In 2012 Anghus Houvouras (encore’s film reviewer, local filmmaker, screenwriter, and author) published his first graphic novel, “EXE: Executable File.” The story follows a madman called “The Artist” who, basically, uses a QR code to flip society on its trenches of normalcy and into a vortex of suffering. Having published novels (“The Fence Mender,” “My Career Suicide Note”) and written and directed a host of films, from shorts to features (“Fearsome,” “20 Funerals,” “Murder Monologue,” “Cockroach,” “The Ballad of Brooklyn North Carolina”), Houvouras will now embark on his first web series based on the sci-fi story.
In March Houvouras shot “EXE: Executable File” over a long weekend with a small crew of people in his home and on a shoestring budget. The project was created with the help of director of photography and producer Babette Siobahn and talent from Cape Fear Community College. The series stars local actors Nate Panning, Adam Poole, Meredith Jackson, Rocco Poveromo, and Tanner Martinelli. Houvouras directed.
“I took a whole new approach to ‘EXE,’” Houvouras tells, “working with new people, new voices, and trying something completely different in terms of material. The comic is very large and bombastic. . . . I had an idea how to tell a much more grounded version of the story that kept all the fun elements but didn’t require $100 million dollars.”
His adaptation takes on the Internet as a social virus created by The Artist. “He wants to give the gift of ‘inspiration,’” Houvouras clarifies. “A weaponized email removes inhibitions and turns members of society into what they most want to be. For some, it’s a blessing. For others, it’s a curse.”
The series introduces the audience to a core of leads, including a hero and villian. In episode one, folks will meet Detective Lawrence Cash, who’s apathetic about living in a world worth saving. “He’s depressed, burnt out on medications and finding it difficult to deal with his wife’s sunny disposition,” Houvouras describes. “He’s called in to try and talk down a teenager who has just shot up a movie theater.”
Each episode will bring in new victims and tell their stories. There are plot twists and new people introduced within an ongoing story arc.
“It allows us to tell a complete story every episode but build on the mythology of the world we’re trying to create,” Houvouras says. “Episodic content presents its own challenges. You have to make sure you tell enough to warrant the existence of every episode but leave the audience wanting more at the end—little cliffhangers, something that makes the anticipation between episodes unbearable.”
This is Houvouras’ seventh production he has shot locally (he has done nine in total) since moving here 15 years ago. In fact, he has seen the rise and decline of the film industry before in Wilmington. While some view the independent sector of our scene still having momentum, Houvouras says it’s a symbiotic relationship between the bigger budgets and smaller films which feed each other healthfully.
“When you have large films and TV series in town, it allows young filmmakers and aspiring crew members an environment in which to flourish,” he explains. “It also allows the smaller independent productions to benefit from professional crew members who often work on smaller projects in their spare time. I have personally benefitted from it.”
However, Houvouras is quick to point out the independent scene’s strength, too: Without a doubt, it will exist regardless of the larger industry’s stamp locally. It just may be a rougher road to travel. “The independents here are like the minor league baseball team,” Houvouras compares—“learning, developing, and trying to hone their skills. Without the mainstream film industry, we don’t have a major-league team to keep the program moving in the right direction.”
Still, it’s not keeping him from his passion. Houvouras’ goal with “EXE: Executable File” is to launch full production of the series by the end of the year.
“The subject matter lends itself well to digital distribution,” Houvouras notes. “The finished product will end up online for the world to see. If there’s enough interest, we’ll make more. Frankly, I love the story and the crew who helped put it together. I want to get the band back together and tell more stories of debauchery in the digital age.” —Shea Carver