Local filmmaker’s first feature debuts July 28Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a dark and stormy night in the Glass City. Filmmaker Michael DeSanto toiled away, putting the finishing touches on a dream made reality. The Blu-ray disc he was working on fashioning would be the sum total of years of effort — a dream made whole. For this disc would hold his first feature-length movie — “Max Anderson, Private Eye.”
And soon, people will get a chance to see DeSanto’s finished product — “Max Anderson” will have its world premiere July 28 at the Maumee Indoor Theatre. And for DeSanto, the fact this is actually happening is still unreal.
“I was like, ‘Can I really pull this off?’ And somehow, I don’t know how I did it, but it worked,” DeSanto said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I’m still in shock — I’m putting together the Blu-ray disc for the theater to send over there right now, and so I’m working, and I’m like, ‘How did I do all this?’ I’ve surprised myself.”
An area native, DeSanto said he has always wanted to work as a filmmaker. He’s worked in animation, commercials, short subjects — the usual first steps any artist takes into the world of moviemaking. Then, like many before him, DeSanto decided to take the ultimate step — moving out to the headquarters of the movie world: California.
“I spent about a little under three years out there. And that was me trying to follow my dreams and go out there. I was primarily working on my cartoons at the time — that was trying to get that to production companies and studios, that kind of thing. But I really didn’t have that much luck. And I was getting really poor out there, too.”
In the winter of 2005, DeSanto was finally forced to move back to Ohio. But before he left the Golden State, the young filmmaker began to lay the groundwork for what would become his biggest project ever.
“I wrote the script out there. In fact, at the time, my computer burned up, and I wrote the script by hand. It was, like, ninety pages of stuff,” DeSanto said. “I wrote it right before I moved back here. And I just sort of hung onto it, and figured one day I’d be able to have the resources and the money and all that to put it together.”
The script, about an out-of-work loser who transforms himself into a classic 1940s film noir-style private eye, is heavily steeped in a long tradition of detective stories and parodies of them — a tradition DeSanto cheerfully admits he wasn’t terribly familiar with when he started.
“There’s an old writing rule — they say, ‘Write what you know.’ And in this case, I tried something different,” he said. “I really have very little knowledge of film noir and those types of films. I’m not really a fan of that. And the story that I wanted to tell is about somebody who loses hope, and is stuck in a rut and wanted to try and improve himself, and he needed a push.”
After returning to Toledo, DeSanto kept “Max Anderson” on the back burner for a few years until the beginning of 2012. “My friend, Charles Wetzel, he was actually living with me at the time. And I got inspired to have him play the part,” DeSanto said. “We shot a little video here; I’ve had him in a lot of my videos. And he put on a trench coat and a hat. He put that on, and it all of a sudden just clicked in my head, I’m like — ‘He’d be perfect!’”
To pull it off, however, DeSanto needed to pull everything he had out of his cinematic bag of tricks to wring the full-length feature out of his microscopic budget — a mere $2,800.
“I like to call it ‘ghetto filmmaking at its finest,’” DeSanto said with a laugh. “I basically had to. The camera that I used, you can buy one on eBay for $99, now. I mean, I didn’t have the best equipment — I had a broken tripod, I had actors that worked for free, or for food. And, I mean, half the budget was for food and gas. And then, a couple spaces we had to rent out — we rented out an office, a warehouse — so that’s where the majority of the money went.”
Now that the premiere of the movie is mere days away, DeSanto said a wellspring of emotion has taken root inside him.
“It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but I’m understandably nervous about it,” he said. “This is pretty much the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I mean, I’ve had, like, little film premieres, like the short films and stuff that I’ve done before. But that was basically at my dad’s house. That wasn’t, like, at a movie theater. It’s turning out to be a lot bigger than I expected.”
“Max Anderson, Private Eye” will debut at the Maumee Indoor Theatre on Sunday, July 28, with shows at 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information, call (419) 704-0877.