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High Anxiety

Charlottesville native Jeff Wadlow returns to Virginia to shoot a film and catch up on a little insomnia.


Wadlow will shoot the movie in October and part of November in Richmond. The film stars Estella Warren (“Driven,” “Planet of the Apes”) and Topher Grace (“That ’70s Show”) with cinematography by Romeo Tirone, the man responsible for the beautiful photography in the 2001 indie film “L.I.E.” “Living the Lie” is being developed by a company called Hypnotic, which produces the Fox Television series “The O.C.” Providing all goes well, it will be picked up for distribution by Universal Studios.

Less than a week before the first day of shooting, Oct. 9, Wadlow can’t remember the last time he had a good night’s sleep. Back in film school at the University of Southern California, “Forrest Gump” director Robert Zemeckis spoke to his class and predicted as much. Over the phone, Wadlow recalls those words of wisdom with ease: “Vast resources multiplied by creative expression equals high anxiety.”

Wadlow’s familiar with notoriety. Not exactly a country boy from the Virginia hills, he’s the son of the late state Sen. Emily Couric and nephew of Katie. But the 27-year-old did not ride the family coattails to his first movie. USC came first, then the grueling process of getting his work into the hands of important people afterward.

Wadlow had already shopped his college thesis project, “Tower of Babel,” narrated by Kevin Spacey, to many contests and festivals when he got word that he’d been accepted by Chrysler. That was the qualifying round. It was all uphill from there. Wadlow says he began to get his first taste of the pressure of making movies when he was asked to create a film in seven days about a Chrysler car for round two. His resulting film can be viewed at

Round three, Wadlow says, was “trial by fire.” Among a handful of “very talented” young directors, he says, his instructions were to write a screenplay in two months, make a poster and pitch it to a live audience.

Wadlow says he dreamed up the result, “Living the Lie,” during a jog when he started recalling his days at the summer governor’s school program at the University of Richmond. A smart update on the fable of the boy who cried wolf, the psychological thriller revolves around a group of boarding school students at a fictional academy. The crew plans to shoot at locations around the University of Richmond and Union Theological Seminary, among others, to create the prep-school look. “L.A. is overshot,” Wadlow says, and his hometown, he continues, “doesn’t have the crew base that Richmond has.”

Or the extreme desire to become another production center. One of the facets of Richmond that continues to charm Wadlow, he says, is this city’s willingness to bend over backwards. Not only does the city close major streets, like downtown Broad Street to accommodate HBO’s “Iron-Jawed Angels” last year, but people in Richmond often do things free. Wadlow hopes to take his production well above the million dollar mark, and he confidently asserts that he will with all the help and donations he’s getting from local businesses.

While it’s getting to the point in Los Angeles where you might have to start paying to scout locations, Richmond donates them. Wadlow and his crew don’t have to spend a nickel to shoot at the university or the seminary or any other locale. The Virginia Film Office has been particularly helpful finding locations and partnerships, he says, and selfless residents have come out of the woodwork to help out. For example, the Richmond mill TMS Corp. is donating all the building supplies and the Gladwell Brothers painting company is providing painting equipment. Henrico Police loaned squad cars, and Helo Air loaned a helicopter for aerial shots.

Shucks, Bill’s Barbecue is donating a dinner a week. “You’re not going to find that in L.A.,” Wadlow says. “Trust me.” S

Do you want to be in “Living the Lie”? Director Jeff Wadlow says extras ages 18-26 should call 804-226-9871.

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