John McCarty has authored 15 books and ghost-written about 15 more, but when it comes to telling a story these days, he’s thinking strictly as a screenwriter.
McCarty’s 30-minute film about the Civil War, “Thirst,” is a fictional tale he wrote based on a short story by 19th century writer Stephen Crane. The film was made largely with a cast and crew assembled from the student body at the University at Albany, where his producer, Audrey Kupferberg, is a professor in the drama department.
After spending much of the 1980s and 1990s writing such books about movies as “The Modern Horror Film,” “Splatter Movies: Breaking the Last Taboo of the Screen,” and “The Films of Mel Gibson,” McCarty has made the switch to making them. During much of that time he was also a film editor and news photographer for two local television stations, but always longed to make his own film.
Before “Thirst,” McCarty made a short film in 2009 called “Confinement,” based on the classic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins, and followed that up with a documentary about American actor William Alland, “The Man Who Pursued Rosebud.”
WHERE: Roger Bacon Hall, Siena College, Loudonville
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: www.cdcwrt.org
WHERE: Franchere Center, Mabee Farm, 1080 Main St., Rotterdam Junction
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: www.schenectadyhistorical.org
“Thirst” was shot in the town of East Nassau in Rensselaer County, and stars Derek H. Mellina and John MacSchnurr as two Union soldiers matching their wits against two members of the Confederate army, played by Pete D’Amico and Nick Brigadier. The object is to gain control of a water source, a well, shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg. Also in the film are Mark G. David and Robert Keough.
The film will be screened twice next weekend, beginning at 6 Friday night at Siena College during a monthly meeting of the Capital District Civil War Round Table. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, the movie will be shown at the Mabee Farm’s Franchere Center in Rotterdam Junction. Both showings are free.
McCarty will be at Siena College on Friday night to discuss the film, while Kupferberg will host a discussion following the movie at the Mabee Farm.
McCarty is a native of East Greenbush, where he lives, and is a graduate of Columbia High School. He went to Boston University and majored in communication, and after graduating spent some time in the Peace Corps in South America. He then headed to California to learn more about the film industry before moving back east.
Q: How did “Thirst” come about?
A: A: “Confinement” was shot 99 percent inside, so for the next film I wanted to give myself a chance to do something outside. When I started thinking about a story idea, I liked the idea of a story set in the Civil War and so for inspiration I looked into the short stories of Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce. I came upon a story by Crane called “Heroism,” and I liked the centerpiece for the story but not the overall idea. It’s a story about Union and Confederate soldiers fighting over a well to get water. So I came up with my own story; something we could do on a reasonable budget, and Audrey was happy to help out and became my producer.
Q: You also worked with Kupferberg on “Confinement.”
A: Yes. We’ve been friends for a while now, and “Confinement” was kind of an experiment to see if we could put together a very efficient team and make a very polished short film. Making films had been very expensive, but when the digital age arrived it became possible to make a film with limited resources. [Kupferberg] put out some feelers in her classes and we were able to cast it entirely with a few local community theater actors and students from UAlbany. We did the same thing for “Thirst,” and except for my cinematographer, Jeff Grove, nearly the entire cast and crew were UAlbany students. And they were fantastic. It’s been like a living film school for the kids, and it’s very gratifying for me to know that some of them went on to pursue a career in film because of their experience with us. There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom.
Q: How did you find the location for your film?
A: It was shot entirely in the area of East Nassau, and was actually at a historic location called Big Thunder, a site related to the Anti-Rent War of the early 19th century. There’s 95 acres of wilderness, much of it a farm owned by Diane Maguire and she was a huge help to us.
Q: Are you done writing books?
A: I wrote one novel quite a while ago, a suspense horror thriller called “Deadly Resurrection,” and I got that out of my system. Most of the books I wrote were about the history of film. But when I think about stories these days I don’t think a short story or a book. I just don’t think in those terms. I think in terms of the screen. When you’re writing a story you have to do a lot of ‘he said, she said,’ and write a lot of description and I get bored very quickly with that. I’m thinking about how this story is going to look on film.
Q: What is your next project?
A: I’ve got an idea in mind for something. The object, of course, is to try to put together a feature film, and I do have a script for one. We’re looking for backers so I am going to look into it, but until then I’m working on another short film. I look at it as an educational exercise for the Albany students. I can’t praise them enough, and I love working with them.
Q: Where did the name of your film company, “Leering Buzzard Pictures,” come from?
A: I can’t tell you. That’s a secret.