Arts & Entertainment

Ephrata filmmaker working on next movie

Jay Cynik, better known as Jay Gilliam to his hometown friends in Ephrata, wrote his first graphic story in the third grade about a pig that was tossed out of Hogsville for, well, let's just say he got kicked out for a good reason.

"The school suggested to my parents that I see a child psychologist after I wrote that story," Cynik laughed during a recent interview with the Herald. "My parents have always been supportive of what I do. My mom really likes the films I make. My dad doesn't much care for them, but he's always there to help me with any construction I might need for a scene."

Cynik, 30, never stopped writing despite the negative reaction from his teacher. After he graduated from Ephrata High School, that creativity lead him first into radio, then filmmaking, where his imagination could soar.

Now he's returning to his roots to film his new movie Punch in the Moses Lake/Ephrata area.

Punch follows the same action style as such films as Kill Bill and Sin City, Cynik said.

"But with a quiet, small-town setting and the nostalgic Americana of No Country for Old Men," he added.

Punch centers around a punk biker gang that calls itself The Teenage Mod Murder Squad, and their rivals, a rockabilly muscle car gang called The 4-Barrel Felons.

And we're not sugar-coating the graphic violence in Cynik's films, either. For instance, a scene in one of his films depicts the brutal and sadistic rape of a young woman.

Cynik's films might be packed with turbid content. But, he explains, "If I wrote cute, positive stories for movies, nobody would watch them."

Cynik wasn't pulling any punches about the cute thing, either.

"Young people these days are pretty much de-sensitized to life," he said. "And horror is the No. 1 film genre that kids love today."

Though Punch is an homage to the traditional high octane car/action films of the '60s and '70s, exploiting American cultural icons such as muscle cars, bikers and the punk rock music movement, Cynik says there's a moral to the stories he tells despite the jarring violence.

"Punch is a very spiritual story revolving around faith, honor and family, told from the point of view of a group of young adults who have had to find their own way and their own interpretation and importance of each," he said. "It draws a great deal of inspiration from my own youth and the youth of my friends.

"We grew up at an amazing time in Washington state history where the ears of the nation were tuned into the Seattle Sound (grunge bands like Nirvana), and in an area saturated by classic cars and bikers."

Filming on location in his hometown seemed like a good fit for a movie that is, in essence, a battle for control of humanity, Cynik said.

"I wrote this script as a remembrance of my high school days," he said. "There were a lot of muscle cars, dirt bikes, gangs and cliques. Besides, I've always seen a battle between good and evil and control of humanity as happening in a small town, not a big city."

He adds that there is an "aggressive humor" threaded through the film.

"Toilet humor," he said. "Definitely a guy thing."

Cynik figures the film, which is independently funded by private investors, should wrap up early next year. Then he'll enter it into various national and international film festivals, and also hopes to have screenings of Punch in theaters soon after, including the Tri-Cities.

The cast of Punch is relatively unknown, with several of the characters acting in various minor roles from the Moses Lake/Ephrata area -- like Eric Suitter from Ephrata who plays a bartender at the Saucy Dog club. Eddie Tubbs of Ritzville plays one of the gang members of the 4-Barrel Felons. Tubbs, who's been a stunt man in a few Hollywood films like Into the Wild and Mars Attacks, also does a bit of stunt driving in Punch.

Sean Willmorth, a Moses Lake business owner, plays a tattoo artist in the film. And Raymond Peterson from Warden plays a member of the Teenage Mod Murder Squad gang.

Cynik still is looking for 75 extras for a rock show scene to be shot at Moses Lake's Grant County Fairgrounds this summer. Anyone interested in being an extra should e-mail their name, address and phone number to punchbrandfilms@gmail.com.

Cynik's love of writing certainly guided him toward his current career path, he said. But there's more to this self-professed "cynic" than a guy who likes to tell morbid tales on the big screen.

"For the majority of my life, I have been a writer and storyteller," he said. "I was chosen to participate in the Washington state Young Writers Conference several years in a row. But besides writing, I've always been very involved in theater and music. I love the arts."

He earned the name "Cynik" while being a radio jock right out of high school. He produced and wrote commercials as well as voice-overs that were laced with his sarcastic humor, hence he was dubbed "Cynik" on radio.

Besides Punch, Cynik is putting the finishing touches on another of his movies, God's Bustin' Cherries, which is in post production and scheduled to enter the Slamdance Anarchy Film Festival this summer in Utah.

The film business is pretty much an "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine" industry, Cynik said.

"Everyone is willing to help as long as you're willing to do the same in return. I love it."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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