According to the inner confines of Blakeley native and Green Ridge resident John Kilker’s mind, the “paragon cortex” is a part of the brain that, when unlocked, unleashes super powers. But getting to that part of the brain requires overcoming fear. This premise for “The Paragon Cortex,” the independent film Kilker wrote, is producing/directing and is filming throughout Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, is an interesting paradox to the way those on set handle themselves and their jobs — the script seems to be the only place where fear is present.

“People who make movies, they’re kind of like carnies, they’re road warriors, everyone’s together,” said Joe Van Wie, CEO of JVW Inc. and one of the producers of the film. “It’s a very eclectic group of people that wouldn’t usually mix anywhere else except when you’re making a movie. And the only reason people endure that is because they care about the film.”

That certainly seemed true when the Weekenderstopped by a shoot location on Main Street in Wilkes-Barre to meet up with some of the cast and crew. The enthusiasm on set was intoxicatingly contagious, and it quickly became clear that everyone involved is passionate about their respective crafts, not to mention awed by one another’s capabilities.

“One thing I love about film is there’s a lot of room for individual achievement, but then individual achievement has to work within the larger framework,” said Kilker, who produced 2006’s “Bonneville” starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange. “And if you do that, the analogy I always use is it would be really cool to climb a mountain and see a view by yourself. But if you climb a mountain with somebody else, then when you get back down to the bottom, and you run into that person five years later on the street, you know you both went through the same experience.”

In addition to Kilker and Van Wie, Scranton resident Christian Huennebeck is also producing, and Van Wie noted that a lot of the crew has been drawn from our local talent pool (along with a camera crew based out of Germany) and has roots in the area. And in addition to lower costs, as the film is being funded entirely by private equities, there are quite a few upsides to filming locally.

“Between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, if you look at the downtowns and the architecture, I can give you any look you want except for the desert,” said Kilker, a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. “And so it’s easier, actually, to get an independent film made in a place like this than it is in Manhattan or L.A. And not just because of cost. It’s because of support.”

Van Wie reiterated the notion of local support, adding that the film is being shot during a four-week shoot wrapping on Wednesday, April 4, at recognizable locations all over the area, including the former Holy Rosary School in North Scranton, Comics on the Green, Stirna’s Restaurant and the former Capitol Records Building in Scranton and Blu Wasabi in Dickson City.

“The Paragon Cortex,” which will feature Nick Coleman as its hero, Ginger Kroll as the villainess and Melissa Navia as the love interest, has a strong comic-book theme, from its story line right down to the shooting techniques; there’s been talk of exposure at Comic Con, a convention for comic books and other entities of the science fiction variety.

“At the end of the day, we’re telling a story about a guy who needs to connect with the world, and telling it against comic book beats,” said Kilker.

Stephanie DeBalko
The Weekender