By Kristina Dorsey-The Day
Published October 15,2015 10:19AM
A teenaged girl falls to her death from a deck at the building next door to the Norwich Community Development Corporation. A detective questions a skittish student aboard the Fishers Island Ferry.
Those are two scenes filmed locally for the new murder-mystery movie “Tell-Tale Lies,” which will get its Connecticut cinema debut Saturday at the Garde Arts Center in New London.
“It’s a modern telling of ‘Tell-Tale Heart’ with the feeling of ‘Cruel Intentions,'” says Andrew Gernhard, the Norwich native who is co-owner/producer of Synthetic Cinemas International, which made the film. And, he adds, “If you like ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ this is the movie version of ‘Pretty Little Liars.'”
How that shakes out in terms of plot: A quartet of rich, young students are on the scene during the accidental death of their classmate Heidi. They run away from the site, but another person sees it all. The four friends decide they need to keep that witness quiet … permanently.
The cast features Alex PenaVega, who played Carmen Cortez in the “Spy Kids” movie series and who, with her husband Carlos, is competing on the current season of “Dancing with the Stars”; Renee Olstead, of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”: Beau Mirchoff, of MTV’s “Awkward”; Sean Patrick Thomas, who starred in the film “Save the Last Dance” and with Denzel Washington on Broadway in “A Raisin in the Sun”; and John Heard, who was in “Home Alone” and “Big,” among many other films.
And some of the extras were selected from auditions held at the Garde.
During the spring of this year, the Rocky Hill-based Synthetic Cinema filmed the “Tell-Tale Lies” all around Connecticut. They cast the gothic Elsinore Mansion in Pomfret as a wealthy home and the ultra-modern Manchester Community College as the students’ school.
“Tell-Tale Lies” has been screened in New York and L.A., and it aired on Lifetime in early September under the title “The Murder Pact.” It ranked #26 for cable programs of that week.
“The ratings on TV were huge for Lifetime, which was awesome,” Gernhard says.
Synthetic had live Twitter and Facebook feeds during that debut airing, and the movie became one of the top 10 things trending at the time.
This is just the latest project from Synthetic, which was founded in 2004 and made its name with its monster and horror movies. They shot their zombie flick “Steve Niles’ Remains” in Norwich in 2011.
One of Synthetic’s first big moves away from the horror-monster genre was its adaptation of Wally Lamb’s novel “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” which was filmed in and around Norwich last year.
“Tell-Tale Lies” is another new style for the company — a noir thriller, as director Colin Theys has described it.
Gernhard notes that the company hasn’t done a monster movie in three years.
“When you do a monster movie, your budget is spread so thin with all the effects and digital and all that. So it’s kind of nice to put money into the production — the equipment, the crew and the actors rather than, ‘Oh, we gotta have a flying monster flip a truck and behead a woman.’ It’s a little more interesting to do something not so crazy,” he says.
With a drama like “Tell-Tale Lies,” he adds, “you can take your time planning these beautiful shots and focus on performances.”
The “Tell-Tale Lies” director Theys, screenwriter John Doolan and Gernhard are among those scheduled to be at the Garde and take part in a Q&A after the screening. Gernhard says this is also a chance for local filmmakers to ask production questions, about distribution and so on.
Another Synthetic screening to come: The Garde is showing the Christmastime-set “Wishin’ and Hopin'” again this year, on Nov. 22.
And, Gernhard says, Synthetic might be working with Lamb on another project, but he didn’t want to say anything else beyond that. Stay tuned.