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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. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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