This young filmmaker takes on everything from sci-fi to satire — and his Indie Film Factory inspires a budding scene
Some where in the warehouse wastelands near the intersection of Valley View and Desert Inn, there’s a black box that’s helping to change the landscape of filmmaking in Las Vegas. The Indie Film Factory is large enough to fit a car in, with a green screen fastened to its far wall. There’s a makeup mirror framed by round bulbs on one side, and large set flats with their scenery sides facing the opposite wall. It brings to mind studios from the formative years of cinema: Thomas Edison’s Black Maria, Georges Méliès’ glassed enclosure outside of Paris.
Kelly Schwarze likes the Méliès comparison. “His was the first real big kind of studio in Europe,” he says. “And he was doing crazy stuff, things that no one had ever seen before. There’s a bit of that here at the Indie Film Factory.”
What Schwarze, his wife Charisma and their partners have developed since founding Indie Film Factory in 2011 is an easily accessible and affordable facility for both aspiring and professional filmmakers to use or attend workshops. It’s also where Schwarze and company handle commercial and corporate assignments as ProWerks, and filmed scenes for his latest film, Territory 8.
The conspiracy thriller was the opening selection of the Vegas Independent Film Festival in May. V.I.F.F. director Derek Stonebarger sees Schwarze as the backbone of the local industry. A recent Sunday evening found Stonebarger opening his downtown lounge Atomic Liquors so a crew could shoot a scene from a short film there. “These are all people who worked on the Kelly film (Territory 8),” he says. “There’s something else happening like this every day, and Kelly is like the father of a lot of it, of stuff that really gets done. He started the Indie Film Factory; people utilize that. All this equipment, all this stuff, is somehow tied to Kelly and his company. He’s a big part of independent film in Vegas.”
Schwarze gravitated towards animation and looked into attending prestigious schools, but once he saw the price tag, he opted for a different route. He studied animation at UNLV in the late ’90s, then became a volunteer with CineVegas. His fate was sealed after he stumbled across a set while running an errand for the film festival. He asked a guy with a walkie-talkie how he could get a job there, which led to a gig as a production assistant on the Warner Bros. television series The Strip (1999-2000).
“I was seeing all of the faculties of production at its most glamorous.” Schwarze recalls. “You had production, wardrobe and casting. You had celebrities. I was on Fremont Street, and they were doing a scene where a car pulled up and they had a foot chase and guns shooting. I was standing behind ropes right next to the director, and I was watching the director – ‘Cut! Reset! Go again!’ – and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Schwarze set about making his debut feature, Poking the Eye of the Storm, not long after that. He turned to crime for his sophomore effort, The S.I.N., admittedly overreached with a film he’s trying to forget titled The Indie-Pendant, then got his groove back with a comedy about race called You People. He’s also made an Emmy-nominated documentary about his veteran father, Dad’s Vietnam, and plans to make a documentary about Vegas entertainers sooner than later. But first, Territory 8 is getting one more round of editing before he takes it to the festival circuit.
“He makes good stuff. It’s a lifelong passion,” says Stonebarger. “I think he represents Vegas Indie film real well. I think that there’ll be bigger and hopefully more films.”