Morgan City native completes first movie partly filmed in St. Mary Parish

MORGAN CITY, La. -- After five years of filming and editing when he had the time, Morgan City native Lee Romaire finished making his first movie, an experience he likens to going to film school.

Romaire, 47, grew up in Morgan City and attended Central Catholic High School.

Romaire, who owns a creature and visual effects studio in Los Angeles he started in 2004, decided to begin making his own movie in 2007 after having spent several years creating creatures and characters for movies while watching others produce them.

The 29-minute movie is titled “Let’s Eat Lolly” and is centered around Lipton Lolly, an eccentric toy and candy inventor who had a lot of success early in his life. Lolly’s success and fame went to his head hanging out with the wrong crowd and going to Hollywood parties, Romaire said.

He started imagining the movie during the summer of 2007, and shot the first scenes of the movie in Morgan City in Dec. 2007.

Fifteen kids from Morgan City appeared in one of the scenes. The dining room and living room scenes were shot at Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton, he said. Everything else was shot in and around Los Angeles, he said.

Romaire finished making the movie and hosted a private screening for family and friends in May. He is entering the movie into film festivals around the world, and has been accepted into a couple festivals including the 2013 Timecode: NOLA Indie Fest in New Orleans in September, Romaire said.

“It’s a short film so it’s not really meant to be distributed,” Romaire said. “It’s not going to be in a theater.” He made the film to learn how to make one and to have something to showcase when he makes his next movie, Romaire said.

One of his friends, Phil J. Jackson played the role of Lolly.

“He has a real crazy personality so I based a lot of the character on him,” Romaire said. He also used an old car that he owns in the film, he said. “Also, I knew we could make monsters or creatures,” he said. Romaire wove the story around those three things, he said.

During the movie, it is learned that Lolly’s parents were archaeologists and died in a cave-in out in the desert, which Lolly witnessed and explains a lot of his bad behavior, Romaire said. Lolly picks up his childhood toys, takes a gun, and goes into the desert. He goes to bed, and it is implied that he is going to kill himself the next day up on a cliff, Romaire said. Then suddenly Lolly gets pulled into a cave full of aliens that want to eat him, Romaire said. “That’s where the title comes from,” Romaire said.

He manages to escape, but because his toys are still in the cave and extremely special to him he goes back to them, Romaire said. His mother made the toys for him. Lolly faces off against the lead alien and kills the alien with his slingshot and explodes the other aliens.

“In the end, it causes him to realize what a mess he’s made out of his life,” Romaire said. He throws his gun away and sees the alien spaceship that crash landed, and that gives him the idea to use alien technology to make toys, Romaire said. “It’s kind of a story of redemption,” Romaire said.

A friend of his, Dave Barkley, who puppeteered Yoda and Jabba the Hut, puppeteered the puppets Romaire used in his movie, he said.

Romaire originally planned for the movie to be just a 5-minute short, he said. The film has elements of comedy, science fiction, and a tiny bit of horror, Romaire said.

Romaire first became interested in movies and creating visual effects when he went to Disney World as a kid and was fascinated by the animatronic shows and characters, he said.

While he was growing up in Morgan City, he would to the movie theater on Sunday mornings, and the theater would show a normally black and white horror movie. “I loved that kind of thing,” he said.

Romaire did taxidermy when he was a kid and started when he was 6 years old.

“Somebody who worked for my dad did taxidermy as a hobby, and he showed me how to mount a crawfish,” Romaire said. The man gave him some taxidermy books and Romaire taught himself how taxidermy from there, he said.

“That was really kind of the only access that I had to that kind of art where you’re creating something realistic,” he said. Romaire was always fascinated with things “that looked real but were artificial,” he said.

He continued doing taxidermy through high school and did a little bit of makeup effects. “It never occurred to me coming from a small town that I could actually come here and work,” Romaire said. “I never imagined it was ... a job you could have,” Romaire said.

Romaire attended LSU where he graduated with a degree in advertising. He had jobs in that field for about 10 years and “got tired of it,” he said. “It kind of all came flooding back to me that I wanted to work in Hollywood and make monsters,” he said.

He learned from Dick Smith, who did makeup effects for “The Godfather” and “The Exorcist,” Romaire said. One of Romaire’s big accomplishments was when he helped recreate Abraham Lincoln for Disney, which was the first animatronic Disney ever did, he said.

Romaire learned a “tremendous amount” by making his first film, and learned that filmmaking is an expensive hobby, he said. He filmed on the weekends for a year, and the next year they edited a couple months out of the year. The third year where they did not do anything because the business was “so slow,” he said. “During the fourth year, I realized that I really had to kick back into gear,” Romaire said.

During the filming process, he was also doing visual effects work for a major movie, Romaire said. He does visual effects work all over the world, including Europe and China, he said.

Romaire is already working on developing another movie of his own, which will be a feature-length “pure” horror movie and will revolve around a landmark in Morgan City and Avoca Island based on things from he grew around during his childhood, he said.

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