GW graduate produces his first independent film

Shane Morris, who graduated from GW last year, faced some difficult decisions at the end of his senior year.

Parents and friends expected Morris, a political science major and history minor, to attend law school, but quietly he still entertained dreams of being a film producer.

Morris said he designed his own course in film study with University Honors Program Director David Alan Grier his senior year after enjoying a screenwriting class. He always had an interest in film and decided to put his casual curiosity to action, he said.

“I didn’t know a lot about film, but I thought it would be a lot of fun,” Morris said.

During his last semester at GW, Morris began collecting ideas for the screenplay. He used the experience of his friends “trying to figure it all out” during their senior year as a backdrop to the movie’s plot, Morris said.

“I tried to write heavily from experience,” Morris said.

By the end of the semester, with a few weeks until graduation, he produced the script of his movie Due Diligence.

While the movie is semi-autobiographical, based primarily on his own experiences, Morris said he used “artistic license” to put fictional touches on the script.

The main character, Diligence Jones, played by Morris, is a senior in college who contemplates cheating on a test after arriving to class unprepared.

Diligence must come up with $1,000 to retake the class and enters a film contest with a $1,000 main prize. Diligence kidnaps a mental patient, Simon Petrie, to exploit for his movie.

“I’m not sure if my character is a likable guy,” Morris said. “I hope people will be rooting for him in the end.”

Although Due Diligence is a comedy, Morris said it strikes serious chords relevant to college life.

“There is a climate at GW, and all universities, of resume building,” Morris said. “Is it all worth it if you exploit people along the way? Do the ends justify the means?”

Morris said his brother Jason, an award-winning producer, eased the challenge of creating his first film. He said he considers his brother to be his greatest influence.

In order to make the movie, the two brothers created Living Room Theater Productions. Morris used money from graduation gifts to finance the film, which they shot in Florida during the summer.

Working with a limited budget, the brothers maintained a crew of five, including two volunteers.

The movie is in the post-production stage. Jason is editing Due Diligence in Florida while Shane works in Connecticut, promoting the independent film and recruiting bands for the soundtrack. Shane also maintains Living Room Theater’s Web site, which lets viewers download the movie’s trailer.

Morris hopes to eventually show Due Diligence at film festivals like the Sundance Film Festival, to catch the eye of a distributor.

Morris said he and his brother are not motivated solely by success.

“The most important thing is making enough money to make more movies,” Morris said.

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