A scene from "Gray Matter"

Terri Meadows, left, of Charter Oak, and Vail native Ryan Gangestad play a scene in the original short horror film “Gray Matter.” The film, directed by Denison resident Dan Mundt and produced by Ken Kahl, of Buck Grove, will premiere at the Donna Reed Theater during an evening of Halloween-themed independent short films on October 28. The film was shot in Charter Oak and Denison. Photo by Dan Mundt

On Saturday, October 28, the public is invited to a free screening of short independent horror films at the Donna Reed Theater. The free event will be headlined by the short film “Gray Matter,” which was shot in Charter Oak and Denison during October.

The film features Charter Oak resident Terri Meadows, Vail native Ryan Gangestad and Denison resident Michael Phipps. The horror film is about a woman (Meadows) who checks on a neighbor and soon finds herself in a life-threatening situation.

“Gray Matter” was produced by Ken Kahl, of Buck Grove, and directed by Dan Mundt, of Denison. The cast and crew first met on September 30. After a few hours of brainstorming, they settled on a story and set about securing locations. Shooting began on October 7.

“We had to keep it simple because we didn’t have much time to do anything overly complicated,” Kahl said.

The production took place over five shooting days; two days in an old house in Charter Oak and three days at the Donna Reed Theater and on Broadway in uptown Denison.

Mundt said the editing is still ongoing, but the final project will be about nine minutes long.

“I wish I could say it’s all done already, but I still have a bunch of work to do on the sound this week,” he said. “A good scary movie has to have great sound.”

He said he was very happy with the people who volunteered to work on the project.

“Everybody worked well together and it was a lot more like just hanging out with interesting people than it was like work,” he said.

Gangestad said he had always wanted to work on a film. He lives in Altoona and made the trip back home to work on the project each weekend.

“I thought it was a lot of fun and challenging,” he said. “It was great meeting people that enjoy the same things.”

Meadows said working on the film was an amazing experience.

“I appreciate the opportunity to stretch my acting chops and to be a part of a unique and interesting project,” she said. “I hope to continue with future endeavors.”

Kahl said creative group projects are important for small town vitality and for retaining a fun population.

He said he wasn’t initially sure what his role would be, but he ended up managing equipment, being the makeup artist, handling the lights and providing snacks and refreshments.

He was also the production’s continuity director, which meant he was in charge of making sure everything was consistent between shooting days and between individual shots.

“This is a movie with a story that all takes place within the span of just a few minutes,” he said. “It was important to make sure all the costumes – and the blood, there’s a lot of blood – stayed the same between shots that sometimes were done days or even a week apart,” he said.

Kahl said he is amazed at how much the cast and crew were able to accomplish in just a month.

“I’m proud of what the public is going to see Saturday night,” he said.

Donna Reed Foundation board member Pat Fleshner said the Foundation is pleased to be showing short thrillers by independent filmmakers - and premiering a film partially shot in the theater.

“How often does a person get to experience a scary movie in a century-old theater?” she said.

The program begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and will run about an hour. Admission is free and concessions will be available for purchase.

Free-will donations to the Donna Reed Foundation will be accepted.

Audience members are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes to the event.

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