‘Modern day tragedy’ with a low budget

By Nicoletta Sabella
May 3, 2007

Meghan Hurley

Video students enrolled in the advanced video production “Producing and Directing” spring course have emerged themselves in the making of a feature presentation about violence, guns, drugs, blood and guts.

The film, yet to have an official title, was spun up by the imagination of junior English and communication major Jonathan Barnett. It’s a film he calls a “drama tragedy.”

Initially, the ideas for the film came to Barnett one year ago as he wrote bits and pieces of the script, which eventually morphed into a 60-page script along with an in-depth character development.

“It deals with a lot of current issues among adolescents and young adults. They are definitely the target audience for it,” Barnett said.

“When Jon pitched the idea to us we were all really excited,” Kara Schneider, a sophomore English and communication major, said.

The basic plot consists of three main characters: Michelle, Chris and Ryan. Michelle, played by Suzanne Dabady, a sophomore Montgomery County Community College student, is a young woman with a troubling past consisting of an abusive relationship. Chris, played by Matthew Donato, a senior English and communication major, is Michelle’s new boyfriend who is also worried by his past and just wants to fix things for him and his new girl. Ryan, played by Matthew Burge, a senior philosophy and political science major, plays Chris’ go-getting best friend that never thinks things through.

Other characters in the film are Jimmy, played by Barnett. Jimmy is Michelle’s ex-boyfriend, and Terry, played by David Damiano, senior English and communication major, is Jimmy’s sidekick.

Ryan is a small-time drug dealer who is saving up to move to Maine along with Chris and Michelle. He seems to always get caught up in tiffs with Jimmy and Terry. With a tragic turn of events, their hopes and dreams are destroyed. Packed-full of fast-talking and dark, somewhat depressing, bloody scenes, the movie paints a portrait of life in a not-so-perfect suburbia.

“The storyline is about the struggle of (Chris) trying not to get too involved, but wanting to help out a friend and wanting to respect his girlfriend’s wishes at the same time,” Barnett said. Barnett said that he also wanted to include an interracial relationship with Michelle and Chris because it is something seen in more films of the day, although it is not a main theme of the movie.

Barnett explained that he had listened to a lot of music while writing the script, including songs by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and The Modern Day Saint, who sing songs that deal with abusive relationships.

As executive director of the film, Barnett has worn more than one hat in the movie process. He not only wrote the script, but also directed, edited and acted in the film. Greg Steciw, a senior English and communication major, and Schneider were the co-producers of the film.

The staff has focused on color correction in particular and pacing when editing the piece.

The music of the film includes work from Manayunk’s own Overlook. Steciw and Dan Mastropieri, a sophomore English and communication major, developed the score.

Another student involved in the film is Charles Grugan, a senior graphic design major. Grugan is in charge of all the artwork for the film including a poster and cover.

“I love video, and it’s definitely a passion of mine,” Steciw said. Steciw and the others said that it was hard to juggle between working full-time, being a full-time student as well as putting full efforts into this production.

An approximate 600 hours of work has been put into the film as they began shooting in February and plan on officially finishing on May 7.

“It definitely examines the emotions of dealing with past experiences and trying to go on with your life,” Steciw said. “It’s really coming together as we sit down and edit. Just watching it go from 40-50 hours of raw footage that we have down to the 40 minutes that we want to make it in the end. It’s really fun to watch it come together.”

Barnett said, “It’s a modern day tragedy. Everything seems perfect and then at the last minute everything falls apart.”

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Nicoletta Sabella

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