Plenty of video-store clerks dream of making movies — just ask Quentin Tarantino. Jayson Argento, 35, of Colchester isn’t quite on that level. But he has translated his experiences working at Essex’s Video World into a movie called Finding Providence. Made on the super-cheap, it will be shown at Essex Cinemas this Saturday and distributed on DVD by All Channel Films.
Argento recalls that 10 or 12 years ago, when he clerked at Video World — a store he also owned for a few years — “My friend was wigged out by this guy” who used to rent regularly. In the movie, two clerks suspect the customer, a silent gent with Orville Redenbacher-esque suspenders, of involvement in the recent disappearance of a teen. One of them, played by Champlain College instructor Eric Ronis — who directed The Trojan Women this past spring — is nursing an obsession with another girl who vanished 10 years earlier.
Finding Providence looks unusually good for a film shot on digital video, thanks to a 24-frames-per-second camera that Argento doesn’t include in his official $1300 budget — his dad funded the equipment purchase, he says. The camera “simulates the frame rate of a movie,” he explains. “Your brain says, ‘I’m watching a film.’” His friend Adam Lukens contributed a surprisingly effective lighting scheme involving two lamps from Home Depot and a sheet of muslin. Another friend, Jeff Turner, wrote the score.
Argento filmed the movie over two weeks in July 2005 with a cast and crew of volunteers. At first, he says, “My friends weren’t super-excited to do a movie without monsters in it.” (Argento and other members of his local film and theater company, Stoneworks Entertainment, have produced a bunch of horror shorts.) But they came on board.
When it comes to distributing the movie, Argento says he had no illusions about snagging a plum deal: “Technically, I’m going to get fucked. Who do I want to fuck me?” After some advice from an L.A. lawyer and a phone chat with a former Vermonter who works for All Channel Films, he sent off his movie. The company will put Providence on the domestic DVD market and take a percentage of the sales.
Argento works at Costco now, but he still has his Essex connections: The movie will premiere at the cinema there, where a scene was also filmed.