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Young lawyer and longtime friend create feature film

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Indiana history buffs may remember Eugene V. Debs as the five-time Socialist candidate for president who, in 1918, represented himself in his own sedition trial, in defense of his anti-war statements. Now, two young filmmakers have added a new chapter to the life of the Terre Haute native, creating a fictional descendant – a hard-drinking grandson – who aims to become governor of Indiana.

debs film Pete Biagi, director of photography for “The Drunk,” discuses a shot with the crew on 6th street in downtown Terre Haute, Ind. (Photo courtesy Myles Beeson)

The film, “The Drunk,” is the brainchild of William Tanoos and Paul Fleschner, whose names may ring a bell – their fathers, Anthony A. Tanoos and G. Steven Fleschner, are partners with the Terre Haute firm Fleschner Stark Tanoos & Newlin, which specializes in Social Security disability law nationwide. William is an associate with the firm, but lives in Los Angeles. The younger Tanoos began shooting the film with Fleschner in Terre Haute on July 18 and expects to wrap on Aug. 15.

The story follows Debs’ fictional grandson from his drunk-driving arrest to his run for Indiana governor against a corrupt prosecutor. Actor Tom Sizemore, whose numerous film credits include “Saving Private Ryan,” has signed on to play the crooked prosecutor.

“It’s kind of a unique approach to storytelling, because it’s not a biopic,” Tanoos said. “The central theme is redemption and friendship.”

Both Fleschner and Tanoos have dabbled in filmmaking over the years.

“I started making short films in high school with friends – five, 10, 20 minutes long,” Fleschner said. “And in college, I did some short films.”

Tanoos, a graduate of the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, made a few short films in college and wrote a few screen plays. And one day, he came up with the idea for “The Drunk,” and sent it to his longtime friend Fleschner to review. Fleschner liked the rough draft.

“William – he has real passion about political causes and making a strong statement … and that really appealed to me,” Fleschner said. “I really like stories that have a point to them.”

The two began working together to fine-tune the screenplay. And tying the story to the life of Eugene V. Debs presented the perfect opportunity for the filmmakers to return to their hometown for shooting.

“We have this rough draft which could’ve been set in Anytown, U.S.A., and suddenly we had this eureka moment … then we were full-steam ahead about making this in Terre Haute,” Tanoos said.

“Film and film production, and basically filming a movie, is almost foreign to small town Indiana … I don’t believe Terre Haute has ever seen a full feature-length film production,” Tanoos said. But he said the locals have all welcomed their presence.

“They’re certainly impressed with the professionalism,” he said. “They see it’s a real movie and they’re thrilled about that.”

Tanoos and Fleschner have known each other since childhood because of their fathers’ work together as attorneys. And the filmmakers say they are thankful that their fathers have respected their venture into making movies.

debs film A crew member slates a scene featuring William Tanoos (playing the role of Joe Debs) in the background, sitting at the bar. (Photo courtesy Myles Beeson)

“Personally, my dad has been incredibly supportive through this whole process,” Tanoos said. “You know, here’s a kid who went to law school and now says, ‘Hey, I wanna go make movies.”

Fleschner said that he considers his father one of his closest friends and is someone who he turns to for advice often. So he appreciates having him nearby during the challenges of filming.

While filmmaker and attorney would seem to be two distinctly different career paths, both occupations can place considerable demands on a person’s time.

“There’s days where we’re up for 21 hours, on set for 12 to 14 hours – constantly working,” Tanoos said. But the grueling schedule doesn’t seem to get in the way of enjoying the job. “I lie in bed at night and count down the hours until I can get up and do it again. It just really is fun,” he said.

Both Tanoos and Fleschner say they have a lot of faith in the crew they work with, from the set designers to the cinematographer.

“Filmmaking is such a collaborative art,” Fleschner said. So rather than instruct the crew about every detail of production, they allow a lot of creative flexibility. “We like to be surprised to see whatever they come up with.”

After filming wraps in August, Tanoos and Fleschner will turn over the raw footage to an editor, who will work independently to ensure that the film is edited objectively. The filmmakers will rejoin the editing process after initial edits, and then they’ll begin looking for distributors as well as film festivals where their work can be showcased. “The Drunk” is scheduled to be released in early 2012.•

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  1. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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