New Canaan grads team up on film project
Sometime in 2011, at the suggestion of mutual acquaintances, New Canaan High School graduate Abigail Schwarz met up after her first year at New York Film Academy with another New Canaan grad, Nicola Scandiffio. Both, it seemed, shared a passion for movies and the film industry.
The two hit it off and ended up working together on a project, and the result was "Those Who Wander," a coming-of-age film involving a spring break road trip. It was written and directed by Schwarz and produced by Scandiffio.
The duo recently premiered the film, which was shot mostly in New Canaan and other Fairfield County towns, at the Ridgefield Playhouse. The house was packed heavily with local financial backers, both small and large, including best selling novelist James Frey, Schwarz said. Altogether, more than 400 people backed the film with online contributions, with another $130,000 being kicked in by others, including Frey, Schwarz said.
"Almost all of our investors were local within the Fairfield County area, so that was something that was really important to us," Schwarz said of the screening. "It was a night to show the film and say thank you for making it a reality."
Frey got behind the project in 2013, after reading about the fledgling filmmaker's efforts in a local news story publicizing their fundraising efforts, Schwarz said.
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"Most of the people who came aboard this project actually found us," Schwarz said. "James found us through local press, and he's from New Canaan. He called and ask me for the script, read it, and decided he liked it and gave us a substantial investment. We're very fortunate."
To get started toward their goal of financing the film in 2013, the pair courted local media, canvassed those they knew with business cards, and hung posters looking for contributions. They resorted to created a fundraising page at Kickstarter.com, a website that allows people to request a certain amount of money from contributors over a specific number of days. That campaign raised more than $70,000 between June and July 2013.
Schwarz said the finished film is based on a script she shared with Scandiffio that was colored by some of the emotional experiences and friendships she formed while attending film school in New York City.
"It is definitely based off of a lot of my experiences living in New York at the time, and it was about a story I wasn't seeing on TV and film," said the 22-year-old, who now lives in Los Angeles and is pursuing her film production career.
While the full range of themes and conflicts in the film resist easy summation, Schwarz said the main thrust is about the nature of friendship in late adolescence centering on the two main characters, Zoe and her male best friend, Sam. The setting is a road trip the pair take with three other college-age males to spend spring break at Sam's family's house in Georgia.
Schwarz said young adults at college often form intense and deep relationships that eventually cool or fracture.
"A lot of the foundation of this story is the concept that at that age, people play at friendships a lot, and people in college environments form very deep relationships quickly, which aren't always the most stable types of relationshps," Schwarz said.
In Georgia, Sam experiences continuing conflict with a stepfather, and Zoe also is confronted with questions about her relationship with her boyfriend, Joel, one of the other men on the trip.
"A lot of the dark comedy around the trip involves what a terrible choice it was to go there for spring break," Schwarz said.
"It was a very generationally specific story featuring people I don't see represented on a large scale in media today."
In the process of making the film, the pair incorporated their own company, Rival Film, and have an open-ended plan to travel to festivals to screen it and try to sell it for distribution, Schwarz said.
The pair are also trying to gear up for their next film project while attempting to find a larger stage for "Those Who Wander," she said.
"There are a lot of different venues for distribution to choose from," Schwarz said. "But for us, we're focused on being in preproduction for our next project. A lot of it is you have to be continually moving forward even as you're trying to share what you've done at the same time."