You have to start somewhere in the movie business. For Andrea Adams, it was Gateway High School.
Adams credits working on morning announcements, videos for school clubs and the advice of her theater teacher, Seth Rossman, with leading her to a career in film production after starting out wanting to be an actress.
“I remember being very serious about my decision and thinking that I could always go back to acting,” Adams said. “But if I wanted to get an education in film/production, it would be better to have a basis in that.”
More than a decade later, Adams is returning to Colorado after moving to Los Angeles and serving as producer of “My Amityville Horror,” a documentary selected for this year’s Starz Denver Film Festival, which runs through Nov. 11.
Adams’ career has focused on music videos, commercials and short films until now, with small credits in recent Hollywood features “Chronicle” and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” also on her résumé. But “Amityville” marks her first effort with the vaunted “producer” title and all the headaches that go with it.
“Being funded independently meant that in order to keep the production value as high as we wanted, we had to find ways to cut corners and ask for favors across the board,” Adams said. “That being said, our finished product has a much more ‘family affair’ feel to it than perhaps a bigger-budgeted studio feature might.”
In the case of “Amityville” — a look back at the infamous haunting and the troubled family life experienced by oldest son Daniel Lutz — it meant letting director Eric Walter handle what would be happening on screen while minding all the behind-the-scenes issues.
“What I did … is stay in the background as much as possible so that I wouldn’t mar the relationship and intimacy that was in place between (Lutz) and Eric,” Adams said. “I didn’t want to get in the way of their conversations or hurt the authenticity in any manner, so I just made sure everything around them was going as smoothly as possible.”
“Everything” was nothing of an understatement for a film that amassed more than 60 hours of footage once it got to the editing bay.
“You have a balancing act, because you’re not only making sure all of the elements work together to make the film, but you also have to continuously keep in mind the film’s overall goal as well as, perhaps, the goals of those involved in the project,” she said. “They’re not always the same, and sometimes those lines can blur.”
The chance to bring the completed film — without a distributor as of this writing — to the Denver festival is an odd parallel to the reunion Lutz had with the mediums who investigated the notorious Dutch Colonial home in Amityville. Adams’ trip to the festival is the first time she’ll be back in town since the mass shooting July 20 at the Century 16 theater, where she spent a number of years while growing up in Aurora watching movies.
“My first reaction was terror,” Adams said. “I actually woke up that Friday morning to a litany of texts from friends … I literally just began crying in bed.”
Adams immediately got in touch with her sister Jasmine, who had planned on seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” at a midnight screening. None of her immediate friends or family were involved, but the massacre took an emotional toll nonetheless.
“It’s so sad to see your hometown splashed across the news for such a horrible reason,” Adams said. “You never want that … there’s something humanizing about the experience of watching a film together and feeling the emotions and reactions of everyone else in the room at the same time.
“I hope people don’t miss out on that because of one person’s madness and cruelty,” she said.
Nevertheless, the opportunity to come back to Colorado — where she grew up as a fan of blockbuster adventure films such as “Jurassic Park,” the “Indiana Jones” films and the like — is one Adams relishes.
“I don’t make it back to Colorado as often as I’d like,” she said. “My family lives here and I still have a lot of friends here as well.”
For Adams, Aurora is where her dream started to become a reality.
“The one thing I can say is that I’ve worked hard my entire life,” she said. “It’s good to have a dream — I’ve had many and have many more that I hope to accomplish — but without dedication and hard work, it will always be just a dream.”