SMITHVILLE — Graduates of Smithville High School and lifelong friends Trevan Hiatt and Chris Stempel, with help from others, created a short film in hopes of producing their screenplay, “Kerosene and Matches.”

“I always loved James Bond and Johnny Cash growing up and action films and the idea of being a spy,” Hiatt said. “This is kind of a cowboy version of James Bond, ... he’s not a suave, little rougher, but still that spy, that highly trained government agent.”

Attending Folsom University online, Hiatt wants to be a feature film director. He said the idea is to have a short that shows what he and his team can do.

“People who watch the short film will see it’s basically an introduction to the story and it leaves people wanting to see more,” Stempel added.

Hiatt said he wanted to be an actor growing up. Having been the lead in plays in high school, he also plays the lead in the short film. Hiatt calls Stempel his mentor as he helped guide him in the beginning. Hiatt now does commercial work through his company Hiatt Films, which made the local “Connecting Smithville” videos.

Chris Stempel also has a company, Stempel Bros. in addition to working for Strange Music, Kansas City rap star Tech Nine’s company.Both men hope entering in festivals will catch the eye of sponsors. It’s a dream, Stempel said, to be working on one’s own vision rather than someone else’s as cinematographers often do.

Planning to enter the short in about 100 film festivals including those in Kansas City, the pair said what makes this film different from others is that it is designed like a teaser.

“Some people will make a short film that has nothing to do with the screenplay they’ve written,” Hiatt said. “We did it this way so people can see our idea and know the direction it is going to go.”

Filmed entirely in the West Bottoms, Stempel said they want to bring film production back to Kansas City.

“I really wanted to bring the community together and show that short films ... and eventually feature films can be made in Kansas City,” Stempel said, “not just on the coast like LA or Atlanta.”

Having been a traveling director of photography for years, Stempel said it was rewarding for him to make something in the city he loves.

“We filmed at this cool bar called Lucky Boys, then down in an alley on the north side,” Hiatt added. “We chose it because of that grungy kind of run-down look, that alley was perfect.”

Hiatt spent a week writing the short film and filming was done in a day. All the talent used is local. If funding comes through for the screenplay, Hiatt said they want to film a lot of it in Smithville with plans to use the Kum & Go gas station and historic Main Street as locations.

Hiatt said he hopes people will see the film and find characters they can relate to. He said movies are a way to escape reality while also being inspired and comforted during hard times.

“Most fun for me was just collaborating with Trevan,” Stempel said. “We’ve been lifelong friends and kind of in the past been making things separately. It’s kind of fun, later in life, doing something together.”

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at or 389-6606.

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