Anthony L. Fisher, who moved to Hoboken about a year ago, is one of 25 semi-finalists in the festival for his 7-minute short, Bed Head, which premiered at the 2007 Los Angeles International Short Film Festival and screened at the 2007 New Filmmaker's Summer Screening Series in New York City.
While Fisher, director and co-writer of the short, says he's been trying to enter high-profile festivals, even if Bed Head doesn't win (first prize is a professional filmmaker's camera), the exposure gained from Now's site is significant.
"If we were to get into Sundance [Film Festival], we would only have [reached] about a few hundred people, whereas on YouTube, we've already gotten up around 6,000 views and we've only been up for a little more than a week," Fisher said in a recent interview.
"It's a short film that people who don't like short films have enjoyed," says Fisher, who feels some shorts try to do too much or seem incomplete. "We just want to make something that showcased our sensibilities, our sense of humor. We really do just want to leave people satisfied."
Though, Bed Head has left some confused, Fisher says, "Maybe at first view, it kind of sucker punches." The film stars Will Janowitz, who played Meadow's fiancé, Finn, on The Sopranos, as a guy who's a real dreamer.
Even in his dreams, Will's not doing too much with his day besides eating a bowl of cereal, washing the dishes, and smoking a cigarette by the window. That is, until he spots a sniper on a roof with a high-powered rifle aimed squarely at him. The masked gunman fires and Will wakes ... or so we're led to believe.
In a dream within a dream, Will gets a sense of déjà vu as he relives the same morning routine in a daze only to see the sniper again. This time, Will ducks, and in a daring move, runs out of his apartment and goes to the roof to confront the sniper face-to-face, but when Will rips the mask off, it turns out that he is the gunman. At that point, Will really does wake up, and he's shocked into escaping the mundane trappings of being a "bed head."
The film focuses on paranoia and the universality of anxiety dreams. Fisher describes, "It's some kind of dull day in the life comment, and then it's shocking, and then it becomes kind of charming. It's a little something for everybody without trying to pander to anyone."
Fisher's co-writer/producer Billy Mulligan, who met Fisher while attending Boston's Emerson College, came to the director with the idea for the short after being startled by seeing a man power hosing a roof in his Brooklyn neighborhood (where the short was filmed).
"He's kind of like a Brooklyn slacker type; he can't even wake up by himself," Mulligan says, citing Will's three alarm clocks. "I feel like we all battle with being our own worst enemy in a way."
The short got Fisher in the door as a semi-finalist - out of 12,000 submissions - to be part of On the Lot, a short-lived reality series about independent filmmakers that was produced by Steven Spielberg.
"We were called back initially on the strength of Bed Head," explains Fisher, continuing that in five days, they made a short called Melvin for their second round of the auditioning process for the show. "It was a good experience. It was good to be thrown into the fire like that, but I never had any aspirations to humiliate myself on national TV - I just want to make movies."
"There was some heat behind him," Mulligan, a producer with Red Line Studios, says of Fisher's talent as a writer/director, "but he had never really directed anything after school, so that was born from that premise, but also Anthony needed a directing sample to show, 'Here's my script; I can write - but here's a short film I did.' "
A freelance broadcast technician for CBS, Fisher was also working as a production assistant on the set of Law & Order until the writer's strike brought the series to a standstill, which he says brought the strides he had been making in that field to a halt, too.
Directing his own public access show at age 12 and nominated for best director in Emerson College Director's Workshop, Fisher's passion is make his dream come true - he wants to make a feature-length film called Life Among the Ruins, which he co-wrote with his best friend, the late Dan Rizzo.
Jenowitz expressed interest in playing the lead in Life, which is one reason the actor made time to star in Fisher's directorial proving ground, Bed Head.
"My goal would be to be a Woody Allen-type - to write and direct movies," says Fisher, adding how he admires Allen and Scorcese for making their careers in New York instead of going to L.A. "The dream is to stop having a day job and have this be my day job."
Also on Fisher's agenda is a nostalgic teen '90s movie that is "kind of Say Anything meets Pump up the Volume," and "the other main screenplay that we've been pitching is my deceptively intelligent, lowbrow comedy, Rent Control," which Fisher describes as being similar to movies like Superbad in its sense of humor.
Now that Fisher is living in Hoboken, he's seeing plenty of potential for filming in his new acre, too.
As Mulligan says he's in talks with the Sundance Channel, Fisher's filmmaking star is clearly rising.
"I have so much faith and belief in him and his talents," says Mulligan. "From the first time I read a script of his in 2002, I really became attached to his talent and the voice that he brings to his screenplays, and I decided I wanted to help shepherd him in his career as a writer and a director. I consider myself a director's producer." Describing Life Among the Ruins as a "small scale morality tale that has a ton of breakout potential," Mulligan has dedicated himself to helping Fisher's dream come to fruition.
"I think that the attention and the exposure that Bed Head [has] gotten definitely speaks to Anthony's place as an up and coming talent to watch."
For more information on the Now Film Festival or to see "Bed Head," visit www.nowfilmfestival.com.
Comments on this story can be sent to Mpaul@hudsonreporter.com.