LYONS, Neb. (KCAU) – When you think of independent filmmaking, Lyons, Nebraska, might not be the first place that comes to mind. But there’s a man there with a studio on Main Street and an elaborate movie set in his basement, that might convince you otherwise.
Bill Hedges’ story begins with a gift.
“This is my camera I got for high school graduation that started it all, my Super 8 Kodak. I’d make little shorts, do stop frame animations,” said Hedges, the owner of Cosmic Film Studios.
Today, Hedges is a retired postal worker but still making films. It’s not just a passion project. He turned his vision into a reality.
“I started this series because I’d built a partial interior from ‘Lost in Space’ in my basement, and I thought it’d be kind of fun to film that, but it was also a little bit limiting. So, I was looking around for another building, where I could build some exterior sets like the exterior of this spaceship.”
And that led him to the former Lyons theatre, soon to be a part of his future and already a part of his past.
“It was one I used to work at as a projectionist. As soon as I came down here, I ended up buying it the same day,” Hedges said. “This is where I had a job in high school as a projectionist. So, it was fun to restore this to the way it used to be. This is where I’d watch a lot of the movies, through this window right here.”
Bill was able to get the original projectors back, and they still worked. Relics from the days when this building was a theatre, that might’ve ended up on the cutting room floor,
“I bought a few rows of seats, some wall covering. Even the marquee I pulled down because I figured they’d just take it to the dump. I think I’ve always liked museums. This is my way of curating things around Lyons, and things I really enjoy.”
Today, that sign sits in his garage. He hopes to hang it on the building outside his studio some day soon. And while he might have the space now to do what he loves, he still wears a lot of hats.
Everything from writing the scripts, to building the set, making the props and even the costumes, Bill does it all.
“The set construction is fairly easy for me. I had to learn to build other things related to filmmaking but there are a lot of things on YouTube you can learn related to that”
These days, you’ll find bill and his cats, Judy and Penny, working hard on set.
“My series Cosmic Cat came about because I do like cats and sci-fi so I thought, combine the two into a series. My cat Penny and I are the main characters in it mainly because it’s a long-term series, and we’re the only ones that could commit to that long a series,” he said.
But Hedges occasionally brings in guest characters, usually played by local actors.
The set in his basement is so realistic, it’s easy to forget you’re inside a home built in 1906. And the screening room he built is so complete, even the slope of the floor matches that of the original Lyons Theatre.
So while many people kick back and relax in their retirement, for Bill, it’s all a labor of love, that really isn’t a labor at all.
“It’s not really work to me, I actually really enjoy it. It’s like a playground to me so where some people would like to have a nice boat and go fishing or golf, this is what I’m passionate about and what I really enjoy. I look forward to coming down here and making films.”
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