By MIKE CHAIKEN
Bristol’s Ryan Casey is no newcomer to the world of film.
Although “American Jubilee,” his latest, is his first full-length feature film, his 30-minute film, “Crushing Pennies,” debuted at the Kent Film Festival in 2009.
Earlier this year, “American Jubilee,” which was filmed in 2010, debuted at the Litchfield Hills Film Festival. And this Friday, Sept. 7, state filmgoers will be able to check it out again when it is screened at Manchester Community College at 7 p.m.
We caught up with Ryan via email to talk to him about the film.
Observer: First of all, I know you’ve done some shorter form films, why was the time right to do a longer form film like “American Jubilee?”
Ryan: I have always wanted to do a longer, “feature” film since I first became involved in making films years ago. It’s definitely a different beast — much like novels are as compared to short stories. This form let me explore things with more space. I felt like I didn’t have to be concerned with the film having the shape of the classic form all of the time. In a short, you always have to be aware of the form because you only have 10 or 20 minutes.
O: Tell me a little bit about what the film is about? Was it a script you wrote? What inspired it? What attracted you to the story that made you feel it was worthy to commit to celluloid?
R: I wrote the screenplay and directed the film. I felt it was worthy to film it because of the reaction I got when friends and associates read it. It gained enough positive feedback that I said, “Why not?” And that helped the film get made, too. (People “signed-on” as part of crew after reading it and I was humbled to have so many great creative people involved in this project). The film was partially inspired by, what was to be – the second book of the Bible (sort of between Genesis and Exodus) – it is called the Book of Jubilees. As your readers know, many of the books that were intended to be in the Bible (books like “Bel and the Dragon”) did not make the final cut, but can still be found (such as on the Internet and probably the archives of the Vatican). But the church knew that they could only sell their crap to so many people before they started to laugh and walk away. I mean, if you had included a dragon in the Bible, well, let’s just say you cross a line, even for the majority of stupid people who buy this stuff. It’s amazing enough that people believe in a virgin birth. The film is about a dysfunctional family – the McCormick family. Everyone in the family has a crisis of their own – even the oldest sibling Kenzie McCormick, whose crisis is the failing family itself. During Kenzie’s crisis, she meets a neighbor who lives upstairs from her family. This character, Lyssandra explains to her that she should look at the world in a different way. Avery, the middle child shoots video news and likes to cover hot stories such as the exploits of a local thief, Randy “Mittens” Gullchrest.
O: I saw the film was shot in parts of Bristol. What are some of the locations people may recognize? Why did you want to film some of it in Bristol?
R: They might recognize the bus stop, which is across the street from Webster Bank on the corner of Riverside Avenue and Main Street. We also shot at the Webster Bank across the street. We shot at the fountain by city hall (which was a nod to my late grandfather, James P. Casey). I chose to shoot in Bristol because it’s very diverse socio-economically. It’s not cookie-cutter like some towns in Connecticut, which I’ll spare from ridicule. Bristol is great and so alive. I love what Bristol Rising is doing. I have written another feature script written and hope to shoot in Bristol again.
O: Who are your principals in the film, what do they bring to the table in terms of making the story come alive?
R: Rebecca Dale, David Thomas McLaine, Jeff Kimball, Levi Moyer, Katarina Morhacova, Marsha Howard Karp, and Rob Slocum were among the principals. They brought so much to the table that I barely had to direct. Each one had done research and came to the set with an excellent knowledge of his or her character. I couldn’t be happier with their performances. Even the extras did a phenomenal job and worked hard.
O: Where have you shown the film so far (festivals, etc.) and what kind of response has it gotten?
R: We were an official selection of the 2012 Hills Film Festival and they featured us last so we got to cap it off – it was a true honor. It received wonderful applause and some great questions were posed during a “Q&A” session after the film.
O: Making the film, what lessons did you learn about the process that you will keep in mind for the next project?
R: Friedrich Nietzsche once said “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” And I wish only more chaos was inside of me. In the parts of the film where I was playful with camera and performances, some of the best parts were “caught.” I hope to do more of this type of filming– more experimental you could say– in the future.
O: Speaking of which, what is your next project?
R: My next project is called “Catching Sparks” and it is a feature length script that I hope to shoot in Bristol and other parts of Connecticut. It is about a restless philosopher/TV show host who becomes the spiritual guide to a restless son of a pawn shop owner who secretly is feeding the town prescription drugs (he has them all hooked on drugs like percocet and OxyContin). It’s about finding meaning in a meaningless and cruel atmosphere. But there is hope as our main character fights the horrible conditions he finds himself in.
O: And for the screening, when folks come out to see “American Jubilee” and the closing credits role, what do you hope your audience feels?
R: I want them to understand the absurdity in life – the chaos and the freedom that it can inspire if one lets it in and lets it be.
“American Jubilee” will be screened at Manchester Community College on Friday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. For directions, go to http://www.mcc.commnet.edu/about/directionsMCC. php
For more information about “American Jubilee,” go to www.ajmovie.com, facebook.com/ajmovie, or http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2306439/
By MIKE CHAIKEN