From Fort Wayne to Hollywood: Meet 4 talented residents (or ex-residents) in the film industry

Amidst the buzz of Hollywood’s annual award season, Los Angeles isn’t the only city producing big-screen talent.

A few residents and former residents of the Fort Wayne area are busy making a name for themselves in the film industry.

Here are four people to watch.

Collin Schiffli 

After growing up in Fort Wayne and graduating from Carroll High School, Collin went to film school at Columbia College Chicago. When he graduated in 2009, he followed in his older brother Brandon Schiffli’s footsteps, moving out to Los Angeles to work in film. Collin Schiffli

While Brandon pursued screenwriting, Collin started working on independent film sets, soaking in all the logistics of making movies as a director—from the paperwork, to the legal contracts, and coordinating all the moving pieces of a production.

Before long, his friend, actor David Dastmalchian (of the Marvel Cinematic Universe), convinced him to raise some money and make his own film.

What resulted was “Animals,” a harrowing tale loosely based on Dastmalchian’s life as he overcame heroin addiction. For shedding light on such a difficult topic, “Animals” won the Grand Jury Prize for Courage in Storytelling at South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in 2014, along with several other festival awards.

Collin says the success of “Animals” (available on Hulu and Showtime) is ultimately what launched his filmmaking career. 

“Instead of scrounging up money and getting friends to help us make a movie, now we have people coming to us, asking: ‘What will it take to get your next movie going?’” he says.

Today, he and his brother Brandon are working together with “Coen brother teamwork” as Schiffli Films. Collin’s second film “All Creatures Here Below” premiered last year to multiple awards at the DTLA Film Festival and is currently on the festival circuit. It tells the story of a young couple on the run, starring Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Collin Schiffli, who grew up in Fort Wayne, directs Marvel Cinematic Universe star Karen Gillan on set.

Now Collin is onto his third film, shooting in Romania. If all things go well, it will have a wide theatrical release when it is complete. He classifies it as a romantic action movie with a Romeo and Juliet vibe.

“My first two movies are very heavy,” Collin says. “I’m excited to say this third one is a much more crowd-pleasing, exciting one.”

Follow @SchiffliFilms on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with his work.

“We try to post what we’re doing, the cool spots we’re shooting at, where we’re at with the release of our movies, and where you can watch them,” Collin says.

Kyrstal Booth

Although Krystal was born in Michigan, her family lived in Angola, Indiana, where she grew up in a small town with wonderful friendships. Krystal Booth

She was always interested in art, and she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Bachelor of Arts in Art Education at IPFW in Fort Wayne. While doing so, she worked several odd jobs in the field—from tattooing to matching paint in the Menards paint department.

When she graduated, she began teaching art classes at Leo and New Haven Elementary Schools, where she enjoyed working with children to encourage their creative visions.

“It was so exciting to see what students were thinking and making,” Booth says.

In one of her classes, she screened a stop-motion animation film called “Coraline,” the first major film by a production company called LAIKA.

Jokingly, Booth asked her class how amazing it would be to work for LAIKA, and they told her she should do it. Little did she know, they predicted her future.

When she was laid off from teaching in 2010, she and her partner fulfilled their long-time dream of moving to the Pacific Northwest. They chose Portland, OR, for its temperate climate, ocean access, and creative culture. When they arrived, Booth realized LAIKA was also located in the Portland area.

After about eight years of applying to work there, she was hired as a Scenic Painter at LAIKA. One of the most recent projects she has contributed to is an animation adventure comedy called “Missing Link,” set to be released later this year. Booth paints in her spare time, making pieces like this one called Flowers.

Booth says one of the best things about working at LAIKA is seeing the “magical” process of stop-motion animation behind-the-scenes.

“What is so amazing and strange about it is that everything you see on the screen is physically made—even the blades of grass,” Booth says. “In the scenic department, we paint everything in the scene (other than the characters).” 

Looking back, she feels like all of her life experiences have led her to where she is now—even working at Menards.

“Because I worked in the paint department, I’m able to match colors really well, which is so important in my work,” Booth says. “My tattooing experience cultivated my eye for detail and patience, too.”

In her spare time, she does some portrait work, painting, writing, and mixed media. But more than anything, she says she likes to experiment.

“My whole life has been an experiment,” Booth says. “I just love learning new things.”

Follow her work on Instagram @krystal_booth or on her website www.KrystalBooth.com.

Jason Dixie

Jason Dixie jokingly calls himself the “Forrest Gump” of acting. He’s appeared in major films like “In the Company of Men” (1997) where he did a memorable scene with Aaron Eckhart, who went on to play Harvey Dent in the “The Dark Knight.” Jason Dixie

He’s rubbed elbows with the likes of Roger Ebert, who gave his performance a thumbs up, and Neil LaBute, the famous filmmaker who directed the movie (who also lived in Fort Wayne for some time).

But during the school year, you can find Dixie doing something less conspicuous: Taking children to and from Fort Wayne Community Schools as a bus driver.

It’s all part of what he calls the “best of both worlds”—living in Fort Wayne as an actor/comedian and having a family life at the same time.

Growing up on the south side of the city, Dixie got his start in acting through comedy. He charmed his classmates at Snyder High School with a political skit so funny it prompted his teacher to tell him he should pursue a career as a performer.

At the age of 16, he started doing standup comedy at Link’s Wonderland on Creighton Street. By 18, he was writing his own material and quickly earning a name for himself as an underage “comedy rat” at the now-defunct Snickers Nightclub, where he later hosted shows for five years.

“I caught the bug, and I thought, if I can do comedy, I can do acting, too,” Dixie says.

Dixie, right, poses with his co-star Aaron Eckhart, who went on to play Harvey Dent in the “The Dark Knight.”

In 1996, he landed his first acting role in a PSA for Stop the Madness National to raise awareness about at-risk youth violence. In the film, he played Ternae Jordan Jr., a boy who was shot in the head by a stray bullet and lived.

When LaBute saw the PSA at a theatre in Fort Wayne, he contacted the filmmaker Mark Archer, asking if Dixie wanted to play the role of the “intern” in “In the Company of Men.” Dixie didn’t even have to audition for the part.

“Neil said, ‘I like your look; I like your voice, so you got the part,’” Dixie recalls.

The feature film was shot in 11 days for less than $25,000 in Fort Wayne. After it won the Filmmakers Trophy at Sundance Film Festival in 1997, it was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, and Dixie was getting more offers than he knew what to do with as a 21-year-old. Although he chose to focus on comedy, he continued acting for Archer in other indie films, “American Reel” (2003), where his scene was cut, and another film that never came out.

He later appeared in “Proxy” (2013) and “Sand Castles” (2014), making him an official member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

As for his most recent role, he plays a sheriff in “The Shade Shepherd,” which is expected to come out later this year or in 2020. The film was shot in Goshen, IN; LaGrange, IN; and parts of Michigan, by filmmakers by Chris Faulisi and Jordan Hodges (originally from Goshen).

Dixie says he’s excited to act in more films in the future as well as advertisements. This summer, he’s performing as a standup comedian on a Norwegian Cruise Ship for two weeks.

“You never know where your next job is going to come from (as an actor) and where it’s going to take you,” Dixie says. “I feel very blessed.”

Follow his work at www.JasonDixie.com.

Seth Boyden

As the son of the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Fort Wayne’s Boyden & Youngblutt marketing and advertising agency, Seth grew up in an artistic environment, drawing on paper and computer screens alike as a kid. Seth Boyden

He started playing with animation back in 6th grade, when he was about 13, and it’s safe to say he hasn’t stopped.

After graduating from Bishop Dwenger High School in 2011 and winning Scholastic Awards for his animation and Claymation work, Boyden went off to California School of the Arts—one of the top animation schools in the country.

Since he graduated in 2015, he’s been working for Blue Sky Studios, first in New York and now remotely in Ventura County, CA, just north of LA. Blue Sky Studios is the same company that produced animated favorites, like the Ice Age Movies and “Ferdinand.” (Boyden even worked on the latter.)

As a storyboard artist, his job is to help animation film directors discover how the film will play out visually using sequenced drawings, like a comic book. That way, they can go through the entire movie, scene-by-scene, and plan the production of the final animation.

“Our job is basically to help determine what the movie is going to feel and look like,” Boyden says. “We’re all about trying to help figure out 'story moments.'”

Boyden is currently working on a new movie for Blue Sky Studios called “Spies in Disguise,” starring Will Smith and Tom Holland, which is expected to be released later this year.

He says working on the film has a been a lot of fun. Seth Boyden from Fort Wayne became a Storyboard Artist for Blue Sky Studios.

“We would sometimes get Will Smith’s dialogue and get to do storyboards for his performance,” Boyden says.

In addition to his professional work, he also does personal projects. A film he made his senior year of college called “An Object At Rest,” won a Student Academy Award and was shortlisted for an Oscar in 2016. It goes back to his Fort Wayne roots by taking place in the Midwest.

“It’s about a mountain and how—over millions of years—it turns into a rock and erodes into a grain of sand,” Boyden says. “You see the Civil War, the building of the cities, the Great Depression, and it’s all being seen from the perspective of nature.”

You can follow the work of Blue Sky Studios on their Facebook page.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara is a Fort Wayne native, passionate about her hometown and its ongoing revival. As Managing Editor of Input Fort Wayne, she enjoys writing about interesting people and ideas in northeast Indiana. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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