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One Richmond filmmaker races to meet the deadline of his life. 

Super Vision

For most, the end of October means one thing — Halloween. For one local filmmaker, the end of October means he can stop living in overdrive; stop worrying about actors' schedules, shot sheets and retakes; and stop selling himself, his film, his dream. In the movies, such a plot device is called "the ticking clock." It's used by filmmakers to get the audience involved, to get them to feel the hero's rush of adrenaline as he or she races against the impending, life-or-death deadline.

The clock is most definitely ticking for Hugh Burruss. In between his day job of writing, producing, directing, audio-mixing or editing corporate films and commercials, he's trying to finish his film, "INsecurity," in time to enter it in competition for the next Sundance Film Festival and its hip stepsister of also-rans, Slamdance.

Burruss describes "INsecurity" as a mystery comedy, "with more plot twists than 'The Sixth Sense.'" Shot in 16mm to give it a more cinematic look, the 40-minute film features plenty of local celebs and well-known faces. Even NBC12 anchor Gene Cox appears in a brief but very important cameo. "He's Uncle Larry," explains Burruss, who used to work on the WWBT news-production crew. "Gene's role has to do with one of those plot twists so I can't say much about it. Except he's good. He nailed the part."

Hectic doesn't begin to describe the Richmond native's life at the moment. When we meet to talk about "INsecurity," it's late in the evening on a Sunday night. Burruss and his assistant director are logging time in an edit booth at an undisclosed location. Our clandestine meeting, however, has more to do with necessity than intrigue. Being an independent filmmaker in Richmond requires the swift tenacity of a stealth bomber: To make your movie, you often have to work just under the radar.

"People know I'm here," Burruss explains with a boyish grin, "They just don't know it officially."

Doing things quietly suits Burruss; there's something innately understated and unassuming about him. Lean and lanky, with an ever-present baseball cap, one might not take notice of him on the street. But get him on a film set or just talking about the movies he wants to make and you can understand how he talked everyone on "INsecurity" — cast and crew — into working on the film for free.

"That's not about me," says Burruss, "that's indicative of the independent film scene right now in Richmond. There is so much enthusiasm for building a strong film community that people will sacrifice financial gain to see a project made. One of my key crew members even turned down paid work on 'Hannibal' to finish our film."

Referring to "INsecurity" as "our" film is no slip of the tongue either. Even though Burruss is footing the entire cost of the movie single-handedly, he doesn't consider the project "his."

"I feel so much gratitude towards the people who worked so hard with no guarantee that the movie would make money in the back end," he says. "The cast and crew made this project a reality."

Even with such generous co-workers, the film's budget will end up close to $25,000.That's quite a financial commitment for a 26-year-old to shoulder alone.

"When you want something bad enough," says Burruss, "You make it happen."

But Burruss is not some dewy-eyed optimist. If Sundance and Slamdance don't pan out, he already has plans to submit "INsecurity" to the various cable film channels or even Internet sites specializing in independent features. "I always saw this as a TV project," he says, "maybe Bravo or IFC. I want the movie to be seen. The reason I made this movie was so I could make another one." Once he meets the Halloween deadline, Burruss plans to premiere the movie in Richmond later this fall.

"This movie is my calling card, proof that I can make a feature film," he says. "Proof that I can return someone else's investment. Proof that I know what I am doing. I didn't make 'INsecurity' just to watch on a Friday night with my drunken buddies."

The clock is
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