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updated: 9/3/2013 5:30 AM

Arlington Heights native: Movie producing 'beats working for a living'

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  • Arlington Heights native and John Hersey High School grad Colin Ebeling is now a movie producer and screenwriter. His first feature, "Bounty Killer," opens next weekend.

    Arlington Heights native and John Hersey High School grad Colin Ebeling is now a movie producer and screenwriter. His first feature, "Bounty Killer," opens next weekend.

  • Gary Busey plays a hitman in Colin Ebeling's first feature production, "Bounty Killer."

    Gary Busey plays a hitman in Colin Ebeling's first feature production, "Bounty Killer."

  • Video: "Bounty Killer" trailer


Colin Ebeling swears that he and his buddy Henry Saine disdain violence.

"We're the least violent people you could ever meet," the Arlington Heights native said. "We're terrified of guns. Yet, we went out and made this big shoot'em-up movie."

Shoot'em-up movie?

"Bounty Killer" is also a blow'em-up movie and a cut'em-down movie, the sort of salacious, low-budget movie that Roger Corman would have been proud to put his name on.

Saine directed it. Ebeling produced it and cowrote the screenplay. He calls it "the bloodiest feel-good movie of the year!"

"Bounty Killer" opens at the Streets of Woodfield theaters on Friday, Sept. 6. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future when Wall Street greed has destroyed the country, creating a backlash against white-collar criminals, now chased by bounty hunters who harbor no intention of bringing them back alive.

"It's cartoony violence," Ebeling said. "A fun way for us to express our disdain for corporate greed by doing it in a grindhouse style with the three Bs of B movies: boobs, bullets and blood."

This marks Ebeling's first feature film production after many years of making film shorts and music videos, and working on TV shows in various capacities.

"Every day is a new adventure," Ebeling said. "I love that my days are varied and my schedule is never the same. First, you get to shoot a movie with one group of people.

"Then in postproduction you work with another group of people to make it better and better. Then you release it into the world with a sense of gratification. Then start over and do it again. It's intoxicating!"

Ebeling's interest in showbiz began at John Hersey High School where two drama teachers -- Ed Moon and Kyle Marquette -- inspired and directed him into theater arts.

After graduating Hersey in 1995, Ebeling headed to UCLA where he majored in theater. Then came a succession of entry-level jobs in television, mostly getting coffee for L.A. executives.

A stint on the staff of "Will & Grace" changed his life. There he met a graphic artist named Henry Saine. They became best buds and, for the last 10 years, have been business partners in creating film shorts and music videos.

Then there's this weird relationship twist. Ebeling's best pal is now married to his childhood best pal.

"My best friend when I went to Thomas Junior High School in sixth grade was Torrie Sullivan," he said. "We were friends at Hersey, then we lost touch for 13 years. We reconnected on Facebook."

It turned out that Sullivan lived in Southern California, so she came up to see Ebeling and meet his friends.

"She talked to Henry for five minutes, and the next day she told me, 'I'm going to marry Henry Saine.' And she did," Ebeling said. "Isn't that wild?"

Just about as wild as the movie sets in "Bounty Killer," strange creations that proved to be a producer's dream.

Instead of spending millions of dollars for epic sets and digitally created post-apocalyptic scenery, Ebeling took a tip from real estate experts: location, location, location.

In one impressive airplane graveyard scene, huge chunks of wrecked fuselages decorate the landscape.

How did he do it on a budget the size of Michael Bay's breakfast tab?

"Henry and I were driving around Southern California and found these really cool places," Ebeling said. "We found this Aviation Warehouse in El Mirage. What is this crazy place? We've never seen this in a movie before! All these airplane carcasses.

"It made sense to use this, because of all the planes shot down in the corporate wars in the movie. The survivors made their homes and businesses inside these wrecked airplanes. This is what happens when you let the locations inform your movie."

Spoken like a true producer.

Ebeling said the biggest challenge is finding a single location that multi-functions as different settings.

"We found a warehouse that we turned into the Thirsty Beaver brothel, and we could use the interior as different bedrooms, a bar, body shop, all in one place. It's a huge money saver. It was better than we could ever imagine."

On a personal level, Ebeling is celebrating his new legal status as a newlywed.

"I was just able to legally marry my husband two months ago," he said. Ebeling has been with actor Will Collyer for more than 14 years. The two met at UCLA where Ebeling directed a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Collyer was in the cast.

Ebeling does occasionally return to Arlington Heights to visit his parents, Tom and Betsy Ebeling. (If Betsy's name rings a bell, she's known for being friends with her high school classmate, former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

Any chance this young producer might tap a family friend to enter the arena of American politics?

"No," Ebeling said. "My world is Hollywood."

-- Dann Gire

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are looking for suburbanites now working in showbiz. Know someone who would make a good feature? Email us at and

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