Denton-born and -raised filmmaker and actor Laurence Maher is new to the experience of being interviewed by the press, so he thinks hard about answering questions and expresses concern over whether he’s adequately addressing the subject at hand, which is refreshing. He’s coy about his age, allowing that he’s “over 25,” but his powerful build reflects the more than 20 years he has spent studying karate. Someday he’d like to star in his own martial-arts film, but right now he’s preparing for the long-delayed release of his first feature, which he hopes will make his reputation.
That debut film, a romantic comedy entitled Almost, was shot in North Texas back in 2002, but only now is it poised to play in movie theaters. “I made the huge mistake of making a romantic comedy with no big names,” said Maher, who stars in the film along with Australian actress Jade Rigas. “I showed it to a bunch of heavy hitters on the film festival circuit. They all said the same thing: My film was solid, and they wished it was a horror movie.”
The idea for the story, about two people who catch a fleeting glimpse of each other on Dallas’ DART train and spend the rest of the film trying to meet up again, came to Maher in a dream shortly after the end of a real-life personal relationship. Though most of the film was shot in downtown Dallas, Fort Worth residential neighborhoods also provided a backdrop for parts of the film, as did Denton locations such as a restaurant, a movie theater, and a parking lot for an extended knife-fight scene.
After winning a few festival awards, Almost is now being distributed by Kinopic, a new Kentucky-based outlet for independent films. The movie was slated to open on Valentine’s Day weekend, but now it’s been pushed back to April so that the backers can find private investors to finance a larger advertising budget. “We’re looking for another $1 million,” said Maher. “That might sound like a lot, but when you’re putting out a movie in large limited release all over the country, it’s not that much at all.”
Starring in his own films is a way of saving money and ensuring continuity. “For an indie filmmaker, it’s a good idea to wear as many hats as possible,” Maher said. “I know I’m staying with the project.” Nevertheless, it’s the experience of directing other actors that has attuned him to other aspects of filmmaking. “I try to create a mood on the set [through lighting, set design, and costumes] that supports what my actors are trying to do,” he said. “[Directing] makes you consider more elements than the actors themselves. It makes you conscious of the scene as a whole.”
Maher is now moving in more commercial directions. He shot a pilot for a comedy TV series called One Cheap Move, in which he portrays both a version of himself and an evil alter ego. He’s also working with Cutting Edge Haunted House to make a Christmas-themed horror film called Claws, which delves into the backstory of Santa Claus. He’s hoping to have that wrapped by summer. In the meantime, spring will be devoted to the release of Almost and finally having his work seen. “Basically at this point, I’m about getting my name out, not making lots of money.”