LotawanaMovie.com.