Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the Cards: Films to benefit stage

My favorite moment in a Charles Card film comes near the end of “The Good Samaritan,” when the vampire (Jack Rushton) bares his fangs, ready to feed, for better or worse, on the life blood of that vapid party girl (Nicole Foti) who had disgusted him a few minutes earlier when they met at a cafe that looks just  like Stella’s, the former Middle Street Foods, and little Miss Pretty (vacant) looks up at him and asks, “You’re not from around here, are you?” It’s not the first vampire flick for the Newbury biochemist-turned-filmmaker. That would be “Natural Selection,” a character-driven story about a sad, self-loathing and desperately lonely night stalker who is sickened by what he is and what he has to do to stay alive.  And it probably won’t be his last: He remains intrigued by the kind of “multilayered, tortured” characters vampires tend to be. Besides, the undead will never be dead. Not in this culture. Vampires — and zombies and the whole array of creatures that haunt the night — are huge and “will never lose their appeal totally,” he says. “There will always be vampire movies around in some form.” But, while intrigued by the genre, the filmmaker is not stuck on it, as anyone attending the screening of his work this weekend at the Actors Studio will see. He’ll show the vampire films, but will also screen two comedies, an action martial arts film and even a music video, now in post-production, for prolific Amesbury songwriter Andy Pratt, best known for his mid-'70s hit “Avenging Annie."

Card, who still works at a Boston-area biotech firm by day to finance creative projects, started making films in 2004. He never went to film school. He learned on his own. “I’ve always liked the movies and always liked to write." He’s also always liked to tell stories — and filmmaking, he says, is essentially writing stories, albeit in a visual way — “and I’ve got a very active imagination,” he says, “soooo …” But fillmmaking was not his first choice as a creative distraction. He started working on novels and screenplays, but, as a new writer without connections in the industry, Card knew he would be investing a huge amount of time without much of a chance of seeing a return. So the thought of working smaller, making short films while working on larger projects, seemed appealing. He made "Natural Selection” in 2004. The film project, which grew out of “Night People,” a Card screenplay, was optioned but was never produced. It made the rounds and was featured at the Newport Horror and Cinemaslam film festivals as well as the  Ruff Cutz Film Conference.

Card is comfortable with the genre. “Horror is pretty straightforward,” he says. “It’s pretty easy to deliver what’s expected by the genre and by people interested in it.” But he decided to go into a different direction — comedy. Which, he admits, is more difficult to pull off. “Comedy is such a gamble,” he says. “What I find funny and what you find funny can be quite. different” But he will screen two comedy pieces at the Actors Studio benefit — “Plague Guard,” a parody of the moronic television commercials that we love to hate, this one providing relief (not) for effects of, well, the plague; and "9 to 5'er,” a film about a poor schmo under the thumb of his boss.

During the Jan. 15 screening, which will benefit the Actors Studio, Card  will also show something completely different: “The Challenge,” a martial arts film about a young Samurai with a big chip on his shoulder.

The filmmaker currently has two screenplays in development:  "Half Breed,” a return to the horror genre, and "Green Towers,” which he describes as an environmental/action script. He’s also written a sci-fi novel called, "The Slave Planet," and a stage play that was performed at last year’s Random Acts, the play-in-a-day series, which he remembers as fun and nerve-wracking, but little else. “I remember doing rewrite after rewrite after rewrite,” he says. “I’m not used to writing as fast as I can, like that. I remember not being really happy with the outcome, but at 2 a.m., after hours of writing and five or six cups of coffee, it sounded pretty good.” He’s also taken acting lessons with Actors Studio honcho Marc Clopton because he wanted to learn what actors go through.
Films being screened will be “The Good Samaritan,” “Plague Guard,” “The Challenge," and “Natural Selection.”  You’ll see lots of familiar locales, like Atkinson Common, Maudslay State Park, Prince Place and Middle Street.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: There will be a screening of a collection of short films by local filmmaker Charles Card at 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Actors Studio, The Tannery, Mill #1, Suite #5, West Gate Entrance. Among the films being screened will be "The Good Samaritan," "Plague Guard," "The Challenge," and "Natural Selection." Ticket prices are $18, or $15 for seniors and students. All proceeds benefit The Actors Studio, For more information, call  978-465-1229 or click here.

ONLINE: For a peek at the trailer for “Natural Selection,” as well as links to other Charles Card films, click here.

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