By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Inside a dusty warehouse on an industrial road in Carrollton, 12-year-old Jack Lance of Buckhead made his acting debut.

Despite a film crew twice his age, bright lights and constant direction, the seventh-grader at Sutton Middle School was anything but nervous during the Jan. 30 filming of “Beast of Burden.” Dressed in pajamas, Jack bounced around the set, thrilled to be fulfilling his silver-screen dreams.

“I have pretty much always wanted to be an actor since third grade,” said Jack, son of Amy Lance, founder and president of the Chastain Horse Park in Buckhead.

The aspiring thespian has pursued acting classes to hone his talent. Now Smyrna resident Sam Carter is helping him better prepare for the role of actor.

Under his multimedia service company, StoneCarter Media (stonecartermedia.com), the 27-year-old is producing and directing “Beast of Burden.” The 15-minute film co-stars Jack as Jake, a boy who fires the monster living in his closet. The creature, Wally, played by Reynoldstown resident Jeremiah Prescott, can no longer terrorize the boy.

“Wally needs to grow up,” Jack said. Jake is 12 and “too old for Wally. He’s not scared of him anymore. He doesn’t like Wally’s tricks … so Jake tries to get him to find somebody else.”

As his frustration mounts, Wally turns to his ghoulish buddies, including an evil clown, to improve his scare tactics.

The production sprang from a film experiment called the Growing Up project, one of the quarterly challenges posed by the Atlanta-based Dailies film group.

“It was an opportunity for filmmakers to go out into the community and seek both a mentor and a protégé to assist in the making of a short film,” Carter said.

Carter chose Jack as his protégé after learning his desire to perform from a friend of the boy’s mother.

“We hit it off very well,” Carter said. “He’s a cool little guy, so we decided to work together on the project.

“He does a really good job, especially considering this is his first film.”

Carter let Jack help develop the plot for the monster flick.

“I liked coming up with some of the ideas for the film,” Jack said. “It made me feel important.”

As for his mentor on the set, Carter chose theater veteran Alan Kuykendall as art director. Kuykendall is a staple of the cultural arts center in Carrollton, having built sets and created backdrops for many shows.

“I was very fortunate to have met Alan when I was about 9 years old,” said Carter, who holds a degree in film production from Savannah College of Art and Design. “As far as the arts goes, I had a really great mentor that helped me out.

“So when that challenge came around, I thought I would get an opportunity to work with Alan, which I haven’t done in years. But also I really liked the idea of taking on the mentor role myself. I got the gift of a mentor, so I wanted to pass it along to the next one.”

Virginia-Highland resident Trevor Garner also was invited as a mentor because “Beast of Burden” is a creature feature. Garner is a former intern to Toby Sells, one of the “top creature-effect makeup artists in the Southeast,” Carter said.

The movie was shot in two days at two locations in Carrollton, the warehouse and a 100-year-old train station.

The experience was more than Jack could have imagined.

“It was a lot more challenging,” he said. “It’s hard work to act. I thought it would be easier when I would watch all those TV shows. But now I have to memorize lines. I have to do all my actions perfectly. It’s challenging, but I still really like it.”

After editing is complete this month, Carter will submit “Beast of Burden” to film festivals in cities such as Atlanta, Savannah and Rome, as well as nationwide.

“Sam has always been a filmmaker at heart,” business co-founder Eddie Stone said.

As for Jack, he is determined to improve his acting one role at a time.

“This is my first step out of a million,” he said. “I want to go far with acting.”