Fairfield filmmaker screens at GIFF

Former Fairfield resident Marc Underhill’s first feature film will make its East Coast debut at the Greenwich International Film Festival, which began May 29 and runs until June 2. The 2005 Fairfield High School graduate, who now lives in Los Angeles, is the producer, co-writer and editor of “Auggie.”

Richard Kind (“Argo,” “Gotham,” ) stars as a man forced into early retirement who falls in love with an augmented reality companion. Matt Kane is the movie’s director and co-writer.
The 80-minute film also features Susan Blackwell (“Master of None”), Larisa Oleynik (“Mad Men,” “10 Things I Hate About You”) and Christine Donlon (“Escape Room”).
It will also be screened Saturday, June 1, at 12:30 p.m. at the Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas, 2 Railroad Avenue, Greenwich. This showing includes a Q&A with Underhill and Kane.
Arts & Leisure writer Brad Durrell recently spoke to Underhill about his background and the movie.
Brad Durrell: Were you into movies growing up?
Marc Underhill: I was a kid with a bunch of different interests. I didn’t realize I wanted to pursue a life of acting and the arts until pretty late in high school, when I attended the Regional Center for the Arts my senior year. It really opened up my world.
BD: Is it hard breaking into the business?
MU: After moving out to L.A., as an actor I was having difficulty getting auditions. People recommend you write, produce and shoot your own content so you’ll have something to show to directors. I began writing comedy stuff just for myself and that’s when I got comfortable writing. In 2015, I partnered with Matt Kane to write a short film, “The Visitor,” that we took to festivals.
BD: Tell me about making “Auggie”
MU: “Auggie” is our first feature film (Matt Kane is the director and co-writer). It’s a sci-fi drama about a man forced into early retirement who gets a pair of augmented reality smart glasses that projects an imaginary companion. He’s all alone in a big house because his wife is at work, where she’s gotten a promotion, and his daughter is always with her boyfriend. He’s feeling a lack of purpose in his day-to-day life, so he opens up to this companion and falls down a path of being romantically involved with the augmented companion to the detriment of his relationship with his wife and daughter.
We came up with the idea based partially on living in L.A., where everyone is focused on their own path so it’s hard to find people willing to commit to things. The film’s main character can put the glasses on when he’s seeking companionship, and take them off when he doesn’t want to hold up his end of the bargain and be there for someone else. This is the concept we wanted to explore. It becomes almost about infidelity with a device, with something that’s not real.

BD: The film was made in Fairfield?
MU: We filmed in my childhood home, where my parents still live. We filmed two six-day weeks in Fairfield, mostly in the house and on the street. We were very fortunate to have the community open up their places to us. We filmed at a local coffee shop, gourmet store, hotel parking lot, the beach and a park gazebo. It was very cool to feel so welcomed.
BD: How will you distribute the film?
MU: It was just announced that “Auggie” will be distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films, which is a great company that does a lot of art house films.
‘Auggie” had its debut at a festival in San Jose and then was shown at festivals in Beverly Hills and Newport Beach. The Greenwich International Film Festival will be our East Coast premiere.
We crowdfunded for a good portion of the budget on Seed & Spark, which is like a Kickstarter for film and TV projects, and had a significant amount of support from the Fairfield community. Greenwich will be a great opportunity for a lot of our financial backers to see the film on the big screen.
There likely will be a limited theatrical release later this year. Nothing is nailed down. The goal is to have it be reviewed and then get a contract with a streaming company, such as iTunes and Amazon.
For information go to the film festival website, greenwichfilm.org.