‘The Screw’ Premiere
Sat., Jan. 28th
Thalian Hall • SOLD OUT
After Party at Nutt St. Comedy Room
255 N. Front St. • 10:30 p.m. • FREE
Despite what their name suggests, the creative minds at ScrewUp TV are anything but screw-ups. What started as just two high-school students, PJ Barnes and Keith Welborn, filming sketches to entertain their friends has grown over the last decade into a substantial collaborative project that is preparing for its red-carpet premiere this weekend.
As ScrewUp TV event coordinators Vanessa Morrison and Joshua Allen explain, Barnes and Welborn were just “two guys and a camera” who loved film and enjoyed making people laugh. In 2009, the duo garnered attention by entering a dance contest and used their short skits to help with online promotion. That summer, many of Barnes’ and Welborn’s friends wanted to get involved with their productions—and ScrewUp TV was born.
The growing production group’s new skits quickly gained popularity on Facebook. However, Internet stardom wasn’t enough for the ScrewUp TV crew; they had big dreams—feature-length film dreams—which are finally coming true with the Wilmington premiere of “The Screw.”
Directed by Barnes, Charles Johnston and Ashley Murray, the film centers around scam-artist Miles McGrady (Barnes). McGrady, along with his three friends Lance (Welborn), Shane (Johnston) and Taylor (Lauren Berg), devise a scam to sell a battery that can supposedly never die. The friends trick unwitting locals and small businesses into investing in their fictitious miracle product, but the scheme goes south when one business catches onto their lies.
The film uses intriguing techniques and plays with different elements like static one-shots and even subtitles as a driving force in some scenes. “It’s truly a movie ahead of its time,” Morrison said, “and you don’t totally figure everything out until the last five minutes.”
The goal of “The Screw” is to force the audience to stop and think, particularly about human nature. “We wanted the actions to be natural behavior rather than predictable moments,” Welborn suggests, “[which] makes people believe something like this could really happen. It gives it a more cutthroat and direct moral, and makes people realize that you don’t know what could happen or what you can do in any situation. We don’t want people to limit themselves or take anything for granted.”
The story resonates with the group, as Welborn says a full-length script seemed to be out of the question when they first began Then, he challenged Barnes to give writing a try. “I asked if he thought he could do it, and he said, ‘Why not?’ It was really born of a dare, on a whim.”
Within “The Screw,” encore readers will recognize local hot spots like YoSake and Level 5, as well as the iconic Riverwalk. The directors also made a conscious decision to support fellow Wilmington artists by exclusively using music from local favorites like Bibis Ellison, B-Side Breakdown, and Mike Blair and the Stonewalls. “We pride ourselves on bringing together local talent and letting them shine,” Morrison claims.
The ScrewUp TV members truly love Wilmington. While folks from “The Screw” cast have moved to Los Angeles and New York to pursue other opportunities, many are flying in specifically for the premiere. As Allen explains, “They may move on, but they’ll always come back home. Wilmington is where their roots are, and the film is for anybody who wants to come out and support local entertainment.”
The lavish red-carpet premiere is sold out, but the possibility of doing a second screening is in the works. Also, the group is working with Netflix to make the film available in streaming video. They have no intention of slowing down. A high-profile business woman and cable network owner has even expressed interest in the group, and they’ll be working to create a web series in Charlotte, too. They’re preparing to begin production on a YouTube web series in New York, which Welborn calls a “show within a show,” the title of which is yet to be determined. “It’s about a small group of guys who are working on a web series,” Welborn explains.
“Toward the end of the season, we want to link it to a TV pilot that has the same concept.”
The sold out red-carpet premiere of “The Screw” will be held at Thalian Hall on January 28th at 7:30 p.m. Folks can still attend the after-party at Nutt Street Comedy Room, which features a special Q&A panel with the cast, following the premiere. The party is free, and Welborn estimates it will begin around 10:30 p.m.