Nascent filmmaker reflects on festival debut

October 30, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Jennifer Martucci, a local filmmaker, draws inspiration from a variety of sources. Contributed

Filmmaker Jennifer Martucci, 22, draws inspiration from disparate sources — “The Lord of the Rings” film series and the crisp dialogue of “The West Wing” and “The Newsroom” scribe Aaron Sorkin, for starters.

Martucci grew up in the Issaquah area and recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design Graduate. In August, she debuted the short film “Eulogy” at the California’s Sacramento Film & Music Festival.

The three-minute film depicts a woman’s horrific murder, and the only dialogue is the woman’s husband as he reads her eulogy.

“Eulogy” originated as a SCAD film school senior thesis project. Martucci wrote the screenplay, chose the creative team and raised money for the production online.

The film school alumna’s other credits include some production work on the OK Go music video “White Knuckles” — a romp featuring band members performing choreographed routines alongside trained dogs.

Martucci took some time off from filmmaking to answer questions about what inspires her:

What piqued your interest in film production?

I’d been writing stories since I was a kid, but that didn’t really translate into writing for film until I started making videos with friends and for our FIRST Robotics team research projects. I was lucky enough to be on teams with people who shared my interest in film, and over the years, we put together increasingly complicated little movies. We went from stop-motion to live action to using a public access channel’s studio green screen and editing bay.

I’ve grown up watching all the behind-the-scenes DVD extras I could find for my favorite movies, and I soaked up everything like a sponge. For a long time, I couldn’t even narrow down my interest beyond the general “making movies” because the entire process was so fascinating to me. These days, I’m definitely more focused on the writing and directing side, though I’ve maintained an interest in other areas as well.

How did you come up with the concept for “Eulogy”?

When I was brainstorming for my senior project film, I set certain parameters for myself. Sometimes it doesn’t help to limit oneself like that, but in this case, it helped me come up with something cohesive, short and simple.

I wanted it to be something I could accomplish, and accomplish well. I actually used a word generator to come up with several options, and one combination in particular inspired me. One of the words was “hallway,” and I’d just watched an episode of “Doctor Who” where the characters are trapped in a hotel and behind each door was someone’s worst fear. I pulled back from the sci-fi and fantasy, and thought instead about what kinds of horrible, frightening things could be happening behind normal hotel room doors. I settled on a murder.

How did you reach the decision to crowd-fund the film?

As for crowd funding, it was a fairly straightforward decision. I needed money — more money than I had available — and I’ve known (and supported) projects that have been successfully funded with Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I didn’t reach my fundraising goal for “Eulogy,” but I did raise enough money to complete the film and submit it to enough film festivals to get a response.

What reception did the film receive at the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and from other audiences?

“Eulogy” got a great reaction from the audience in Sacramento, and I’ve been receiving amazing comments from the funders I’ve sent the DVD to as well. It’s been really rewarding just to get any response, much less such a positive one.

The Sacramento Film & Music Festival was actually the first time I’d seen my own film on the big screen! Due to scheduling conflicts, I couldn’t attend my time slot at the student showcase at SCAD. It was really exciting and nerve-wracking to see it for the first time along with a completely fresh audience, but it was fun too.

How did the experience of working on OK Go’s “White Knuckles” video expand your knowledge of film production?

On the Web

Watch OK Go’s “White Knuckles” video at http://vimeo.com/15157630.

Before working on “White Knuckles,” I’d worked on a couple of low-budget indie films, but nothing as intensive as this music video. It was a lot of fun, and, of course, hectic because of the unpredictability of working with animals, but everyone was very professional and took their jobs seriously.

The entire video had to be done in one shot, so it was out of the ordinary in the sense that there weren’t scenes or different set-ups to get through. We ran the song over and over (and over and over) again until we made it all the way through in one take.

Something I took away from that set was the importance of keeping the work environment upbeat and fun. I tried to do the same for my own film, even when things were going wrong. It helped that I had such a small crew, primarily consisting of my friends, and we all got along famously. I’ve been on sets where tensions ran a little too high, and that negative atmosphere doesn’t foster productivity well.

What advice do you have for young people seeking to study the arts and pursue a career in film production?

Love art. For me, that’s No. 1, and it applies to more than just film. Love art and appreciate it, devour it. Take in as much as you can and learn from it.

I learned how to write good short stories by reading a ton of short stories. Some were good and some weren’t, but I learned from them all. I watched a lot of television, a lot of movies, and I learned what works and what doesn’t; I learned what I enjoyed and what I didn’t.

That’s my biggest piece of advice: Take in everything and be inspired by it. If you love art, use it as a stepping-stone to create art. While you’re learning from others, make your own and practice.

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