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I recently received an invitation to a “Press Only” behind-the-scenes look at a local movie production from the production company, KillaCozzy. Admittedly, I was more than a little flattered to be considered a “member of the press”, so with my curiosity piqued and my ego stroked, I couldn’t resist this golden opportunity.

Here’s the Press Release:

Jacksonville, FL – KillaCozzy Productions, a local film production company, will be opening its doors to the press, news media, and even bloggers on Sunday, November 30th, 2008, during a key rehearsal for its latest feature film, tentatively titled “Self-Portrait”. The doors will open at 2:30pm in the Lazzara Recital Hall at the Fine Arts Center of the University of North Florida.
Closed sets throughout principal photography will prevent media coverage during shooting, so this press-friendly open house will create the best opportunity to learn more about the exciting new film that promises to change the art scene in Jacksonville.
The production itself is focused on Jacksonville artisans and artists. Nineteen cast members were selected from 40+ hopeful locals over two weekends of grueling auditions. Christopher Bolla, Christianna White, and Milan Alley star in the film.
Angelica Matos, a special needs student at UNF, will also be making her “big screen” debut as an extra, thanks to the efforts of publicist Kirsten Walsh, who was honored recently by the university’s On-Campus Transitioning program for her work with special needs students.
Writer/director Anthony Kilburn and director of photography Halina Lubczanksa are the producers of “Self-Portrait”, having founded KillaCozzy Productions in mid-2008 with a simple slogan: film is art.
Principal photography for “Self-Portrait” is scheduled for February and March of 2009. The film’s premier is slated for November 2009.
Find out more about the film at .

As it turned out, I was the only press-person there. At first, I found it a little disheartening but it later seemed appropriate and to be expected. It just goes to show you that you really can’t count on the mainstream media to support anything that doesn’t immediately sell papers or advertising. Grassroots, rogue journalism is the only way to get the truth! Okay, enough of that. About the movie…

The cast and crew assembled at the UNF Fine Arts Center on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was shown an introductory presentation on the purpose of the film and a little background of the major cast and crew. While everything was being set up, I was able to pick the brains of a few crew-members.

Let me first point out that I am not a journalist, at least by trade. My intention was to sit back and observe and do what I could to raise a little awareness about the film and possibly build some hype. But being the only attendee, I was in the hot seat, so to speak. With no prepared questions, I just rapped with the crew about the film and soon discovered that their mission, their raison d’etre, was 100% in line with mine and that of JaxScene. The moment I made this revelation felt like pure kismet. I immediately loosened up, and was able to probe deeper and found out some really amazing stuff. It was as if I was truly meant to be there and it was quite exciting.

The film itself, the crew bills as an art film. Although independently produced, don’t you dare call it an indie film. It’s an art film about art (how meta!) and an artist with a 60’s feel intended to parallel the pop-art movement in New York a la Warhol with what seems to be happening in Jacksonville’s local art scene today.

From the website, here’s the plot:

Calvin, in his mid-20s and a struggling painter, has always tried to do the right thing while not sacrificing his own desire to one day become a successful artist.

Unable to adequately provide for or satisfy his longtime girlfriend, Nancy, he begrudgingly makes a series of artistic and ethical concessions that promise fame and wealth, but threaten to corrupt his ideals.

All the while, Calvin scrupulously perfects a painting of his spirited model, Marjorie, in secret, risking both his relationship and success.

His dilemma is ultimately Faustian; Will he choose everything he’s ever wanted or everything he’s ever needed?

The crew’s goal with the film is two-fold; to reinvent the independent film-making process using little to no money (but done professionally) and to breathe new life into and inspire the local art scene. What really impressed me about their mission is the way community comes into the entire process.

The project began this past April with Anthony Kilburn‘s script and the forming of KillaCozzy Productions with his fiance, Halina Lubczanska. From there, they assembled their crew through various forms of networking. From happenstance encounters at TSI and Square One to ads on Craigslist, everything just seemed to come together and a talented, professional crew was born as opposed to a motley crew of fame-seeking hangers-on.

With such a successful recruiting drive, the team is using the same methods to build hype and awareness for the project. The website is frequently updated with news on the project and contains cast and crew bios. You can also check out their myspace page for updates and info. In the future you will see posters and the street team canvasing the neighborhoods and artwalks.

With filming set to begin in February, this particular day was to be a final dress rehearsal and filming for the supplementary documentary. There were several things going on at once so I walked around with Production Manager and Publicist, Kirsten Walsh, met and spoke with the crew and got a feel for all that they were trying to accomplish.

In the main auditorium, I spoke with Assistant Director, Anthony Brooks, on the documentary he was helping produce for the project.. Even though I personally thought it a fantastic idea, I wanted to know why they had decided to spend the time and resources on making a doc. First off, the documentary is to be featured as a supplement to the film in an eventual DVD release. Seeing as how the team seeks to reinvent the wheel with this project, they found it important to document the process and the obstacles overcome to create an independent film. Furthermore, he likened the whole affair to one’s first child. This project is their baby and just as you would do with a new life, they want to capture every moment, the first step, first word, etc. The doc will be a series of featurettes on the process of making the film as well as cast and crew interviews.

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Speaking with Anthony gave me an idea of the caliber of the crew’s talent and also the passion they bring to the group. He began writing screenplays and doing videography work eventually studying film at JU where he produced several film shorts an music videos. As with most of the cast, he maintains a nine-to-five and works on the film in his spare time.

Next, I spoke with Key Costume Designer, Trinity Baker, as she photographed members of the cast in various outfits. Tables were covered in boxes of 60’s-era vintage. I had to ask where it all came from and learned that it mostly belonged to a cast-member’s personal collection. I began to see how this project was coming together. There are no stars, no bosses, and although Anthony runs the show, everybody contributes and everyone’s ideas are welcomed and given due consideration. And if the film needs something, somebody in the team provides it wether it be the costumes, a place to rehearse, equipment, whatever.

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My last stop was to witness an actual rehearsal directed by Anthony. It was very interesting to watch the process at work and I could tell this guy knew what he was doing by the way he coached the cast and helped them find their characters. I was only privy to one scene but from it I was able to get a feel for the movie as a whole and I think it is going to turn out great. The scene I saw was a breakfast scene at a diner where the main character and his buddies discuss the previous night’s activities and the inciting action of the plot is introduced. The banter was witty and the actors were not over-dramatic or unbelievable which you would almost expect in a low-buget, independent film. They really had done an amazing job with the casting. In order to save time and film, these rehearsals resemble those of a play rather than a movie where each scene is more or less acted out on the set for the first time. Some of the actors are trained to some extent while others are completely new to the craft which makes this method of rehearsal necessary.

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Another thing I noticed was how cooperative and excited everyone was. Even the extras watched with smiling faces and waited patiently for their chance to sit at a table and pretend to talk while the scenes were rehearsed, just happy to be a part of something so cool. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep an entire army of people on task and motivated about something they were doing for free and without any compensation other than the joy and satisfaction of the process.

And that, my friends, is why I think this film is so important for Jacksonville. The film itself aside, the project as a whole is a symbol for the zeitgeist that I and many others I’ve spoken with feel in this city right now. That so many people were willing to sacrifice their time and their personal lives to make this happen is a testament to what anybody can accomplish in these times, in this place, by creating something that is focused on community and collaboration.

The time and place is now!

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