Gloucester County Times - December 15, 2009

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Gloucester County area artists put struggle finding work to film with 'No Footing'

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
By Jessica Beym -

Michael Licisyn knows first-hand what it feels like to have a college degree in the arts but not be able to put it to good use.

So he made a film about it.

Ever since the Washington Township resident graduated from Rowan University with a degree in radio/television/film in 2006, he's been putting his time, energy and passion into a feature film called "No Footing" which will premier at The Broadway Theatre in Pitman on Thursday.

"I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I have this degree but I can't get a job," Licysin recalled Monday as he sat in the Ground House coffee shop in Pitman, one of the many local places where the film was shot. "Then it clicked - What about doing an idea about trying to get a job as an artist."

The film is largely based in South Jersey, using actors and a production team from the area and many scenes were also shot in Gloucester County.

It isn't Licisyn's first foray into filmmaking. He made his first feature in 2005, called "Township" about life growing up in the "premier community" of Washington Township, but it didn't have the legs he hoped for. Since graduating college, he's also done a few short films, but has spent his professional time working as a freelancer, producing medical videos and also filming Washington Township council meetings.

Licisyn, 25, said the script for "No Footing" started to pan out in his mind after he heard a song with the same title and same concept of being lost after graduation.

The song written by musician Nate Graham, of Malvern, Penn paired with the backdrop of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, took shape as the first scene and the rest was built around that, Licisyn said.

The 87-minute production centers around Madison Parker, a 23-year-old woman (played by Jensen Bucher of Doylestown, Penn.), who just graduated from art school but hasn't quite figured out how to make money doing what she loves. A year and a half out of college and she's still working in a copy shop making business cards and resumes and being pushed around by her supervisor and "not really going anywhere with her life," Licisyn explained.

Madison meets a high school guidance counselor, played by Jake Matthews, 27, of Woodstown, who once was an artist as well, and the two form a friendship.

The "dramedy" as Licisyn describes it, really didn't have any forward momentum until the spring of 2008 when fellow Washington Township resident Ryan McCarty caught wind of a mock trailer for the script.

McCarty, 29, decided to help fund the production, putting up $3,000 of his own money to get it started.

That money, combined with Licisyn's own funds for equipment and his ability to cash in on favors friends had owed him for the past few years, finally pushed his film forward.

Kphat Productions in Swedesboro loaned some of the materials needed to shoot the film in high-definition, Licisyn said.

It was that high-quality equipment that "made our very small budget movie look like a million bucks," Licisyn said.

Just under $12,000 was spent, which Licisyn said was "dirt cheap" compared to some other independent film productions.

The HD film as well as the script is what convinced McCarty to get involved, he said.

"It looked like a great trailer and the fact they were filming in HD was a plus," he said. "It was much better quality. I didn't mind taking a risk with it. I think it will do really well in festivals because the quality of the movie will be great."

McCarty is one of the many people pulling double duty with the film. He plays a short role as "Ray" a singer who comes into the copy shop.

The film, shot mostly on the weekends during the 4-month span from April to August, consists mostly of scenes from throughout Gloucester County: The Ground House coffee shop and Venice Italian Eatery in Pitman, PostNet Copy Shop and Washington Lake Park in Washington Township, as well as scenes at Rowan University and other locations in Salem County and Philadelphia.

A steady crew of about seven people worked on the film, but more than 100 were involved throughout the course, Licisyn said.

Helping to produce the film were Tommy Avallone of Haddon Heights, and John Guarnere originally of Williamstown. Derek Lindeman, of Runnemede, plays the supporting role of the copy shop manager.

Matthews, the Woodstown native who attended Gloucester County College, plays "Christopher," the guidance counselor who has experienced success as an artist.

"It was fun to play the character who had the job, the career, and had it together when in reality, all of us pretty much represented Madison a lot more closely," Matthews said.

Licisyn admits the story line is largely about his life and similar to many of his friends'.

"It's very autobiographical to pretty much everyone I know because we all want to be filmmakers, actors, musicians or whatever. But its like, how do you make money off it?" he said.

You don't. At least that's what Licisyn believes for now.

He's entered the film into festivals on both the East and West coasts in hopes that Thursday's premier isn't the first and last time the film is shown before a paying audience.

"I really want to take it and show somebody, "Look. This is what we can do with no budget and it looks good. Imagine what we could do if we had a budget," he said.

About 200 tickets have already been sold for Thursday's premier at The Broadway Theatre in Pitman. Licisyn said his financial goal is just to break even.

"It really doesn't matter how many people come out," Licisyn said. "It matters if the people who do come out enjoy it.