Neo-noir poetry drama “Guys Reading Poems” will debut at the Palm Beach International Film Festival this April during National Poetry Month. The innovative feature film uses poetry as a framing device to tell the story of a creative but troubled family living in a downtown Los Angeles artist’s loft. It was shot in black-and-white, largely using the brand new Red Epic Monochrome camera.
The story follows an all-male literary secret society that intervenes in the life of a family headed by a disturbed avant garde painter (Patricia Velasquez, “The Mummy,” “Liz En Septiembre”) whose sanity dissipates when she’s abandoned by her handsome lothario husband (Alexander Dreymon, “The Last Kingdom”) for his stunningly beautiful mistress (Lydia Hearst, “South of Hell”). In a feature debut performance, eight-year old Luke Judy plays the vulnerable child left in her care. The supporting cast includes Rex Lee (“Entourage,” Freeform’s “Young & Hungry”) and Christos Vasilopoulos (Alan Ball’s “Banshee”). Members of the secret society are played by Jerod Meagher (Freeform’s “Recovery Road”), Blake Sheldon (“The Age of Reason”), Justin Schwan (“Cutback”), Gopal Divan, Jason Fracaro (“Comedy Bang! Bang!”), Vincent Montuel and Hunter Lee Hughes, who also directs the film. Also appearing in the film are Megan Sousa (“Zero”), Daniel Berilla (“Kissing Darkness”) and Alastair Bayardo.
This is the debut feature film from Mr. Hughes, who credits finding the poetry collection of his late grandmother as inspiration for the film. “My grandmother not only read a lot of poetry, she marked up the poems, underlined certain passages and wrote notes in the margin comparing cherished phrases to figures in her life. The poetry she left behind served as psychological puzzle pieces to fill in gaps in my knowledge of my grandmother as a woman. It was a powerful experience and eventually I decided to make a mindbender film that employs individual poems as psychological clues to the journey of a protagonist. My grandmother loved poetry. I’ve always loved mindbender films like “Mulholland Drive” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” So, I designed “Guys Reading Poems” as a unique and compelling marriage of those forms of creative expression. I’m so pumped that we’re premiering during National Poetry Month – it’s perfect for us,” says Hughes.
In addition to Palm Beach International, the film has won the support of Danny Simmons (Producer, HBO’s “Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam”), who will present the film at his Corridor Gallery in New York City later in the Fall. Of the film, Simmons says, “The characters are interesting and well-defined and the storyline is gripping and magical. The crisp cinematography pulled me into every nuance of the story, but the poetry itself was the best of all the film’s commanding qualities. The poems themselves are thoughtful and complex. Words that I wanted to continually contemplate. They carried the production and never let go.”
Before directing “Guys Reading Poems,” Hughes wrote and directed the internet television series “Dumbass Filmmakers!” and authored two plays, “Fate of the Monarchs” (Critic’s Pick, “Backstage West”) and “The Sermons of John Bradley” as well as the dark short film “Winner Takes All” starring Alec Mapa. “Guys Reading Poems” was produced by Debbie Vandermeulen, Jason Fracaro and Hughes, with cinematography by Michael Marius Pessah, who won the Outfest “Five in Focus” award for his work in black-and-white on the feature film “Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean.” The score was written by Joachim Horsley with editing by Patrick Kennelly, production design by Nathaly Lopez and costumes by haute couture designer Shpetim Zero. The rest of the producing team includes co-producers Sammy Kusler, Terry Nitschke and Paul Trusik, executive producers Elizabeth A. Bell, J. Parker Buell, Dennis Crema, Anja Godhe, Johann Moonesinghe, Neelou Malekpour, co-executive producers Bradley R. Bernstein, Kerry H. Buell and Colin K. Buell and Tom Liebengood and associate producers Daniel Berilla, Josh Cohen, Michael Fister, Jordan Gregory, John C. Hall, Patrick Holzen, David Russo and Robert D. Womack. The film is a collaboration between Fatelink Productions and Fusion Features, in association with Crema Family Office, Xantara Film Capital, Fast Track Pictures and YourHollywoodPro.com.
The filmmakers believe that “Guys Reading Poems” is the first feature to be shot on the Red Epic Monochrome, which David Fincher employed on his Justin Timberlake music video, “Suit & Tie.”
The film features poetry by Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, along with a few modern poets, including current West Hollywood poet laureate Steven Reigns.
The Palm Beach International Film Festival is known for launching the debut of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” among others. For more details on the screening schedule, visit pbifilmfest.org and for news and upcoming festival announcements, as well as a poetry blog related to “Guys Reading Poems,” please visit: guysreadingpoems.com. An international premiere announcement is expected within a few weeks.
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