Lenexa native filmmaker Megan Woeppel is leaving Hollywood to create her first full-length feature film debut here in Kansas City.
Woeppel, a 2004 graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School, has been working in film and television for the past 12 years in Los Angeles. Now, she’s returning to her Midwestern roots to work on “Nightmare Mansion,” a comedic “whodunnit in the vein of Clue” with bits of “12 Angry Men” and “Drunk History” style humor thrown into the mix.
The film script will be Woeppel’s first to be produced; she co-wrote it with Tim Cruz and Stephanie Wagner Cruz, and she plans to direct the film herself. Combining her background in cinematography, screenwriting, producing and directing with her local roots, Woeppel plans to bring her film script to production by featuring all-local cast, crew and locations.
“As I was looking at my feature film debut as a director, I really wanted to come back home and make a movie,” Woeppel said. “My writing partners and I developed this script specifically for Kansas City. So all of the locations and how we want to cast it, we want it to be a really homegrown film and really support the local film community there.”
The film setting takes place in a haunted house attraction similar to the ones in the West Bottoms. When a real dead body is discovered in the haunted house, the cast sets about trying to figure out who the killer might be.
“As they accuse each other, they go into these ‘Drunk History’ style flashbacks, talking about why each person has the means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime,” Woeppel said. “It’s really funny.”
“Nightmare Mansion” has eight to 10 lead characters and more than 20 supporting characters. Woeppel said she hopes to cast some of the key roles with known talent who have Kansas City roots, which would help them get distribution and funding for the film.
The filmmaker said she’s excited to become a part of Kansas City’s growing art and film scenes.
“My goal with this project is to show how talented local KC cast and crew are, and to show how easy and inexpensive it is to film here,” she said. “Ideally, I can use this film to bring more productions to the KC area in the future.”
Woeppel will come to Kansas City for a few weeks this month to meet with local cast and crew as well as potential investors. She has planned a staged reading for the feature with an all-local cast Dec. 30 at Westport Coffee House Theatre. The staged reading — which will be the first public sharing of the script — is an opportunity to build local support and excitement, which will help get the project off the ground, she added.
Westport Coffee House Theatre has limited seating, so Woeppel asks that interested parties should request to attend by emailing her at email@example.com.
Woeppel and her film crew plan to start shooting sometime in 2019 and wrap up production by late 2020.