20. Maryanne Galvin
Now we met recently in Warsaw and your wonderful short film ‘A Scratch for Every Itch’ was a winner out our South Europe International Film Festival in Valencia back in May! Tell us a little bit about the reasons why you decided to make this film?
A Scratch for Every Itch was a departure for me- a mockumentary–my maiden voyage into comedy. Long story short: The film is loosely based on a personal experience with bed bugs I encountered at a nice hotel while attending a film festival in a Big City, USA. It was a traumatic experience on many levels for me. I had to find a way to cope with the aftermath. Hyperbole and humor fit the bill. The film was written on weekends the month after the ‘ordeal’, I gathered a small but enthusiastic crew (3 cameras including a drone, which was a first), a few friends, and two actual experts in the extermination field. Over the course of 3 weekends during the summer of 2018, we managed to shoot this 14 minute film. It was so much fun to make and actually did help me to ‘heal’ from the trauma. Based on the feedback received showing this film around the globe, the film also provides viewers with factual information likely to be helpful to anyone in a similar situation.
Now often I get to reel off different creative roles such as; producer, actor, editor etc…. Your roles vary in a different way. Filmmaker, forensic psychologist, educator, and entrepreneur…. How did your journey into film begin given your other areas of expertise?
A decade after completing my doctorate in psychology and establishing my career as a forensic psychologist, I had the strong desire to become involved in a creative community in the Boston area. I’ve always loved cinema, story-telling and writing. So I started taking creative writing classes at Emerson College in the evenings after work. One thing led to another. I matriculated into their MFA program (Masters in Fine Arts) wherein I totally immersed myself in writing for screen and radio. Emerson has its own radio station. I wrote public service announcements as part of an independent study. Meanwhile, I volunteered as crew for other grad student films. This was a great way to pick up lots of experience behind the camera, operating the boom, producing, location scouting, and script supervision and so on. Emerson provided a wonderful opportunity to learn all the aspects of film making. Meanwhile I completed my MFA thesis which was a feature length (fiction) screenplay. An LA agent acquired and optioned it, but it was never produced. (Silver lining: my student debt was greatly reduced thanks to this little thesis screenplay!)
Therein began my independent film making career.
As a forensic psychologist, my role is to distill the relevant psychological information and ‘paint a picture’ for the judge and jury, in a factual manner. Documentary film making seemed a natural fit. My first doc (a feature) was born out of my interest in those criminal defendants on death row who request so-called “speedy execution.” Thanatos Rx: The Death Penalty Debate in America portrayed a Federal Death Row inmate who was to be the first federal prisoner to receive the ‘speedy execution’ in over 50 years. However, during the course of my production, another high profile criminal, Tim McVeigh, instantly requested and was granted his speedy execution (pushing the subject of my film down the ladder.) I had the honor of screening Thanatos Rx at the Cannes Film Market and it was picked up for distribution shortly thereafter. Of note, this defendant is still on Federal Death Row. I hear from attorney now and then.
Your 2018 short film ’13 Reasons to Fly’ tells a tale that is all too frequent in the world we live in today. Was this film made with education at the forefront of your mind?
13 Reasons to Fly was a short doc commissioned by the state agencies involved with youth and mental health in Massachusetts. The genesis for this film was a particular 15 year old who took umbrage with the Netflix series (13 Reasons Why). She watched the series while she was in a psychiatric hospital subsequent to a serious suicide attempt. She and her peers felt the series glorified suicide (made it seem like a reasonable option for teenagers in pain) and stigmatized those with symptoms of mental illness. She developed a peer-based support system which she dubbed “13 Reasons to Fly.” The film chronicles her journey as she launched this program in schools and psychiatric settings across most of New England and beyond. Educating others about resources, battling stigma, and offering others hope were her goals. The film was one vehicle available to her and others who shared this common interest.
My favourite type of films are documentaries, like yourself I love human behaviour and I feel documentaries really allow you to explore a subject matter in a way that offers freedom. Have you always wanted to cover topics that are relevant to the society we live in?
Non-fiction story telling is certainly my first love. But we can learn so much about human behaviour from a well-crafted fictional account of one’s life or circumstance in society.
If you could make any film right now fiction or non-fiction what would it be?
Tough question…so many ideas and so little time. Here are some broad brushes….general areas of interest without saying too much: The Battle of the Bulge; people who lived behind the so-called “Iron Curtain” in the 1980’s; people seeking reparations in the wake of desegregation in the s Boston public schools in the 1970’s; exploring the gray areas of cases involving sexual assault/rape (from the perspective of the DA, defense attorney, SANE nurses, victims, the accused); a deep dive discussion into American children’s actually understanding of the so-called “active shooter” trainings spreading the nation
But wait, there’s more. I’d love to do another comedy or mockumentary and have several ideas up my sleeve.
Finally—ANYTHING written/directed by Seth MacFarlane or the Farrelly Brothers. Whatever you need guys: on set psychologist, personal assistant, stunt women of a certain age with a fabulous tuck and roll.
As an independent filmmaker what changes do you feel the industry needs to make in the next few years to continue supporting all content?
You’ve probably heard this from every filmmaker already–distribution. (I’m drawing a blank here…not sure what to suggest so that the industry will support all content) Maybe skip this question? Dunno. sorry..
And finally, what can we expect from you next? Short, feature?
I’m super busy launching a new short documentary Bound by Precedent www.mgproductions.biz and looking forward to a rewarding 2020 festival experience!
Additionally, while in Warsaw with all of you, I had the good fortune of lending my Producer skills to an intriguing collaborative venture. As I understand it, this episodic comedy-Wablief-had its genesis at a Fusion festival in Belgium. A multi-talented, international cast & crew have assembled, the script is evolving, and fundraising is underway. Everyone involved has their eyes set on the next opportunity to gather and shoot another installment in 2020.
Naturally, one of the topics alluded to earlier will likely worm its way into my unconscious. At some point, perhaps, I will begin pre-production research. I just can’t say which if any will be the one. I remain open to possibilities. Life may be short but it is wide…
Interviewer: Dan Hickford
Guest: Maryanne Galvin