The Talon

Nolan Marks and Rachel Lotlikar’s debut feature length film, coming soon to a screen near you

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Two SPHS juniors had the idea for an original screenplay after seeing a few well known titles; Paul Brickman’s  “Risky Business,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s  “Magnolia,” and “Boogie Nights.” The outcome, “Free State of Spencer,” was soon to become Nolan Marks and Rachel Lotlikar’s biggest film project to date.


Grady Kershaw was gracious enough to donate his wide variation of equipment to create this film. Marks and Kershaw are hard at work maintaining sound and film; “My favorite part of production is learning the process. No one on this project is perfect and we’re all learning this together.” Kershaw said. Photo by Rachel Lotlikar.

The movie stars several teenage characters, all of which are Severna Park High School students, along with a production crew of the like. The duo enlisted Grady Kershaw as their trusted cameraman and co-director of photography, a junior with a three-time Emmy award winning father and plenty of that talent to go around.

Once a crew was assembled, the audition process began. Luckily, it didn’t seem to be too much of a challenge. “The auditioning process was a miracle. Every person that we had read for us were perfect for the film,” Lotlikar said. “When it came time for the actual auditions, potential actors came in and performed a cold-read of selected excerpts from the film,” Marks said.  The hardest part was yet to come: getting everyone together. According to Marks, “Once the team is together, we’re all in our element and ready to work, but it takes a lot to get there.” A cast and crew of busy high school students sometimes took a few tries to get in one place, and Lotlikar said “We had some shoot days that were more than 17 hours long. It was a crazy bonding experience for me, Nolan, and Grady especially.”

With this, Marks, Lotlikar and Kershaw set out to create a film that had never been seen before in a teen movie. To accomplish just this, Marks directs the story to “places that the audience wouldn’t expect.” “Free State of Spencer” features two brothers, played by seniors Michael Bateman and Sam Hickman, as they encounter the most defining period of their adolescence. This is why, Lotlikar said, the film will never be shown on publically accessible websites such as YouTube. “We aren’t letting just anyone see it. It’s a very controversial movie, [and] hits topics that could easily offend the everyday movie-goer.”

Junior Bianca Radice, who portrays a character she calls  “a narcissist with low self esteem” shares the same outlook. Because of the many controversial scenes, Radice struggled to get into character. “There were times when I had to act in ways I [hadn’t] before, and truly getting in touch with how my character was feeling and how to portray it was hard at times.”

As for plans after the long editing process and several test screenings, both Marks and Lotlikar hope to send the film to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, as well as the South by Southwest Film Festival in Texas.  Lotlikar plans on including it in her portfolio for college, while Marks is optimistic about sending it to local festivals in the short term.  Kershaw, another newcomer to feature length films, said, “We make plenty of mistakes, but it’s nice when something good comes together and you can be proud to have your name on it.” Everyone involved is very proud of their creation, and Lotlikar is “ready to see the faces of everyone who watches this piece of art.”.

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Nolan Marks and Rachel Lotlikar’s debut feature length film, coming soon to a screen near you