When Scotia filmmaker Dan Ventresca takes a vacation, he’s not traveling to far-off locales to relax.
He usually spends the time writing scripts or behind the camera working with actors and others to produce his latest project.
Most recently, he was behind the camera in Schenectady, where he filmed “A Convergence.” The feature film follows a happily married woman who is having an affair and grappling with conflicting feelings. The abrupt arrival of a stranger in the middle of the night, while her husband is out of town, makes her question all she knows about love and desire, commitment and compromise, as a psychological battle ensues between the two.
It’s the second feature film that Ventresca has written and directed, though he’s also done several short films. The Guilderland native studied at the New York Film Academy in Hollywood and early in his career produced music videos that were featured on MTV. While he worked in the industry for some time, around eight years ago he decided to move back to the Capital Region.
“[I] can get a lot more help and support here than I would in L.A.,” Ventresca said.
Thus, in between working a full-time job, Ventresca works on writing scripts and editing.
“It’s so intoxicating to make a film, it’s chaos. It’s exciting. It’s fun. So the process alone is addicting but I try to at least have something to say . . . something maybe a little different or something of substance,” Ventresca said.
“A Convergence” was inspired by an episode of “The Twilight Zone” and an interest in human psychology.
“I just loved the old Twilight Zone series and one of my favorite episodes was about this woman at a bus station and her doppelganger. It [takes place in] a rainstorm in New York, and she’s trying to catch this bus and her doppelganger is there and it’s this weird, fun tale. It always fascinated me,” Ventresca said. “I wanted to try to do something along those lines.”
He went through an extensive editing process and rewrote the script more than a dozen times last year. Then, to produce “A Convergence,” he brought on board Queensbury-based actor and producer Chris Gaunt.
“Dan sent me the script. I loved it,” Gaunt said. The two had met through another local film production and just clicked. Gaunt had gotten into acting and the film industry several years ago, after spending most of his career in business. At the time, after acting in many short films, he was looking for more feature film projects. Ventresca’s fit the bill.
They decided to shoot it on a limited budget in Albany and Schenectady.
“Limited locations, limited cast and crew . . . that we felt very good about,” said Gaunt, who also acted in the film.
They shot the entire feature over the course of 10 days last month, working with cast members Jennifer Lefsyk of Schenectady, Marlain Angelides of New York City and Carlos Morrow of New Jersey.
One of the main locations was Ventresca’s parents’ Schenectady home, which perfectly suited the script.
“It’s a wide open, beautiful, spacious home that cinematically is going to look gorgeous on film,” Gaunt said.
While the location was ideal, the short timeframe they had to film was challenging.
“Even on my short films, I had six days for those sets and this was 10 filming days for a feature – a shorter feature, but a feature nonetheless,” Ventresca said. “I think the key is to just have a plan and then be flexible with what happens because the actors are going to bring something that you didn’t plan for that is just incredible.”
It helped that Ventresca was impeccably organized, according to Gaunt.
“I really felt like compared to some other sites, this was a really well-oiled machine. Everyone knew their slot. They all knew their role on the team. Dan did a great job fostering a collaborative team approach and we all knew what we were going to do well before we got on set, which to me is a great lesson to any filmmaker,” Gaunt said.
He added that Ventresca also took the time to set up rehearsals well in advance and worked with the actors in between takes.
“He really wanted to tease out the best performances from his actors and get the best work he could from our small but mighty crew. He did a great job with that, and I really applaud that attention to detail. I’m convinced all that preparation and planning will make a difference when people see this film,” Gaunt said.
They also had a dedicated team, including Kathie Gaunt, Chris’ wife, to help everything run smoothly behind the scenes.
“To me, it’s a team effort. Without that team effort . . . it’s a tough slog because it’s so demanding and the reward is really the finished product. None of these films are guaranteed. You just do the absolute best you can and put your best foot forward,” Gaunt said.
At this point, Ventresca is editing the film, which will take several months. Eventually, the team plans to submit it to major film festivals. If it doesn’t get accepted they’ll work with an aggregate and place it on a streaming service.
Most of the team members behind the film are from the Capital Region and that’s in part thanks to the growing creative market in the area, according to Gaunt.
“You have actors, you have crew, you have folks that are set designers . . . you can find those resources in and around the 518, which is cool for a filmmaker. It’s somewhat reassuring to say, I don’t need to go to L.A. to make a great film. I don’t need to go to New York necessarily. Not that there’s anything wrong with New York or L.A. I work there. But you can make a really top-notch film with incredible talent, both acting and crew talent, right in the 518 area,” Gaunt said.
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