Puyallup Herald

Want to make a movie in Puyallup? This family has been there, done that

Filmmaking family brings Hollywood to Puyallup

Cliff and Tabatha Bennett teamed up with their son and daughter - along with local businesses - to produce a feature film in their transplanted hometown.
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Cliff and Tabatha Bennett teamed up with their son and daughter - along with local businesses - to produce a feature film in their transplanted hometown.

What’s it like to film a movie in Puyallup?

Last month, Puyallup residents Cliff and Tabatha Bennett found out.

The U.S. Air Force veterans are the owners of Cineglyph, LLC, a full-service film production company specializing in movies set in the Pacific Northwest.

In April, they spent two weeks shooting the movie “Paper Dragons” around various locations in Puyallup.

“The more my husband and I talked about it, we’re like, it needs to be (in Puyallup),” Tabatha said. “We have a lot of local places that are just happy to be involved."

A filmmaking family

Cliff and Tabatha first met in Wyoming through a friend. Both in the U.S. Air Force, Tabatha worked with missiles while Cliff was trained as a photojournalist.

“We knew each other 10 days, got married, later on decided to have kids and 26 years later we’re here, making films,” Tabatha said.

In 2005, Tabatha and Cliff moved to Puyallup and began working in advertising and filming commercials. Their kids, 24-year-old Taylor and 22-year-old Hunter, grew up with similar passions.

“When the kids were 8, 9, they had a camera in hand,” Tabatha said.

From left, assistant producer Taylor Bennett, writer and director Jason Hawkins and executive produce Tabatha Bennett prepare to film a scene from "Paper Dragons" at the Washington State Spring Fair, April 20, 2018. Allison Needles allison.needles@puyallupherald.com

In 2013, Tabatha retired from the Air Force. Cliff followed in 2014, and together, they focused on filming.

The Bennetts went through the communications program at the University of Washington. Taylor has her masters in producing, while Hunter works for Tiny Hero, a film company in Burbank, California, that makes trailers for movies like "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "Thor Ragnarok."

On set, it’s not mom and dad, Tabatha said. They treat their kids professionally and call each other by their first names.

“Both kids bring a lot to the set,” Tabatha said. “They want a good product but they also see an opportunity to learn… I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t trust anybody else. I know if I’m saying something to (Cliff), or our daughter Taylor or our son Hunter, I know it will be done.”

“I think being a family of film brings you closer together,” Cliff added. “It gives you a common goal, it gives you a common mission and you’re able to communicate.”

This year, the Bennetts officially launched Cineglyph, LLC. They picked up the movie “Paper Dragons,” written and directed by a friend of Tabatha’s, Jason Hawkins. It’s the first feature film project for their company.

About “Paper Dragons”

Tabatha first met Hawkins online, then at a series of horror movie conventions — horror movies being primarily what Hawkins is known for. Hawkins has also worked with streaming services like Netflix.

“(Tabatha) wanted to get into film and it was just a right-time right-place kind of thing,” Hawkins said.

“Paper Dragons” follows Greyson Bell, a man forced to navigate a world of violence in the face of losing his job and getting divorced, while finding time to spend with his son.

“The film really deals with toxic masculinity and what identifies us as men or women in society,” Hawkins said. “We wrote the line, ‘Husband, father, provider — when a man has lost everything, what identifies him?’”

Greyson Bell is played by Los Angeles actor Sam Brittan. Also starring in the film is Seattle actress Kristie Carter, 7-year-old actor Cisco Hoberock and actress Eileen Dietz.

From left, writer and director Jason Hawkins, actor Cisco Hoberock and actor and producer Sam Brittan prepare to shoot a scene from "Paper Dragons" at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, April 20, 2018. Allison Needles allison.needles@puyallupherald.com

“I think a central defining characteristic of Grey is that he’s just stuck — he’s stuck at this job, he’s stuck in this cycle of being poor, he’s stuck in this cycle of depression,” Brittan said. “It’s such a personal, real story. I think there's something in it that everyone can identify with.”

With the mood of the film, finding the right location was key, added Brittan, who’s also a producer for the film.

“We had to find somewhere that felt like it had the right tone for the film visually,” he said. “The Pacific Northwest fits that perfectly. With the clouds and the light and the rain and the landscape, it’s perfect for our film.”

And being residents of Puyallup, the Bennetts knew their city had everything they’d need.

Filming in Puyallup

Karen FIsher, owner of The Savory and Sweet Cafe and Catering Company in Puyallup, first became involved with the filming of “Paper Dragons” after a phone call from Tabatha.

“I was excited,” Fisher said. “It’s a big deal to have somebody film a movie in little old downtown Puyallup. I’ve never been involved in the making or filming of a movie before.”

The film crew shot a cafe and dinner scene at Fisher’s business. While Fisher didn’t want to be on camera, her friends showed up to be extras.

“This is my breakout moment, though — I think a lot of people are going to be asking (to film here) from now on,” she joked.

Victoria Carrillo, sound and audio (left), and director of photography Chris Jordan ( center), shoot a scene from "Paper Dragons" at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup involving actors Sam Brittan and Cisco Hoberock on April 20, 2018. Allison Needles allison.needles@puyallupherald.com

Jeff Aranas, owner of South Hill Mini Mart, felt a little differently about the movie. When the crew asked if they could shoot at his business for a gas station scene, he asked for a line — and got one.

“In my 21 years, this is the first time I’ve been approached (to be part of a movie),” he said. “I like it. It’s right in our home backyard — to see some local landmarks where people can watch and say, ‘Hey, I know that place.’”

Washington State Fair staff also allowed the crew to film during the Spring Fair for a petting zoo scene.

“We’re flattered that they chose our fairground as the backdrop of their film,” public relations manager Stacy Howard said.

The Cineglyph crew wrapped filming on April 24 and are moving into post production. The film is expected to be out by 2019, but whether that's through film festivals or straight to distribution is undecided, Hawkins said. Either way, it’ll take some time before the film is released to the public.

For now, Tabatha and Cliff look to begin work on their next movie, and expect to film in Puyallup again in the future.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison