BWW Interview with Festival Award-Winning 'All in Time' Co-Director Chris Fetchko
It sounds like a made for Hollywood story: a guy who loves music and a certain band quits his big-money job in New York City to come home and manage said band. Well, in Chris Fetchko's case All in Time is true...okay, about 50 percent the truth.
I caught up with the Pennsylvania native as the filmmaker's latest ramps up for its official release October 4th. Shot almost entirely in the NE PA city of Wilkes-Barre, the town itself is a character.
But let's back up a bit, as Fetchko explains what led up to it: "In 1995, I discovered a band called the Badlees. I was in college up in Syracuse, New York, and I was studying to be an accountant. I did want to be in the music business, but on the business side of it, and this band became my favorite band. I didn't realize they were from Pennsylvania.
"I was too young to see them rise through the bars," Fetchko explains further, "so I moved to New York, got a pretty decent job. I had it all set up in terms of career, and I would spend weekends coming home to see the band."
Then things got interesting for Fetchko. "I was working for two years to get my certification," he says, "and then my college roommate and I made a film called Everything's Jake. I co-wrote and produced that, and that's how I got to know the Badlees; I contacted their manager about having their music in the film."
Jake..., which starred Ernie Hudson earned moderate to high marks Fetchko and first-time director Matthew Miele. Fetchko is quick to say what anyone who has been to Hollywood will tell you: "The film business is a tough business. I went to LA, played the game for a little bit, moved back to New York and got a job doing accounting at Capitol Records.
Enter managing the band, and All in Time. The title character Charlie (played by Sean Modica), follows Fetchko's footsteps to some degree. "The story is about 50 percent based on actual events," he admits, "I came up with a couple of angles to make it film-worthy."
So is Charlie Chris?
"I would say Charlie a lot," Fetchko explains. "The movie sat on the shelf in my mind for a while because I didn't want to write an autobiography of me. Who wants to see a picture of me? In all seriousness, the story is about (how) everyone's got a dream; some people chase them, some people don't. It's about the choices one has to make when you're going after your dream."
Fetchko goes further, as he considers the topic of filmmaking, and how the new technology could be making the art a lost one. "Everybody can make a movie now with little money," he says. "You can literally go out and make a movie on your Smartphone and edit it, and have it up on iTunes or some platform to distribute on your own. The first film (Everything's Jake) we shot in actual film, and it takes you two days to get the dailies back to see what you got. With digital, you just rewind-you got that, yeah-the technology's awesome, and it makes things a lot cheaper, but it also makes the barriers of entry lower to actually make a movie.
'I speak to a lot of high school kids in media classes," Fetchko goes on, "they know more about the technology than I do. But they don't have anything to say, story-wise. I think the problem that this generation has is (it's) BECOMING so easy to just pick up a camera and make a film. Some say that's a good thing because you can a hundred films and find your way...but you need to have a good story, otherwise it doesn't matter what you shoot. You have to have a story that people respond to, ultimately."
Fetchko cites a couple of good examples. "Swingers or Clerks, these were films that were made really cheaply, production-wise, but they connected on some level. When we did Everything's Jake, we had to have a story in order to get the money, to get the camera in our hands, to get a crew. The editing was 100-thousand dollars, as opposed to now, I could edit it on my laptop. So that actually forced us to get into the game. You had to have people write checks, you have to be able to give a script to somebody and have to read it and connect to it. No one invests in films to make money-you invest in films because you're passionate about it. Don't forget the movie is about the story, period."
Most of All in Time was shot in Wilkes-Barre, with the exception of some interior shots, which were done in Lancaster's Chameleon Club. "There's not any music clubs around anymore," Fetchko says, "the live, traditional CBGB's type of rock club. I wanted to go (to the Chameleon), so I made the crew, and everyone gave me crap about it. Everybody got there, they said, 'Okay, we get what you're going for,' 'cause they don't make clubs like that anymore."
With a semi-autobiographical story, Fetchko found the characters coming to him. "It's funny, because you write a movie most of the characters are based on real people," he says. "When I'm writing the script, I'm hearing their voices, I actually hear those people. You're looking for people that have some name recognition to help sell the film. For me, I wanted to look for what best moved the story; they're all interpretations of the character."
Fetchko is quick to credit the partnership of Marina Donohue. "She was helpful in making sure this wasn't just an autobiography," he explains, "but one of the things I wanted to do was have the actual musicians to be in the movie."
And then, some attention to detail: "It drives me crazy," he says, "when I watch movies and the band is lip syncing or you have a scene, it's a honky-tonk bar and the bands playing and the guy and girl walk to the bar and the music dips and they start talking normally. That's not how it happens you have to SCREAM when you get in the bar, what do you want to drink, you know? So I wanted to capture that vibe."
To get around this, Fetchko had all the music recorded live on scene, before shooting, "so we get a live almost concert recording, but because of the way you have to shoot a movie we have to come back and stage everything. I wanted the real musicians actually in the movie...they're pretending to play, but they're actually playing their own music that they played a week ago in that same room. So the film comes off very authentic."
Charlie is played by Sean Modica, whose film credits include Long Story Short and Keane. Fetchko credits Modica for a lot of work before they even got started. "We needed to find somebody that could handle the intense schedule and the stamina to do it," he says. "We wanted to go after an unknown lead, logistically, to keep costs down. So this actor came in and he read for the role and we liked him a lot, and he started reading for us. Nobody matched what we were seeing him do in the role and auditions. For about a year and a half he was just helping out, part of the team, and we told him you're the guy."
Starring opposite Modica is Vanessa Ray (Blue Bloods, Devil's Due), who plays Rachel. "There was just a chemistry between those two," Fetchko recalls, "and that was very important to keep the chemistry of everyone together."
Call it director's privilege, but Fetchko couldn't resist casting a favorite, veteran actress, Lynn Cohen, who should be immediately recognized for her role in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but also Eagle Eye and Munich. "She worked on my last film, Eavesdrop (2008), and I just loved working with her," he says. "I wrote a role for her, and that was not even a question of who was going to play her."
All in Time then proved itself on the festival circuit, snapping up a dozen awards, including Best Director at the International Film Festival in Milan, Italy. "The highlight for me was not winning the award," Fetchko says, "but seeing people all over the world. Every culture you could think of was in the audience and afterward, one after another coming up to us, saying, 'I love this movie'."
The film has its official release Oct. 7th in NY and Los Angeles, and it'll play in a traditional movie setting. You can catch the premiere on the 4th, at the AMC EMPIRE 25. Fetchko and Company then take All in Time on a 20-city tour, including a hometown screening at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA on the 16th. The tour ends in Lancaster at the Chameleon on December 16th with performances by the Badlees and Philadelphia-area singer/songwriter Laura Shay, who also appears in the film.
"(All in Time is) pretty American film," Fetchko sums up. "It's not worldly in any artistic manner...but there's a universal theme to our story, about love and life and detours and what matters in the end. And people are latching onto that."