A group of local filmmakers will see their work screened in public for the first time at a Fort Worth film festival next weekend. “Exit Bag” will have its world premier at 3:30 p.m. July 27 during the Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase.

Juan Espinosa, Mike Pickering and Ron Hervey met at a local restaurant in August 2017 to discuss the possibility of doing a short film project.

“We didn’t even have a script at that first meeting,” Hervey said. “We just discussed doing something. We agreed to meet a month later with some ideas about what we could do.”

After the meeting, Hervey adapted a short story he was working on into a screenplay. The group’s film, “The Exit Bag,” is based on that screenplay.

In the film, Pickering plays the lead role of Philip Canton. The character has lost the will to live due to the death of his wife. After exploring suicide options, he settles on what appears to be a peaceful way out but it does not go as planned.

“I almost didn’t show Mike and Juan the script,” Hervey said. “Suicide is not a laughing matter, but the script wound up being a dark comedy. Suicide is so pervasive now that there’s a good chance someone who’s lost a family member or friend will see the film. It is not our intention to poke fun at suicide, but at Philip and the process he takes. There’s even a question at the end of the film of if he did it or not. We leave it to the audience to decide.”

Hervey is no stranger to film festivals. His short screenplay, “Broken Dreams,” has been a finalist at nine film festivals, winning top short screenplay honors at three. That screenplay, along with one he finished earlier this year, Swamp Witch, are both in the screenplay competition at the Fort Worth festival.

Pickering, who studied theater at Paris Junior College and Texas A&M Commerce, has appeared in more than 65 stage plays, including “Of Mice and Men,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Lonestar” and “Red, White and Tuna,” to name a few. He has directed seven stage productions, most recently PCT’s production of “Dracula” last October.

“I enjoyed working with this cast and crew,” Pickering said. “Everyone involved in this movie really worked hard. They all have a love for storytelling and devoted their time to make the project come alive.”

“My hope is the people who watch our film will be entertained for a bit,” Espinosa said, who directed the film. “We aren’t out to make a big public statement or anything, just to entertain.”

Espinosa discovered his love of film when he was 13 after his parents purchased a camcorder for him. He spent his spare time making music videos and movies. Espinosa put his film aspirations on hold as he worked and attended college, but never lost the film bug itch. He recently started his own production company – Espinosa Entertainment.

Pickering and Espinosa have appeared together in multiple productions at Paris Community Theater. When it became time to cast “The Exit Bag,” they drew from that same talent pool, starting with Dalen Hobbs to play the character of Death.

Hobbs started his stage career at age 12. He has been involved in 70 productions, including professional works with the Kentucky Repertory Theater.

With his portrayal of Death, Hobbs didn’t want to bring any stereotypes to the character.

“Death is usually represented by the dark and foreboding,” said Hobbs, “but I wanted him to have a little style and snazz.”

The film also features Ashley Pickering, Austen Naron and Katharine Marie Espinosa. Craig Gibson, Kevin Maxwell and Jesse Sanders also make short appearances in the flick.

“The Exit Bag” will make its world premiere during a grouping of short films starting at 3:05 p.m. The film festival is to be staged at the Hilton Garden Inn-Medical Center, 912 Northton St. in Fort Worth.

It could, however, be some time before Paris residents get a chance to see the film.

“We will eventually have a local screening here in Paris, but a public screening outside of the film festival circuit will disqualify the film from a lot of festivals,” Hervey said. “With the festivals that we have submitted to, our film festival run could last around a year.”

The FWIFS is in it sixth year and includes independent films from around the globe. It begins Thursday and ends Saturday. More about the festival can be found at fwindie.com. For ticket information, visit filmfreeway.com/FWIFS/tickets.

A trailer for “The Exit Bag” is on the film’s website at exitbagmovie.com. The site includes additional photos from the filming of the movie as well as contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Sally Boswell contributed to this article.

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