Movies/TV

Cary-Grove grad pursues filmmaking career with ‘Chasing Nightmares’

Filmmaker Chris McGowan of Woodstock looks around while getting a tour of a sound editing room at Periscope Post & Audio in Chicago Friday, May 4, 2018. McGowan wrote and will produce his first feature film that will start shooting in August. He plans to use Periscope Post & Audio for the post work.
Filmmaker Chris McGowan of Woodstock looks around while getting a tour of a sound editing room at Periscope Post & Audio in Chicago Friday, May 4, 2018. McGowan wrote and will produce his first feature film that will start shooting in August. He plans to use Periscope Post & Audio for the post work.

Nightmares generally aren’t something you chase. They’re something you are desperately trying to run away from as the terror often chases you.

Screenwriter Chris McGowan invites us into the world of Laura Sanders, a high school student plagued with lifelong nightmares. Upon making a startling discovery from a photograph, Sanders’ need for answers brings her and a group of friends to the real-life setting of these dreams, chasing after the truth, even if that means chasing the evil itself.

As the stakes and the body count rises, “Chasing Nightmares” begs the question, are dangerous pasts better to be left alone in just that, the past?

McGowan, a 2001 Cary-Grove High School graduate and current Woodstock resident, is on the second go-round of his filmmaking career.

After a seven-year stint in Los Angeles trying to “make it happen,” McGowan found himself heading back to Illinois to take up a good old nine to five in risk management.

“I followed my dreams and passions initially and kind of threw in the towel,” McGowan said. “I wasn’t making any money, so I put my dreams on hold for a bit. Now it’s coming full circle. I know people say this all the time, but you really should follow your passion. At the end of the day, if you hate your job, take a chance to do what makes you happy.”

McGowan is a Columbia College Chicago graduate with a bachelor of arts in playwriting and screenwriting.

McGowan said he always found himself gravitating toward the screenwriting aspect more than other areas of filmmaking and finding a certain amount of satisfaction through pulling the audience in and making them jump, trading the supernatural for plausible real-life situations, causing them to be even more terrifying.

“ ‘Chasing Nightmares’ is more of the psycho thriller genre rather than horror. I’ve always appreciated movies with more of a storyline,” McGowan said. “The most profound movie when I was growing up was ‘Scream.’ What I appreciated the most was the twist that was thrown in at the end. You can actually have some thought-provoking elements in a horror film. It’s not all blood and guts.”

The script since has received three awards including a 2018 Horror Hotel Honorable Mention, winner of the MAC Horror Screenplay Contest and an official selection of the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival.

The script also caught the eye of Producer Richard Clark Jr. Pages aside, it was McGowan that was the actual deal-maker.

“It was him more than anything that got me interested,” Clark Jr. said. “I look for good scripts and good ideas, but ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s all about execution. He’s hungry and I’m the same way. I’m a hustler. I make it happen and Chris is a serious doer and pushes the needle every day.”

Clark Jr. seeks out projects that fit his model in that they have a budget less than $5 million and are in genres with built-in audiences such as horror/thriller and the opposite end of that spectrum, faith-based. “Chasing Nightmares” fit the bill.

The 34-year-old Los Angelas-based Clark Jr. has a 16-year career under his belt, producer the only job title he’s ever held.

An equally ambitious 30-something, McGowan created “Chasing Nightmares” by design.

“I was looking to make my imprint. Make a splash,” McGowan said. “I wanted to take on a genre that could reach a worldwide audience, that can be made on a lower budget, with minimal locations and no geographical specificity, but is still of quality. How can I reach the most people?”

The motion picture will be produced under McGowan’s LLC, Perth Road Productions.

With the start of principal photography this summer, McGowan will officially leave his day job behind to pursue his passion full-time, capturing stories of nightmares, while chasing dreams.

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