Back to IndieWire

SXSW ’10 | DIY Director Garth Donovan Keeps It Simple in “Fossil”

SXSW '10 | DIY Director Garth Donovan Keeps It Simple in "Fossil"

Boston DIY filmmaker Garth Donovan is an independent filmmaker to the max. He completed his fourth feature, “Phillip the Fossil,” in a green, recession friendly manner, using a small crew and a host of non-actors. “Phillip The Fossil” follows an aging party animal chasing the now extinct glory days of his youth. Chuckling along as the carefree town jester, Phillip has become completely isolated in the dead end rut he so comfortably dug. The chance to pull himself out comes when an old love returns home and the opportunity to run his own landscaping business knocks. But before Phillip can dust himself off he must first ditch the woefully insecure seventeen year-old that’s been his shadow for the last month. With her jealous steroid-pumping ex in his grill and a best friend returning from Iraq with an acutely hostile form of PTSD, it isn’t long before Phillip gets tangled in tornado of violence that may tarnish his future forever. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]

“Phillip The Fossil”
Narrative Competition
Director: Garth Donovan
Producer: Garth Donovan, Chris Sacks
Cast: Brian Hasenfus, Nick Dellarocca, Ann Palica, Angela Pagliarulo, J.R. Killigrew, Rich Dellarocca, George Hasenfus
Screenwriter: Gath Donovan
Cinematographer: Matt Levin
Editor: Garth Donovan
72 minutes

Director Garth Donovan on his background as a filmmaker…

I am a Boston born and bred DIY filmmaker.  I run a small house painting company and make films on my off hours.  “PTF” is my fourth micro-budget feature.  I have been making films since I was 10 when a friends father got an old school VHS camcorder. I started in the backyard with friends and have been doing it since.  There is nothing that I enjoy more than getting together with a group of people, all on the same page, forgetting about everything and getting lost in the process of making a film.

About ten years ago, I was at party in my hometown, Needham.  There was an older kid there who had been hanging forever.  He bought everybody booze, made the most noise, and preyed on the most insecure yet cute girls. Nine years younger than him, we thought he was a clown, a straight loser.  I remember clowning him at the party, when someone turned to me and said “that kid’s a god damn fossil.” And the rest is history, right?

“PTF” was made with a small, intimate crew and a group of talented improvisational actors and non-actors. Everyone worked from an outlined script where the beats of the scene were written.  We used low lighting as much as possible. I like to give the actors complete freedom and see where they take the scene.   When editing began I would screen cuts for a bunch of trusted friends who would help give feedback and shape the storyline.  Much like any film presumably, there was a great deal of material cut to lean the story out.

The biggest challenge of making “PTF” came in the edit room.  The film is a collage of characters and balancing their different storylines was difficult.  The problem was trying to weave them into Phillip’s arc.  Everyone had to link to Phillip without it feeling forced or like their story was being rushed.  Basically it became an exercise in pacing.

I hope SXSW audiences will feel that “PTF” is a slice of everyday life that they can relate to.  The characters may be someone close to them and the pain on the screen may be something they’re trekking through.  The film is very serious, yet playful at the same time.

Donovan looking back at one film and filmmaker that inspired him…

Larry Clark’s “Kids” for its bold, unfiltered depiction of youth. I saw that film in its original run in the theatre and was terrified.  I was a teenager at the time and it felt so real.  I made “PTF” with similar aspirations of trying to capture that realism in the youth of today. Also, I wanted to bombard audiences, hit them hard with the ugly side of what young people are going through, like cyber bullying, steroid abuse, and PTSD. Maybe the film will serve as a wake up call for those who are struggling with similar issues.

Future plans for Donovan…

Currently I am working on three projects.  Along with Adam Roffman, I am producing a feature that I co-wrote with filmmaker Alex Karpovsky (“Woodpecker,” “Trust Us, This Is All Made Up”). The second project is a documentary that I am directing on Rodney Lucas, an underground rapper poised for commerical success who is battling with deep inner demons including sex addiction, bi-polar depression and his father’s incarceration for murder. And finally I am polishing off a script influenced by “Before Sunset” and the master of longing, Wong Kar-Wai. 

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Festivals and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox