CHARLESTON — A local man's tale of a struggle between heroic astronauts and evil barbarians on ancient Mars can now be viewed on the small screen. Earlier this month, local director and producer Eric Shook of Westfield started distributing videotapes of "Empire of Danger," a sequel of his 2001 film, "Lost on Mars." The Westfield Entertainment Group's new film tells the story of four time-traveling astronauts sent on a rescue mission to Mars after a previous crew vanished into the Red Planet's ancient and barbaric past, as seen in "Lost on Mars." Viewers should see a marked improvement between "Lost on Mars" and "Empire of Danger," Shook said. Many of the local actors in "Empire of Danger" already had experience, or a strong interest in acting, Shook said. Their excitement helped him more fully translate his vision of the story into on-screen actions during this production, he said. "It was great chemistry on the set with those actors," Shook said. In addition, Shook said he relied on sets in his Westfield home for much of the filming in "Lost on Mars." He filmed more scenes for "Empire of Danger" on site at Eastern Illinois University's Booth Library, Fox Ridge State Park, and other locations. "I tried to use some of that background to give it more of a realistic look," Shook said.

Bev Shook said she helped her husband by making costumes for his cast, which grew from about 16 actors in "Lost on Mars," to approximately 30 in "Empire of Danger." She was able to reuse many of the costumes from the first movie. She also donned a hooded robe to play Sorth, a sinister figure from Mars' past. Her husband reprised his role, as a treacherous guard, from the previous film. If he makes another movie, Shook said, he may focus on drama, or other genres that do not require science fiction effects and sets. Shook said he hopes to continue building support for his films, adding they provide a unique opportunity for local, aspiring actors to participate in movie productions. "There are not a lot of movie productions going on in the central part of Illinois," Shook said. Copies of Westfield Entertainment Group's new film are available for rental at Premiere Video in Mattoon as well as Family Video Stories in Charleston, Effingham, Paris, and other communities. Shook is selling copies of "Empire of Danger" through, and plans to offer them through movie sales Web sites, such as

— Contact Rob Stroud at

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