Rooftop Films is a nonprofit, New York-based outdoor film festival series; among the ways they support filmmakers is renting movie projectors. And in 2007 they got a call from a woman named Marie Castaldo who wanted to rent equipment for her Queens International Film Festival.
"We gave her a discount," Rooftop Films Program Director Dan Nuxoll told Indiewire, "but we never got a deposit. She disappeared and never paid her bill. It was a few thousand dollars, which is a big chunk of money for us. We tracked her down, and she said that her father had been ill and that we could set up a payment plan." She went dark again.
The next year, Nuxoll got an invitation to the 2008 Queens International Festival. "I assumed she would never do it again. After I got the message, I left a message with her intern, asking that the festival pay its bills from last year.
"She called me late that night, telling me she would sue me for 'one million American dollars' for slander and libel. I had to explain to her why that was not a valid accusation."
She called back the next morning, apologized, and said she would set up a payment plan. She dropped off again, and a week later, Nuxoll got a call from a projectionist who had been stiffed by Castaldo. The projectionist gave Nuxoll the names of a couple of people who had been involved with her, including her ex-husband Richie Castalano. Nuxoll began to uncover a track of pseudonyms (including what appears to be her real name, Marie Jocelyne) bounced checks and, in one case, an unpaid bill for $35,000 for an elaborate party.
The next year, Nuxoll decided to start shooting a documentary about Marie Castaldo/Jocelyne with Martha Shane (co-director of bisexuality doc "Bi the Way"). The two have established a Kickstarter campaign for the film.
"The first shoot was in 2009 at the festival," Shane said. "She was running away from everybody. We have a shot of her running through the door."
The two recently visited Europe to interview the woman, who has been deported from the US. At that point, the two said they knew had a film.
Nuxoll said, "It was our dream goal to talk to her. Now that we've got those interviews, we have the foundation for the documentary. We have her side of the story, and that is essential."
What makes this would-be grifter so attracted to film festivals? "Film festivals don't make money," Nuxoll reminds us.
"She's a film lover," Shane said. "Now that she lives in France and Spain, she doesn't have a job and she just goes to movie theaters and watches Hollywood movies so she can be transported by the United States."
Nuxoll added, "She loved being around cultured people. She loves red carpets, dressing up for premieres. When you speak with her, it's all she ever cared about. She stuck by that. Wanting the attention is a big part of it."
The duo hopes to shoot more interviews in Vermont, Florida, and Los Angeles throughout 2012, edit in 2013 and debut in 2014.
"The Mystery of Marie Jocelyne"
Directors/Producers: Dan Nuxoll and Martha Shane
Directors of Photography: Andreas Burgess, Adam Gutch