The Naples International Film Festival is a globe-spanning event, with entries from as far away as Australia and China – hey, its middle name is "International" – but a couple of the films accepted into the festival come from a little closer to home.
This afternoon at 4:30 in the Silverspot Cinema, the festival will showcase the work of two Naples-based directors, whose films are part of the Florida Shorts Package. While both films were shot in and around Naples by Naples residents, the two could hardly be more different.
"Gary," by first-time director Mitch Glass, is described as "the story of a lonely guy" by Glass, who wrote the film as well as directing.
If you go
What: The Florida Shorts Package, with three films, including "Lure" by Walter Skeels along with "BFF Zombie" and "Gary"
When: 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, and again at 12:20 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, including Q&A sessions with the filmmakers. Total runtime is about 80 minutes. No children younger than 3 allowed.
Where: Silverspot Cinema in the Mercato Shops, 9118 Strada Place, Naples
More information:www.naplesfilmfest.com; or (239) 775-3456 (775-FILM)
"He's trying to reconnect with his estranged wife, so he writes a book of memories, trying to get her to give him another chance."
Gary, the lead character, is also failing in his job as a door to door cosmetics salesman – Glass kindly did not use the term "Avon laddie" – and is teamed with the firm's top producer for some remedial sales training.
No, said the director, the film is not autobiographical: "I have a girlfriend now, but the film is based in part on a past relationship."
The other Naples entry in the festival, "BFF Zombie," is definitely not autobiographical. Director and writer Fedor Steer plays on the "best friends forever" acronym in a tale of four teenage girls whose obsessive quest for popularity is not interrupted even after one of them is killed in an accident.
"Jealousy goes beyond the grave. Mayhem ensues," said Steer over the telephone, from his day job at Carefit, a startup business connecting patients to health care providers.
Steer's day jobs have over the years have included being an officer in the Canadian Coast Guard, a swim coach, a classroom in Thailand and Naples, and an IT director, "a background that's quite varied, and that's useful in the film business," he said.
Steer also works as an actor, with an agent and a website, and takes the role of Pastor Brown in "BFF Zombie." The four young actresses who are the focus of the story worked for the experience, the film clips, and, said Steer, getting their names listed on the website of IMDB, the International Movie Database.
"That's a big one," he said. "It's not a real film until you get IMDB credit."
Ella Wahlestedt, who plays Julie, just finished shooting a Disney feature film, tentatively titled "A Wolf Adventure," in which she has a lead role, said Steer.
Gary Bristow, who has the lead role in "Gary," appeared in "Six Feet Under" on HBO, and in one of the iterations of "Star Trek," said Glass. Director Glass, who recently turned 23 and was just 21 when he began work on the film that became "Gary," has a day job is working as a video and graphic designer, on contract creating television promotions and segments for the Daily News and naplesnews.com.
While "Gary" will be receiving its world premiere at NIFF, "BFF Zombie" has already received some distribution and visibility. It was featured in the Fort Myers Beach film festival this summer, and was just screened in Fort Myers as a candidate for inclusion in its upcoming festival. "BFF Zombie" is also available on YouTube, and has almost 5,000 views on the site.
The Silverspot Cinema showing of "Gary" in NIFF will be essentially the first time anyone has had the chance to see Glass's film. The director deliberately kept "Gary" under wraps, he said.
"I can count the number of people who've seen it on my hand. It will be fresh for everyone," Glass said.
One aspect both films have in common is a shoestring budget. Thanks to the economies of shooting digital video, "BFF Zombie" was shot for $500, and that was the more expensive of the two. Half the budget went to food for the cast over the weekend of shooting, said Steer, and half for "zombie" makeup – latex prosthetics and spooky contact lenses. Fake blood, he said, is cheap and easy.
"That's just pancake syrup and chocolate syrup, with a little food color. That's the same thing the professional films sets use."
Glass brought "Gary" in for right at $300, he said. "We had no money. No one really got paid." He doesn't expect to recoup his investment on this film, but hopes it can be a stepping stone to other, more ambitious projects.
"That's the main objective of a short film, exposure for your talent," he said. Glass said he has "a couple of other things in the pipeline," including a romantic comedy he shot in May, a counterbalance to the heavier "hardcore drama" of "Gary."
The audience that Steerwas most concerned about for "BFF Zombie" is his five and eight-year-old children.
"After they watched us shooting, and seeing me edit it, they understand it's make believe," he said. "It's a light-hearted zombie film – it's meant to be fun."