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Leslie Cyril and Artemus Fred build a film from the ground up.

Back in Denver in 1992, Cyril joined White Trash Theater, a four-person improv group. One night several years ago at a local club, Fred saw Cyril perform and figured he might be good for a one-man show Fred was writing about British writer Noel Coward.

"Leslie is the only person I know who can pull off a British accent," Fred says, as Cyril chirps in with a squirrelly "'Ey, guv, want a cab?" "He didn't sound like an extra from a Basil Rathbone movie." The Coward project didn't pan out, but the duo ended up shooting a video version of a play Fred wrote called The Shropshire Lads, a reference to the town in Wales where Fred grew up. He and Cyril play two Welsh immigrants who find themselves in Denver over Thanksgiving and spend the day driving around.

The film was shot a few years ago by a friend at Denver Community Television, the cable-access setup in Five Points, and that's where the two returned again when they decided that George Stanley--originally conceived as a play--would be too expensive to stage. But they didn't stay long.

"We started to film this at DCTV, but before long we realized it wasn't going to work," Fred says. "It was a unanimous decision--let's get the hell out of there and buy our own equipment."

They did just that, figuring that, Fred says, "this is not difficult; we don't need to go to bleedin' film school." So they unpacked their equipment "and started pressing buttons."

Inspired by Victorian-era ghost stories, Cyril wrote the script during "a six-month process at the end of my divorce. It seemed suitable to go into a more Gothic mode when you're in that mood."

Fred makes a sudden realization and adds, "I wrote Shropshire Lads at the end of my first divorce."

"Divorce and what it's doing for the arts scene," Cyril replies. "Thank you, Denver!"

Talking about divorce as a stimulus for art, Fred concludes that "it's like having a toothache. You don't really understand it until you go through it, like having your mother visit."

As for George Stanley, the quality of the film stock is somewhere between a very inexpensive art film and a show you'd see on public access. Characters make frequent asides to the camera, the film shifts self-consciously into parodies of Star Trek and game shows, and its British wit is as dry as sun-baked mortar. There's more than a trace of scatological humor--including a soliloquy from a character called the Dung Beetle--and much of the film's humor derives from the way it uses language. Stanley's prim British accent fades into a Deep South, white-trash drawl under stress, and Fred himself, in blackface, supplies the dialect for the nonsensical Indian sidekick. "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke," Fred says.

George Stanley is the kind of film where you frankly don't really know what's going on--and you're compelled to watch it as much because of its fascinating absurdity as to test your stamina against the bizarre. But that suits the filmmakers' fancy: "We want to encourage people to come back and see it again," Cyril says.

After the lengthy shoot, the pair are recharging their batteries and thinking about a series of one-act films. But though they're optimistic, they understand the environment in which they've chosen to work.

"We made this film for Denver, with Denver, and everybody in it is associated with the city," Fred says. "Yet it's ignored as everything else is unless it's a movie about the early days of John Elway.

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