Reaching the big time: Fort Myers film hits Cannes
Mr. Chase’s dramatic, 25-minute movie, “When You Feel Love,” starring two former ESC students — with a haunting, guitar sweetened score by Southwest Florida musician Chris Ludvigsen — was chosen from among thousands to be shown late this week at the annual Cannes Film Festival in the south of France.
Mr. Chase and Mr. Ludvigsen together will attend the 11-day fete that kicks off Wednesday with Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and their new film, “The Great Gatsby.”
The invitation-only event, the world’s most prestigious, brings new films before a jury headed this year by the American film producer Steven Spielberg. Mr. Chase made the movie in and around the Fort Myers campus of Edison State and his own City of Palms apartment, then entered it in “The Short Film Corner” of the Cannes Court Mertage.
“The Short Film Corner was created in the early 1990s at Cannes as a way to nurture independent short work — a lot of filmmakers are able to really experiment, and do things they would not be able to do in feature-film making,” explains the low-key Mr. Chase, 53.
He first tried his hand at movie-making with a 16 mm camera and equipment weighing about 60 pounds at Naples High School.
“When You Feel Love” celebrates his lifelong ambition to push the boundaries of dramatic cinema — not with technical razzle-dazzle, necessarily, but with intensely focused storytelling. Mr. Chase used a filmmaking method made famous by the British producer and director, Mike Leigh, in which actors work from a story notion without a script.
In this case, lead actor Jed Krause, who studied photography at Edison State with Mr. Chase, accepted the offer to try his hand as an actor simply because he respected his former photography teacher.
Mr. Krause is now studying physics (“science is my first love,” he admits) at the University of Minnesota.
“Nothing was ever scripted. He just told us, ‘You guys have the liberty to do whatever you think the character would do, or say,’” he explains. “So we met many times over a few months to make this person, to create who this person was, before we shot the film.”
In this storytelling form, the actor’s sense of character becomes so profound, a written script is not required.
“Steve just said, ‘I don’t want you to think, what would I do?’ So in the end, I sort of like this kid we created. I respect the fact that he’s young. He’s sort of whiny, but who isn’t in that position?”
The story illuminates the anguish of a young man who feels a profound love for his high school girlfriend but loses her when the two part ways after trying a long-distance relationship from their respective colleges.
Co-starring as his friend is Willie Filkowski, now a University of Michigan student who left Edison State to study acting, one of only six selected to enter an elite interdisciplinary arts program there.
While all of that sounds ordinary enough, Mr. Chase’s idea — and his execution — is not, which may be what attracted the front-line judges at Cannes, 2013 to respond to his entry within six hours, telling him his movie would be presented and thus honored.
“I’m most interested in those moments between the big events in our lives — those connecting moments that are overlooked more and more.”
To connect those moments with the long hot wire of music — perhaps the most powerful and revealing language in some films — Mr. Chase invited guitarist and musician Chris Ludvigsen, formerly of the band Man on Wire and then working as an assistant librarian at Edison State, to create a soundtrack.
“He gave me a DVD, and I sat down and watched it — one of the first things I started playing is the guitar you hear at the beginning,” says Mr. Ludvigsen.
“The film is very subtle. It’s a quiet film, but it builds until it becomes powerful, emotionally.
“The main character is going through a hard time, so the main guitar melody is melancholic at the beginning.”
And without telling the story, the lyrics reveal the truth of such a tale, perhaps: “Tell me, am I dreaming/This life/ It’s designed to fool/I’m leaving, and you’re still fine/Nothing’s got nothing on me/Naturally/I’ll take the high road/ If you’ll help me/You’ll see.”
It’s a truth that might change, in plot and score.
“I used the same chords at the end, and in the end credits,” explains Mr. Ludvigsen.
“But I added a ukulele, which to me adds a dimension of brightness, of hope. I didn’t want to overpower the story, I wanted to go with what’s there.”
What’s there, and now what’s going to be elsewhere, all over the planetary world of cinema lovers, starting this week in Cannes. ¦