7 things to know about local director Henrique Couto

This year will be quite eventful for director Henrique Couto.

The local filmmaker is set to begin production on his first-ever directed Western film, Calamity Jane's Revenge, which will be filmed in New Lebanon and has a planned release for this winter.

The screenplay, written by Western enthusiast John Oak Dalton, will rewriting history – a little. The story centers on an American frontierswoman seeking retaliation against those who conspired to kill her acquaintance, Wild Bill Hickok.

Calamity Jane, who will be played by Erin R. Ryan, will blaze throughout the West and into the South alongside her sidekick (played by Haley Jay Madison) as they look to take justice into their own hands, leading to a potential showdown with the lead villain (played by Adam Clevenger).

In order to make the film as authentic as possible, Couto and the crew are prepping costumes and are searching for Old West-style buildings.  Story-wise, Couto wasn’t interested in narrating a male-focused story.  It was Calamity Jane’s fight to fix wrongs that was intriguing to Couto.

“I want to tell a story about a woman’s struggles that we all can identify with,” Couto says. “Calamity Jane was notorious for not showing any feelings. Every emotion she could show was considered weakness. Calamity Jane was notorious for not showing weakness. This movie will be about her living that way and what’s beneath it – where the hurt actually is and can she learn to grow.”

Here, get to know Henrique Couto a little better.

1.) He started making films at an early age. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Couto got his first digital video camera when he was 15. Once he was ready, he immediately called his friends and started shooting short films. On Friday nights from 4 p.m. to midnight, the assembled group would go out and record as much footage as they could. The films that he produced are about 20-30 minutes each, with little or no script. Couto would edit the films and put music to them. He even had a friend from the Internet that would create DVD box covers. Using recycled Blockbuster Video cases he found in the dumpster behind the stores, he sold his movies to his classmates in school for a small price. "I still have a few, but I don't want anyone seeing them," he said.

2.) He moved to work at a production studio. When he was 18, Couto packed up and moved to New Jersey to work at POP Cinema. While at the production studio, he thrived on traveling to fan expos while promoting DVD releases to fans and distributors. He also did additional editing duties for feature films. The time in New Jersey was life-changing for him, but ultimately, he felt that being back in Dayton was where he should be.

3.) This past year, he committed to being a full-time independent filmmaker. While some would be paralyzed with fear knowing no net is there to catch them, Couto thrives on it. While maintaining the vigorous work schedule that includes filming, editing, writing and setting up meetings, he has also been given an opportunity to work on some other projects and freelance work.  He essentially got the idea of doing his own Western while working in Canada on the film Jesse James: Lawman, starring Kevin Sorbo and Peter Fonda.  Brett Kelly, the film's director, is slated to help produce Calamity Jane's Revenge. While working together in Canada, Kelly suggested that it would be good for Couto to direct a Western himself.

4.) Henrique has over sixteen director credits, with ten being featured films. Since the first video he directed in 2003 titled HeadCheese was released, Couto's resume continues to grow with some great micro-budgeted films. From suspenseful flicks like Bleeding Through to Haunted House on Sorority Row, he has also crafted some holiday-oriented films like A Bulldog For Christmas and Awkward Thanksgiving.  One of his best films to date is the dark comedy Depression: The Movie.  Along with starting shooting on Calamity Jane's Revenge soon, he's wrapping up the script and casting for his first romantic movie, Making Out.

5.) Henrique's work has quite a cult following. With the insane goal of trying to film and produce at least three micro-budgeted films a year, Couto has started to see the hard work pay off. He successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign for Making Out, and the goal was passed in less than 48 hours. At HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati last March, people stopped at Couto's booth, telling him how much they loved his films and asking him what's next. Several of his films premiered at Englewood Cinemas and were sold-out shows.  Couto's A Bulldog For Christmas was even featured on television in Europe this past year. As he works with more small budgeted production companies, the opportunities for him will only skyrocket.

6.) He's got a pretty unique personality. If you happen to come across Couto, you'll notice he's got quite a distinguished look. With his unique collection of eyeglasses, handlebar mustache and idiosyncratic choice in clothing, he appears to be a rare breed. His individuality is a refreshing change in a world of carbon copies. As a filmmaker, he embraces his creative side each day – it's just another reason why so many have become so smitten with him.

7.) He can play a mean ukulele. You could never imagine the sweet strumming of a ukulele can be turned upside down. That's exactly what Couto does when he hits the stage. He seldom plays live these days, as he spends most of his time making films. From time to time, he'll blow off the dust, plug in the instrument and perform at various shows and open mics around the area. His performance of Dramarama's "Anything, Anything (I'll Give You)" is absolutely mind-blowing.  The energy that he exudes while thrashing on his ukulele always gets the crowd going.

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