Film has always been a passion of mine.
Whether I’m making movies, enjoying a new screening, or binging some old favorites, I love film and everything about it for a number of reasons, the main one being the people. From the compelling characters on the screen to the eccentric personalities who created them, it’s always people who drive the stories and make things interesting.
This will be my second year as one of the Directors for the 573 Film Festival. I’ve had the honor of meeting a number of very interesting people—talented actors, brilliant writers and directors, and visionaries who push the boundaries. They experiment with film and our perception of it by finding groovy new ways to tell their stories. I recently met a first-time filmmaker who is doing just that.
Meet Scott Phegley, a local occupational therapist, father, and most recently, filmmaker.
Scott’s experimental short, “Yellow,” was one of the films selected to be screened this year at the 573 Film Festival. After viewing it, we at the 573 were intrigued and inspired. We contacted Scott to get a good look inside the mind of this local budding artist and visionary.
So Scott, how about we start at the beginning? Tell us where you're from and a little about growing up.
I was born in a little crossroads town called Red Bud in Illinois. Most people have driven through there if they've done much traveling in Southern Illinois. I moved to the Cape Girardeau area with my family when I was ten.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I feel like I've always had an innate urge to tell stories through film. I don't know where it came from, but it's there. I wish I’d pursued it as a career, but as a shy Midwest kid, it didn't even enter my mind as a possibility. Instead, I pursue it as a hobby. I consider filmmaking the blank canvas on which to apply my particular version of art. I feel I have a natural talent for it, too.
How much did it cost to make your film?
I ended up spending between four and five thousand dollars to make my film, “Yellow.” I stopped keeping track because it becomes stressful to think about for a thrifty person like myself. I tried to cut costs wherever I could, such as booking AirBNBs when we traveled and using “guerilla style” filmmaking techniques, which involve shooting quick scenes in real locations without filming permits.
Was this your first script?
“Yellow” was the first script that I pursued to its end. I had other ideas over the years, but this one kept coming back to me. The idea came to me after coincidentally hearing about two different national news stories where tragedy struck entire families and left only one survivor. As a father with a family, I couldn't help but ask myself, “What would I do in that situation?” The script evolved and grew over the years as I added layers to the story and slowly built the courage and conviction to convince myself that making a film was an achievable dream for me.
The interesting and very untraditional nature of the cinematography in “Yellow” made it eligible for the Experimental Film category in the 573 Film Festival. Some of our readers may not be too familiar with this genre. Can you tell our readers a little more about “Yellow” and what makes it such an intriguing experimental film?
I used an experimental format for the movie in that none of the cast members’ faces are seen at any time. This came out of practicality due to not having access to experienced acting talent coupled with the desire to not let inferior acting effect the story. The more I thought about the “no faces” idea, the more I liked it—it was a bit of a fun challenge to pull off. My hope was that I could tell a compelling and interesting enough story that the audience would forget that they were not seeing faces.
What was your favorite moment during production? What was your favorite thing about being on set?
My favorite moments on set were when a spontaneous, unplanned idea for a scene came out of nowhere and we were able to pull it off. Our entire trip out West was comprised of those types of scenes. We had to just find shot opportunities and figure out the details on how to pull it off on the spot. One spontaneous scene was shot on Art Hill in Forest Park. I had plans to shoot in other places in the park, but when we drove by Art Hill, I was like, “Oh yeah, perfect.” It turned out to be one of my favorite shots in the movie.
Do you have a favorite scene?
The scene with the most personal importance is when Billy lays down for the night in an old abandoned house. This scene was shot in my grandparents’ old farmhouse from which I have many fond childhood memories. I remember coming in on cold winter days from playing outside to their warm, overly-heated home. Tired, I would lay on the floor and fall asleep for a nice, cozy nap. I shot the scene in one of the spots on the living room floor where I would take naps as a child. The house is now a wreck and only standing because of the trees that have grown up around it. I still enjoy visiting it when I can.
What do you hope people get from “Yellow?”
I would like to think that any film I make will encourage the viewer to think about something they’ve never considered before, and maybe even expand their ability to understand situations from another's perspective. I think we need more of that in our world.
If you could go back and change anything during production, would you? And if you could, what would it be?
The only thing I would change with the production would be technical mistakes with the camera settings. I knew the technological end of movie-making would be my weakness, so I don't let it bother me too much. Still, there are some shots I wish I had done a better job with.
Do you plan on making more films in the future?
I would love to shoot a documentary at some point. I've had some ideas over the years that have fallen through, but I'm always on the lookout for new opportunities. I want to focus on something I have a personal connection with, though. I want to be fully motivated to tell the story, and a personal connection would definitely help.
Thank you, Scott! It was awesome getting to know a little more about the man behind the helmet. To meet Scott and other featured filmmakers and interesting people, network, or simply enjoy some cool films, be sure to join us at the 573 Film Festival in Perryville, MO, on June 6th, 7th, and 8th. Find us on Facebook or check out www.573filmfestival.com for more info on all of the screenings, guest speakers, and super fun workshops we have in store for the 573 this year!
-Written by AJ Koehler