Monday, January 28, 2008
FIREFLY Filmmaker Peter Marcy
One of the most interesting films making the rounds on the international film festival circuit is Peter Marcy’s Firefly. An enigmatic and hypnotic tale of four people who find their lives intertwined by a mysterious incident on Halloween night, Firefly displays a genuine command of cinematic craft which often eludes even the most seasoned filmmakers.
It is a low-key film driven by storytelling, through the withholding and releasing of information at exactly the right moments. Its structure is mysterious at first as the film leisurely crosscuts the daily lives of four separate characters, all of whom seem headed for some kind of mystical epiphany on Christmas Eve.
Susan (Lindsay Hinman) believes she was raped on Halloween night and is frustrated in her attempts to get anyone to believe her. Brandt (Pete Marcy) suspects that his girlfriend Rachel (Sara Persons) is cheating on him, and goes to desperate measures to find out. Del (Chris Marcy) is a roofer and amateur filmmaker who makes schlocky sci-fi films with his ever reluctant friends. The fourth character is the most mysterious of all: Arnie (Devon Jorlett), a bald young man who seems committed to using his powers of clairvoyance to save lives.
All four stories come together brilliantly in the last 10 minutes to reveal the meaning behind the intricate pattern of clues strewn throughout the film. From Susan’s obsessive morning jogs to Arnie’s violent coughing, random details suddenly reveal to be part of a masterful narrative plan that’s executed with great confidence and skill.
Shot in Marcy’s hometown of Minnesota for the low budget of $5,000, Firefly is a testament to creativity, ingenuity, and plain hard work. That’s something that’s not often spoken of when independent films are discussed. Without the large crew and other resources that can be provided with Hollywood backing, filmmakers are forced to do much, if not all of the work – raising funds, directing, editing, PR, administrative work, etc.. There’s a kind of DIY street cred that comes as a fringe benefit from such work, but the real benefit is the freedom to create as artists are meant to, freely and without compromise or consultation from a committee. The drawback, of course, is the dearth of financial resources.
Financial pressures often force filmmakers to work 9 to 5 jobs and shoot on weekends, sometimes over years in order to shoot all the scenes required to tell a feature length story. Commitments from actors and friends may dwindle after long days of volunteering, and hairstyles may begin to defy any attempt at continuity. When the shooting is done, hours and hours in front of the computer are ahead, laying in each of those pieces, each carefully designed sound effect or music track to a film that may never see the light of day let alone the silver screen.
A strong sense of self-confidence, powered by a willing self-delusion, is an absolute requirement for the lone filmmaker. How else can someone obsess over a project that may be the worst film ever made, starring no one in particular, from a filmmaker no one’s ever heard of and perhaps never will? Digital filmmaking has provided independent filmmakers with the tools to produce watchable films – but then there’s the matter of enticing people to actually watch them.
Hopefully, Firefly will be an exception. Back in ‘97 or ‘98, it could have been the toast of Sundance with a front page article in Variety, reporting on its $1.5 million sale to the Weinsteins. But the current state of independent cinema is full of more creative opportunities than financial rewards. Distribution dollars have dried up and films with higher profiles than Firefly are finding it hard to get released.
Edward Burns’Purple Violets, which stars himself and Debra Messing, received strong reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival but could not close a deal. Rather than accepting a small theatrical run and DVD release for a meager return, Burns is now releasing the film himself as a digital download on iTunes.
Marcy is part of a group of artists, filmmakers, and musicians who call themselves the Failure Boys. Some are his friends and several are his own brothers. All are very talented and contributed greatly to Firefly. It is precisely this personal, hand-crafted touch that gives the film its real charm. With a story that is as gripping as a Hollywood thriller, Firefly also displays a genuine personal style and wit. Recently, talked with me about Firefly, making films in Minnesota, and the ups and downs of doing it all yourself.
To read the interview at PopMatters.com, click HERE