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Antioch couple's independent film will premiere in Gurnee
By Corrinne Hess | Daily Herald Staff

Jerry Johnson, left, and Bennie Woodell, both of Antioch, made a horror movie, "The Chauffeur," that will premiere Jan. 11 in Gurnee Mills. Much of the movie was filmed in Lake Villa, on the Lehmann Mansion grounds.

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

From left, Megan Johnson, Kevin Burris, Jerry Johnson and Bennie Woodell hang out at the Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa, which was one of the locations for their horror film "The Chauffeur."

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/21/2007 12:17 AM | Updated: 12/21/2007 7:20 AM

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When Megan Johnson woke up her husband to tell him about a nightmare, she never dreamed he would turn it into a full-length movie.

Three years later, that's what Jerry Johnson has done.

"The Chauffeur" premieres Jan. 11 at Gurnee Theater at Gurnee Mills Mall.

"If you would have told me three years ago I would be here, I would have told you you are crazy," said Jerry Johnson, 36, of Antioch.

"The Chauffeur" is a horror movie about two couples who get into a limousine and realize, too late, the driver is not who he appears to be.

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The movie has a definite local flavor. It was shot in four days, over two weekends, outside the Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa, in Antioch, Waukegan, Wonder Lake and in Paddock Lake, Wis.

The film's actors -- 27 total -- were found on craigslist.com or had previously worked with the director, Bennie Woodell of Antioch.

"The Chauffeur" began to take shape a few months after the nightmare during a Metallica concert the Johnsons attended with Megan's brother and sister-in-law, Kevin and Christa Burris.

Jerry Johnson told Kevin Burris his idea, and over the next year the men jotted down ideas on hotel stationery. They knew they had a solid story, but didn't know how to translate it to the silver screen.

While Jerry Johnson was busy pitching the idea to several production companies, Megan Johnson met Woodell, a recent film graduate from Columbia College.

"I was really excited at the prospect, but didn't know what to expect," said Woodell, a 1999 graduate of Antioch Community High School. "They gave me an outline and I thought it was really good. There was so much potential there."

Woodell took the 18 pages of notes Johnson and Burris had compiled and turned it into a 70-page screenplay.

Megan Johnson said the finished product is very impressive, even though it was shot on a budget of $19,000 -- minuscule by Hollywood standards.

"The Chauffeur" will be shown on two screens Jan. 11. So far, one theater has already sold out, and Jerry Johnson said tickets are going quickly at the second theater.

He anticipates about 550 people will attend.

And from there, Woodell plans to send the film to various festivals and hopes it gets picked up by a production company.

"I think we've got a good film," he said. "I showed it to a couple of girls at school and they were afraid to go back to their dorms alone. I was pretty pleased."