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CASEY PUCCINI: The Casey Puccini Story

The following has been assembled from interviews with friends and family, written and video material, stories from the filmmaker and a wee bit of editorialization on our part to fill in the cracks. Enjoy.

 

INTERIOR: HOSPITAL: MID-JULY, MID-AFTERNOON

Fade in on a hospital delivery room. Rain smashes against the windows, and a sharp crack of thunder fills the world outside the room.

Technically it is a sunny afternoon, maybe a little humid, but there is a sense and intensity that seems like there could be a really bad storm going on as there was one raging inside Ann Casey (Casey’s Mother) as she prepared to bring the soon-to-be auteur into this world. 

Though by all accounts the birth was rather perfunctory (her second, his sixth), and by Ann’s own admission he “fell out”, there was certainly some tension in the air-- a real feeling that something was happening in that room that was bigger than a white suburban tricenarian crapping out a pup.

“Push, goddamnit!” Peter yelled in her face, not caring about how much saliva came out or where it went.

 

“I am! Christ, you always do this, Peter!” She replied, hashing up sentiments that would lead to their inevitable divorce. Typical.

 

Peter opens his mouth, prepared to explain to her why this is her fault, when her eyes widened even wider than wide dinner plates. A woman possessed, she looked up to the heavens and exclaimed “HE ARRIVES!”

 

CUT TO: 

And extreme close up on her vagina as the infant’s head crowns. A glow begins to emanate around the labial seal, signifying that there is something extraordinarily special about this boy, if this hasn't been established already. The head pops through, the face looking directly at the camera. FREEZE FRAME.

 

TITLE: “CASEY PUCCINI: A LIFE”

 

The frame explodes into a million pieces. The orchestra swells.

TITLE: “PART I: LIFE”

 

Okay, so maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but we can only assume that the famous auteur entered this world with the pomp, circumstance, gusto and importance of a really cinematic scene from a really cinematic movie. After all, it was one of the other famous film directors who said “Puccini et cinema.”

 

It would make sense he began in the ever-familiar New York city of cinematic note: Rochester, New York. Casey’s parents were both Kodak employees, and he lived across the Genesee River from one of their many manufacturing plants. With all the toluene and other developing chemicals coursing through the land you could say celluloid was in his blood. His mother shares that she met Peter at Kodak, on an enclosed catwalk that connected their respective buildings. Unfortunately, as adorable as this potential meetcute was, it was dispelled by Casey’s father, who said he first met his mother doing coke on a mutual friends boat in the Irondequoit Bay. No matter what the truth is, the true truth is that, unlike most artists, the aesthetics and personal dynamics that were shaped during his upbringing would inform his art in years to come. 

 

Growing up Casey saw the world a little bit differently. This is a trait rare amongst suburbanite millennials but, we believe, one of the elements of a true artist. From the moment he could move he was acting out scenarios throughout his home, transitioning from superhero to spy to Indiana Jones to John Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank with the veritable ease of an uncomplicated task. For Casey, bouncing from skin to skin was easier than it is for some accessing their own personality. It was as if he was hyper-senstive, smart and capable from birth. Several neighbors, relatives, teachers and townsfolk have stated they believed he was exceptional and destined for greatness in his life (citation needed). 

 

By the time he was 15 or 16, and was possibly a bit too old to be playacting by himself in his backyard (though it is still completely permissive because he was so creative) his eye turned to another eye, the camera eye. After receiving an old VHS camera from his father, Puccini began documenting everything in his mind. Even at his age and technical limitations (it was an old VHS camera), Casey still imprinted magic on every millimeter of electromagnetic tape. 

 

Working with his first collaborator, Andy Scalzo, the two took Puccini’s mind and adapted it to fit your screen; Casey as the brain and Andy as the face. They tackled topics often mishandled by artists well beyond their years, with a veracity that is nothing short of masterful. For their age, of course. They handled themes of wealth inequality, mental health, power dynamics and american access to weapons with their first film The Untimely Demise of Horace Finch, a film about a many who shoots his boss, a ‘hippie’ and maybe a poolboy for a reason that is never specifically explained in the narrative, but is a clear and quite exacting critique of capitalism and labor dynamic in the new millennium. WATCH HERE!

 

The film was a resounding success, receiving accolades from family and extended family alike. From this moment on, whether or not Casey knew it (he did, even if it wasnt outwardly present), he was officially a filmmaker. The success of which carried him through the rest of high school and into early college, as his output was nearly all incomplete works until 2007. 

 

Upon analysis of many of these works, their scripts, notes, raw footage, etc; we unearthed a wellspring of genius– we dare say some of Puccini’s best work which, as always happens, will most likely never see the light of day. Instead of looking at that as a negative, dear reader, think of it as infinite potential. And who knows, maybe someday with the support of a well-endowed patron, this work will be re-envisaged anew.

 

Casey attended one of the more prestigious east coast universities, SUNY Binghamton (the flagship of the SUNY system at the time [citation needed]) and it was here that he entered the ‘completing-work-,-for-the-most-part’ phase in his career. Good for us! Puccini began expanding his creative scope, venturing into offbeat comedy, offbeat romance, offbeat satire, and offbeat movies where people fuck a TV. (note: the previous film that was mentioned, Station is a film about far more than fucking a television, but it is also a must see so we will let you find your own meaning in this deep, contemplative work.)

 

Puccini began working with his first mentor, Monte McCollum, who helped shape and direct his raw talent Though their creative exchange was definitely a two way street. His works gained him prestige from his classmates and teachers alike; winning him three “Best of the Class''` awards (chosen by voting, so you know it’s fair), a Bell and Howell 16mm camera, and an ‘atta boy’ on more than one occasion from HBO’s John Wilson (citation needed) . RAE, Puccini’s thesis film, was resoundingly positively received by his professors at his final critique, including one faculty member stating “(sic) RAE will insure (sic) his acceptance to any graduate program (sic) he applies to.” They also insinuated it would be accepted into any film festival it was submitted to. Or they were heavily saying it with their eyes during the critique, Casey couldn't be certain enough to be quoted. Point is, it was definitely not nothing.

 

Following graduation, with High Honors in Cinema, Casey returned to Upstate New York, in a valiant attempt to bring film production back to the city of celluloid, and Puccini’s,  birth. Unfortunately, all attempts were thwarted by this cold and dying rust-belt city, and even Puccini’s determined creative will was dashed by its soul-sucking clutches. He once again shifted toward focusing on un-produced work as a way to stay fresh, but also discerning enough to know this city, or perhaps more accurately his parent’s house, was sucking the creative life from him, like some form of uncreative vampire or bedbug. His output  during this time was still strong and developing even stronger, beginning production on two short films, and juggling hundreds of pretty strong ideas in his mind. Ideas stronger than the weak city with which he was attempting to birth them in. He also basically donated his time to the Production team at the Rochester Red Wings Baseball stadium, and the production of a film that isn’t even distinct enough to earn the distinction of worst film ever made. Watch here! All of this amounted to one conclusion. Casey needed to get the juices flowing again before that shit-pit dried them all up and he transformed into the lifeless stalks he saw in family and friends around him. But, even through all of that Casey has nothing but love and strongly positive feelings for the place of his upbringing. The way he thinks about it is that even a place as dark as Rochester can produce beautiful things, like him, so the potential for good is there.

 

To reinvigorate that passion, Puccini moved to the country's largest Rochester, NY; Chicago, IL. He attended the whitest place in the world, formally referred to as the School  of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he began the process of expanding his cinematic scope to a larger, even more refined plane: the feature film. 

 

** It should be noted now, based on any perceived or misinterpreted reading of the previous line that Children Without Parents wasn’t intended on being a feature, like so many hack film students set out to do. His first feature grew out of a totally organic process and earned its length, which does not specifically matter, but it does add a layer of legitimacy and ‘cred’ to Casey’s work that we’d be remiss to overlook (Casey Puccini).**

Puccini’s first feature further unearthed new territory for him, and had transformed the challenge of working with actors into some of the strongest relationships of his professional career; three actors he worked on two movies with over about five years or so. The film stands as a true testament to Puccini’s ability at the time and when looked at democratically, and objectively, it is one of the best first features in cinema. This title is often bestowed on Citizen Kane, which Welles completed at 26 years old. Not that it's a contest, but Puccini finished Children Without Parents at 25, and it is in color and has swearing and drug use. Canon-aside, which would you rather pop in on movie night?

 

Exactly.

 

After Children Without Parents (often styled Cw/oP) the world changed for Puccini. With screenings at more than one Canadian film festival and nearly one American film festival, Casey was now a rising figure in the micro budget film scene. The film had a very successful multiple day (two, non-consecutive) theatrical run and made it to the pinnacle of online video rental: Amazon Prime. (Bonus points because he got there by winning a contest, as opposed to uploading it to Amazon himself!) New doors were opening to Puccini, doors with opportunities on the other side. He began thinking about the next place to turn his camera. Little did we all know, it would be 180 degrees. 

 

He turned the camera on himself.

 

And his world for his 2018 masterpiece I Don’t Care. With this film we see some really distinctive maturation in Puccini. Not only with his craft, but his production as well. I Don’t Care is cast with nearly a score of Chicago talent and filmed in more than one location. On top of that, it deals with pitch black satirization of himself and his peers. He's literally putting the worst part of himself out there, literally bare, and literally open for all critique. In no figurative way was this film a breeze, as most features go, but it was a struggle he not only knew too well, but something he felt obligated to open the world's eyes to. 

 

Art creates change, so the story of a struggling and self-absorbed filmmaker ruining his relationships with his put-upon colleagues created exponential change by shining a light on this issue. Many films these days are all about cool cars, hot babes, partying on spring break and saving the world because you’re a superhero and you have to. I Don’t Care is about something, it has a message, and therefore it is innately a piece of art all must appreciate, but in Puccini’s hands it became something its audience wanted to appreciate.

 

And appreciate, they did. 

 

This time he got into a film festival in America, and had multiple screenings at places he used to work and/or was a patron of, on occasion. The reviews were in and I Don’t Care (sometimes fashioned as IDC) was a hit, with comparisons to many films Casey technically believed his film was better than, but still took as a solid compliment! It also got him more cred on the scene, an increase in adjunct teaching positions, and the occasional uninvited text message from an adoring fan, for which Casey is always appreciative– as well as seeking legal recourse if they do not cease.

 

What’s next for Casey Puccini? After tackling his life, his family and many more topics under the sun, molding them into mastery and putting them up on the silver screen for us all to wonder at, Casey still finds new ways to innovate. With his newest short I Don’t Know When the Armageddon Is and developing feature Filmmaker in Attendance, Casey re-invigorates and re-invents the documentary genre and truly tackles the ever blurring line between it and narrative cinema (he LOVES to philosophize on this topic, because, I mean- whatever it’s all cinema, right? Fuck it up!) while still making work that can be enjoyed by even the simplest of us, not looking for intellectual engagement in that cinematic space. 

 

What direction/s he will take? Nobody is sure. But no matter what he does next, we are definitely going to be there, supporting the Indiegogo campaign, working for credit as an extra or PA, and then three and a have years later getting the passworded Vimeo link to check it out!

 

And on that day, we’ll see you at the movies.

 

Rated R.

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