'Purgatory' is Fairfield filmmaker's recipe for success
After more than a year of shooting, editing and re-editing, Tony Pertesis is ready to unveil his locally produced movie "Purgatory."
He's not sure how to describe the result -- is it a horror comedy or a creepy tale of the supernatural with surprising belly laughs? -- but the 32-year-old actor-writer-director thinks people will have fun watching it and then trying to figure out what they just saw.
Known as "Tony the Greek" by many of the customers at his family's Fairfield diner -- the Andros -- Pertesis returned to the area four years ago after a stint in Los Angeles as an actor and writer.
He hopes "Purgatory" is just part of the creation of a community of artists who can come together to make all sorts of independent movies.
"I'm excited," Pertesis said in a phone interview. "I'm not saying this is `The Blair Witch Project' or that it will make millions of dollars, but I think people will have a good time."
The filmmaker will be on hand for the premiere screenings Saturday and Sunday at the Community Theater in downtown Fairfield.
Even though he has watched the film countless times during the editing process, Pertesis said he will leave classifying "Purgatory" up to those who see it.
"I guess I would call it a dark comedy with a science-fiction feel," he said of the loosely plotted picture.
"I've shown it to rooms full of people and there is always a lot of laughter and then some people say WTF was that?," he added, laughing.
Pertesis was open to suggestion throughout the shooting with actor friends from the area as well as the occasional passerby.
"I'm not sure that anyone has shot a movie the way I did," he said of the way he incorporated new elements into the story as he shot it.
"I saw a guy walking in the woods with a dog and he asked me what I was doing. He's in the movie," the filmmaker said, with a laugh.
"Purgatory" is the second movie Pertesis has made since he returned from Los Angeles -- the first was "Welcome to Jensen's Part 1" -- and he sees both of them as slightly rough drafts and the start of what he hopes will be more films in various genres.
Because of the introduction of lightweight video cameras and computer editing programs, Pertesis was able to make his movie for less than $1,000, and then tweak the result for months after the shoot while he worked 50 or 60 hours a week at the Andros.
"It was hard and my computer crashed three times," he recalled. "But I was able to show customers scenes late at night in the diner and get their feedback, so everything came together pretty well."
Pertesis is hoping for lots of comments and suggestions from the audiences at the two weekend showings in Fairfield.
"I have two films under my belt now, but I need other people to make my art better," he said.
"I feel so blessed to be living in this society right now," the filmmaker added of the freedom that video technology has given aspiring movie storytellers.
He's glad he didn't come along 20 or 30 years ago when you had to shoot film and then rent expensive editing equipment.
"Just look at YouTube," he said of the website that contains several excerpts from his movie. "You can make one smart video and become a household name."
The Community Theatre is at 1424 Post Road, Fairfield. Screenings of "Purgatory" are at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 203-255-6112 or check www.communityfilm.org.