Filming on the Key with Local Talent


Sara Thompson

Dale Loy, Marsha Kremen, Kelly Hettinger, Margo Macdonald, Melinda Deane, Don Swensen, Jim Hettinger and Jilly Eddy during the shooting of "Colton." Photo by Kevin McKeon

The neighbors noted suspicious activity: A car off-kilter on the side of the road, bright lights in the woods on a dark night, a scuffle, and maybe sounds of gunshots on the beach. Criminal activity on south Key Peninsula? Fortunately, the answer was not so ominous. Kevin McKeon was making a film.

The film was shot over eight days on the Key Peninsula, at the head of the Cushman Trail, and at the Hoodsport Coffee Company. Friends and neighbors served as extras in a scene filmed on the Key.

Marsha Kremen, who volunteered as an extra, said, "Everyone was fascinated by the movie-making process and said they would do it again in a heartbeat."

McKeon loved filming on the Key Peninsula. "The environment was incredible. We could film in someone’s backyard, and it looked like Olympic National Park. The ambient sound was our main challenge," he said.

McKeon described the project as a political allegory. "When I turned 60, I became more aware of my own mortality," he said. "I needed to wrap my head around the vast divide in our country. I wanted to examine our environment in a neutral way and tell a story about what might happen if the disenfranchised and alienated take their views to the extreme."

The result is "Colton." After writing the script, McKeon turned to Spark and Seed, an online crowd funding platform, to raise $15,000 for the project.

McKeon grew up in a tiny community near Yosemite. He often visited his grandparents in Tacoma and came to love the area. He went to college at Pacific Lutheran University, returned to California for a master's degree in acting, and joined a repertory company in the Los Angeles area. He left acting to work as a magazine art director, and during this time he and a friend made a movie. This was in the pre-digital age, and editing the 90-minute film noire took four years.

"We showed 'Formula for Mayhem' at a number of film festivals, including ones in Sweden, Brazil and Germany. It was a hit, but we never made a dime," McKeon said.

In 1994, it was time to leave Los Angeles, and when he heard about a house on Horseshoe Lake, he made the move.

McKeon returned to acting in a production at the Tacoma Arts Group. He met Jane Jones, one of the founders of Book-It Theater in Seattle, and they later married. He now acts and directs at Book-It. "The acting community in Seattle is so different from L.A.," he said. "L.A. is so egotistical. Here it's about the work, about making something valuable."

Twelve years ago, while cycling, McKeon and his wife discovered the Key Peninsula. They sold the Horseshoe Lake house and never looked back, though they still spend much of their time in Seattle for work.

Editing and marketing "Colton" come next. McKeon will edit and his brother will compose a musical score. Getting the film seen and distributed is the final challenge. McKeon's strategy is to get it premiered at a major festival, such as those at Telluride, Sundance or Seattle, where the film might get picked up for wider distribution.

But McKeon hopes to show the movie locally first once it is completed. "Sundance and Telluride won’t mind if we show it on the Key Peninsula before a world premiere at their festivals," he said.