LOCAL LEGENDS: PROFILE OF AN INDIE ARTIST -- WITHOUT THE GLAMOUR
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [August 8, 2013]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Matt Farley lives the life of an independent artist. He has spent over a decade writing and performing music and standup comedy in small New England towns. He also acts in films that he's co-written and co-produced with director Charles Roxburgh.
Now Farley has directed his own feature film, Local Legends, a dramatized documentary about his life as an indie singer, songwriter, comedian, scriptwriter, and actor. He wants the world to know the truth about his life as an indie artist -- It isn't all glitz and glamour!
"I've watched lots of independent movies about creative people," Farley told the Hollywood Investigator. "I'd always think, 'My life as a creative person is nothing like how it's portrayed in these movies.' I figured I'd make one that is true to my experience as a small-time entertainer. The movie is mostly autobiographical, based on the most interesting things that happened to me while I lived in Manchester, New England, from 2000 to 2010."
Farley's most interesting experiences are fairly mundane, and that's his whole point. It's why Local Legends is so funny. Like David Letterman or Garrison Keillor, Farley has a talent for finding humor in the quirks and foibles of everyday life. His past film collaborations with Roxburgh -- from Freaky Farley to their most recent Don't Let the Riverbeast Get You! -- celebrate the gentle weirdness of small-town Americana, an aesthetic that Farley continues with Local Legends.
The film begins with Farley performing standup comedy in a small New England venue. His jokes are innocent and retro, the sort found in children's joke books of generations past. After the show, a girl groupie (Sharon Scalzo) invites Farley home to show him her Billy Joel CD collection -- but it's a trick -- she really wants to kiss him! The fan's deceit shocks the romantically clueless Farley.
Farley's inability to read female romantic cues evoke Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam, although Local Legends more explicitly resembles Annie Hall. Both films blend autobiography and fiction, creating impressionistic self-portraits of hapless entertainers struggling to find love and success amid their daily grind, while crass business types pressure the artist to be more commercial.
The difference is that in Local Legends Farley plays both the artist and the suit. The scenes where he argues with himself, crosscutting between his business self and artist self, are especially funny. Farley's logic -- as he explains in the film -- is that the real-life indie artist must play both roles. The creative who strives for quality, and the suit who sells a product.
"Yes, Annie Hall is a major influence," says Farley. "Same for Stardust Memories, Radio Days, and Deconstructing Harry." His admiration for Allen is partially why Local Legends is in black & white. "I love Woody's black & white movies, especially Manhattan, Stardust Memories, and Shadows and Fog.
"Also, when you're shooting digital, the colors can be too strong, giving it the look of a TV broadcast rather than a film. Take out the color, it starts to look more like film. I'm not technically savvy enough to tastefully reduce the extreme colors like Charlie did during post-production of Don't Let The Riverbeast Get You. The easy way is remove the color altogether.
"Also, the black & white is a way of stating that I'm being a little more serious with this movie than in previous movies."
Most independent artists struggle with finances, trying to earn a living while finding enough time to purse their craft. Local Legends depicts Farley working in an old men's retirement home, cheerfully changing seniors' diapers as they try to audition for his next film. Once again, the scene mixes truth and fiction.
"I don't work in a men's retirement home," says Farley, "but I worked nights at a treatment center for disabled youth where I was required to change diapers. I currently work in a group home for teen-agers. Jobs in social work are popular among small-time creative people like myself. It's usually not a traditional schedule and leaves time for creative endeavors."
Local Legends also shows Farley leaving free CDs of his music in public parks, hoping people will find and sample them. It's the sort of guerilla marketing practiced by underground filmmaker Damon Packard. "I leave CDs and DVDs lying around everywhere I go," says Farley. "I sometimes get calls from people who found one on a park bench. I've even placed my stuff on the shelves of music and video stores, just like in Local Legends."
Farley's fans (yes, they exist) will enjoy separating fact from fiction. Tom and Sharon Scalzo, who have both acted in Farley's past films, appear again in Local Legends. But while Tom plays himself, Sharon plays the fictitious role of the girl groupie. It creates an interesting impressionistic aesthetic, challenging us with questions of how much and in what sense is Local Legends real? But Farley's reasons for his casting choices were more pragmatic.
"I don't know enough actors -- especially female actors," Farley laments. "I know it gets confusing when some people play themselves and others play a character. But I had no choice. In a perfect world, I might have had another actress play Sharon's role, and then have Sharon play herself to keep everything consistent. I had to be careful not to use any of the clips from our previous movies that featured Sharon." Such as Marriage, Monsters and Murder in Manchvegas (see above).
This is Farley's first feature film made without his longtime collaborator, director Charles Roxburgh, who's left New Hampshire for California.
"Charlie had a larger role in the original version of the Local Legends script," said Farley. "But it's not easy for him to take time off work and fly to New England for a couple weeks. So I cut him out, other than the scene where I call him on the phone, which he filmed in L.A. and sent to me.
"Charlie was very helpful with giving me notes on the script and advising me on editing, which I was doing for the first time. I did purchase the latest version of Final Cut Pro X. I had never edited anything close to this size before. It was daunting but I figured it out. I'm glad to be done with it!
We plan to make another movie together called Sling Shot Cops. We will film it in the Fall of 2015."
Farley shot Local Legends with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera. Sound was captured using Zoom recorders and mics. "I didn't keep track of what I was spending, but I'd say it was no more than $1,500.00 for the whole movie. That is thanks, in part, that I already had all the equipment I needed."
Whereas Farley distributed his earlier films on Amazon, Local Legends can be seen for FREE on YouTube -- which should improve Farley's finances, since he normally gives away more DVDs than he sells. "Every time I give someone a DVD, it costs me around $1.50. And there's no guarantee the person won't throw the DVD away as soon as I'm gone. But it's free for me to have people watch it on YouTube. [See above.]
"Although I will be making a few hundred DVDs to give to all the actors and send to reviewers. I'm sure I'll leave a few on park benches as well."