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Filming for local movie complete Snow, thieves couldn't stop 'Buffalo Bushido'

It's a wrap for "Buffalo Bushido," the locally made film that overcame a double wallop when the freak October snowstorm delayed scenes featuring "Law and Order" actor Jesse L. Martin and when Martin's belongings were then stolen from a sport utility vehicle outside an Allen Street restaurant.

Final sequences of the story about a native son who returns home only to confront past ghosts have been sent to New York City, where the movie will be edited and scored.

Peter McGennis, a businessman and onetime college film major who wrote, directed, produced and stars in "Buffalo Bushido," then will submit the finished product to Utah's Sundance Film Festival.

McGennis hopes the January movie carnival, which Robert Redford founded in 1981, will catapult his ultra-low-budget creation onto the nation's theater screens. The filmmaker also is aiming for acceptance into the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and New York City's Tribeca Film Festival.

"It's important that the film find its feet elsewhere and then come back here," said McGennis, who envisions a Buffalo premiere at the North Park Theater or another art house in late 2008.

With a cast including Hollywood veterans Bruce Glover, John Savage, Leila Arcieri and Martin, the project was shot in Buffalo on weekends starting in early 2006. McGennis expects 25 hours of Kodak Super 16 film to be cut into a story that will run roughly 95 minutes.

McGennis, 36, who also wrote, directed and produced the 2003 independent crime thriller "In," said he expects his second self-financed movie to cost about $300,000.

Many locations will be recognizable to Buffalo audiences, so don't expect another "Bruce Almighty" or its sequel, "Evan Almighty" -- big-budget films that merely included background scenes shot here. And don't plan on seeing another "Manna From Heaven," the Burton sisters' cinematic tour of local landmarks.

"Buffalo is a character in 'Bushido,' not just a backdrop," McGennis said. "Nor is the film just set in Buffalo; it's about being in Buffalo. You'll have to look real close to uncover the city."

McGennis plays a man who returns to his birthplace after a 20-year absence to rebuild his life against heavy odds. To cope with turmoil, he adopts the samurai practice of Bushido, a chivalric code that values honor above life.

McGennis said landing Martin, who grew up in Buffalo and had been looking to make a film here, may be the key to his film's success.

Martin's star power "gives me the ammunition to get into the prolific film festivals and finally get some recognition," he said.

"I got wind of the Buffalo connection long before I had any idea what the story was about," said Martin, who plays Detective Ed Green on the "Law and Order" TV series.

"The whole notion of filming in Buffalo was one of the coolest ideas I'd heard in a long time," he said. "Somehow [McGennis] got hold of my manager and got the script to him. He's a pretty resourceful guy."

Martin, who plays a friend of McGennis' character, shot his scenes two weeks after the planned shoot was postponed by the snowstorm. Afterward, as he and McGennis ate breakfast in the Towne Restaurant, thieves broke into McGennis' SUV and stole Martin's suitcase as well as production equipment. None of it was recovered.

Martin, who persuaded McGennis to revise the script to flesh out Martin's character -- a concession he said "almost never happens" in movies or TV -- shrugged off the misfortune.

"I really had a good time," he said. "I was certainly happy to be able to do it; it was a treat to play someone besides a cop. Besides, I got to go to Jim's Steakout for one of those big hoagies I had been dreaming about for three weeks."

He said "Buffalo Bushido" will be the steppingstone to an even more ambitious project, "St. Dominick's Preview," which will be set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but will again be shot primarily in Buffalo to take advantage of New York State tax credits.

"The challenge will be to make Buffalo look like Belfast," he said.

McGennis said his hometown has what it takes, from spectacular scenery to helpful public officials, to become the setting of choice for even more films.

"I have a vision for our community that is embedded in my passion for filmmaking," he said. He also said moviemaking technology has enabled him to move forward as a recognized independent filmmaker while still living here.

"There's nothing wrong with putting Buffalo at the top of the food chain. There's certainly enough vitality here," he said.


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