WKU film professor writes, directs movie

Professor Luke Pennington adjusts the camera during his screen writing class on Wednesday, Nov. 16, in Mass Media and Technology Hall. Pennington recently directed his own film entitled “Hit Men.” It took him 19 days to shoot, six to seven months to edit, and the total production time was a year and a half. “I decided to write and direct this film because I love movies,” he said. “Why wait to do something you love?” Ebony Cox/HERALD

Elisabeth Moore

A drug-addled writer and his ex-boyfriend, with some help from their manager, reluctantly agree to write the next hit song for a teen girl, who they hate. With the money gained from this song, they will get paid and their film may finally get produced.

WKU assistant film professor Luke Pennington tells the story of this duo in his most recent film, “Hit Men,” in which Pennington explores what it would be like to write a hit song for someone else.

“I just thought, what if Taylor Swift doesn’t write her own songs?” Pennington said. “I’m sure she does, you know, but how much of it?”

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Through the film, Pennington took into account how many Los Angeles residents take odd jobs to “keep the dream alive.” Eventually something has to give, Pennington said. What if someone is writing these songs, and they don’t like it?

“Hit Men” was mainly shot in California, scattered around in Pasadena, Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles and eventually in Lexington, Kentucky.

After shooting “Hit Men,” Pennington promptly moved his production company Simpatico Films to Kentucky, where he got his job at WKU as a film professor after he graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

The film was shot in 19 days, starting with Pasadena and ending in Lexington. Including preproduction and moving Simpatico Films to Kentucky, the film took a total of three and a half years to complete.

Pennington was engaged during the making of “Hit Men” and got married during production.

“Actually, she was my girlfriend, became my fiance and then we got married in the course of it,” Pennington said. “So, if you can start a marriage in the hell that is filmmaking, you are probably going to be okay.”

Pennington participated in all aspects of the film, which included being the screen writer, director, film editor and actor. Acting was a last-minute decision, Pennington said.

“We had great actors and we had to pay everybody,” Pennington said. “So, I was like, look, I’m going to be there. It was a very small movie. More than half the movie we shot in Los Angeles. So, it was a struggle to get it made financially.”

Pennington said a majority of the movie costs were paid through friends and family who had more stable jobs than filmmaking. Pennington’s wife also had a lot to do with funding and making “Hit Men,” eventually becoming the executive producer of the film as well as the colorist, composer and story editor.

“We ask people to be productive in either their creative field or in their research field,” Loup Langton, director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, said. “I didn’t know he [Pennington] had the acting ability. I was quite impressed with that as well as the production and directing skills.”

Pennington is currently working with Taken Films LLC as a contract screenwriter for “The Reign,” a feature film selected as the IndieWire project of the month in April currently in the running for project of the year. “The Reign” is currently in preproduction, but will start filming after WKU finals. With the assistance of English and film professor Ted Hovet and several WKU film students, “The Reign” will be filmed in and around Cherry Hall.

“What more can you ask for?” Langton said. “People are thinking big and then are trying to carry out everything to make those big goal come to life.”

Reporter Elisabeth Moore can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emoore938.