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Dig into an obsession

Brothers Ian and Tyson Smith bring comic book chops to their saucy feature film

'Hollywood on the Willamette' may be something of an overstatement for our fair city, despite resident auteurs Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes and Portland's high profile in that little movie starring Benicio Del Toro and the MAX train.

There's no denying, though, that Portland is a hotbed of creative cinematic talent. From the experimental offerings of Peripheral Produce, Charm Bracelet and Four Wall Cinema to the Northwest Film Center's training ground for young filmmakers Ñ and, of course, our own Portland International Film Festival Ñ Bridgetown is positively bursting with movie buffs and homegrown talent.

A new showcase for this talent debuts April 4 to 6 when the Longbaugh Film Festival brings an extensive program of independently produced shorts and features to the Hollywood Theatre. About 40 films of varying lengths will be presented during the three days of the fest, with multiple screenings of each film.

Chance sighting inspires

One of the highlights of the festival will be the presentation of 'The Sexy Chef,' a road-trip comedy by longtime Portlanders Tyson and Ian Smith. The film was made for the rock-bottom price of $10,000, which included the purchase of all of the equipment, from the digital video camera to the editing and sound gear. It also included, Ian says, coffee and sandwiches for the cast and crew.

'We'd like to thank Costco for acting as our craft services during the shoot,' he says with a laugh.

A tale of friendship, obsession and longing, the film follows the quest of bored single guy F.M. (played by R.E. Creighton) to meet a gorgeous culinary student he spies smoking outside a local cooking school. In the course of his journey, F.M. and his slacker buddies run into crazed Vietnam vets, witches and transvestites in such disparate locales as a seedy hotel, a casino and even Stonehenge (the Washington state version).

'The script is mostly real life,' Ian says of his heavily anecdotal story. The conversations and incidents were, he claims, inspired by events in his own life, with the inspiration for F.M.'s obsession being a beautiful chef whom Ian spotted outside Western Culinary Institute one day.

'I was driving by, and I saw her and I just thought, 'What if?' ' he says.

Brothers Ian, 31, and Tyson, 27, moved to Portland when they were children, and they've made their home here ever since. Ian left town for four years to attend the University of Oregon in Eugene while Tyson went to Portland State University Ñ 'so he didn't have to deal with the hippies,' according to Ian.

A writer-artist duo

While 'The Sexy Chef' is the Smiths' first feature film project, the two have been collaborating in other media for more than a decade. They are best known for their comic book 'Oddjob,' which follows the adventures of Moe, Investigator of the Unknown, as he solves cases too weird for normal law enforcement.

Ian's the writer and Tyson's the artist, so when it came time to make a film the division of labor seemed obvious; Ian wrote the script and Tyson directed the movie.

'It was our film school,' Tyson says.

'It was better than film school, learning as we went,' Ian adds. 'We finished filming and said, 'All right, now what do we do?' We learned so much, from editing to audio production Ñ everything was brand-new.'

Among the lessons they learned was that fate always plays a part in moviemaking Ñ two weeks before starting production they had to replace their leading man. And nerves were frayed when not one but two of their locations Ñ the Stonehenge monument at Maryhill and a downtown hotel room Ñ were damaged by fire on the nights before shooting.

'They were completely unrelated incidents,' Ian says.

'Well, we think so, anyway,' Tyson says. 'Someone could have been, like, a guy from 'Scooby-Doo' trying to foil our movie.'

Ian laughs. ' 'We'll stop those meddling kids!' '