In his everyday persona, Todd La Croix works as a mild-mannered dishwasher at Stone Soup. But, put him behind a digital video camera and the 26-year-old Burlington resident is transformed into a "kamikaze-style" filmmaker. His debut feature, The Predicament, will have three screenings on November 8 at The Roxy.
The movie is about a screenwriter whose therapy session involves some fanciful storytelling. Shot "from the hip" in the Queen City during the summer of 2001, the project soon stalled. La Croix spent a year reeling from the events of 9/11 and the unrelated death of a good friend. "I was trying to heal and reconfigure my approach to life," he says.
Although his life began in Massachusetts, the family moved to Vermont in 1987. "We ran an inn in Danville for a few years," La Croix explains. "That dream fell apart in 1992."
The Feds revoked his parents' loans after the bank they were doing business with was nailed for laundering millions of dollars. But their son wasn't thinking about that traumatic period when he wrote The Predicament, in which four imaginary thieves -- figments in the mind of a wordsmith portrayed by La Croix himself -- attempt to rob a bank. "They all represent me, in a way," he acknowledges. "They reflect my subconscious."
The cops who go after these "crooks" are genuine: Two uniformed officers from the Burlington Police Department and their cruisers appear in the scene, which was completed in one 14-hour day. To capture the interior of a bank, La Croix took over the former Windham Financials space on College Street. A high-ranking employee there gave him the location in return for "making her children into stars," he says.
La Croix considers his 70-minute film "an action-adventure," but he points out, "I'm really philosophizing about the meaning of violence in the media."
Although he focused on the culinary arts in his high-school years, La Croix was drawn to the cinematic arts via a video-production class. He won "best-picture" nods for two assignments: a documentary and a faux orange-juice commercial.
Inspired by John O' Brien, the enterprising Tunbridge auteur of the recent Nosey Parker, La Croix decided "to just go out and do it." But the resources to create illusion can often be elusive, as he discovered with the sudden departure of a local producer who had promised to finance The Predicament and donate equipment.
"I learned to become my own producer," La Croix says. "That's kind of a mixed blessing."
With a budget under $8000, he sold "profit shares," applied for grants, and dug into his own not-so-deep pockets. La Croix recruited nonprofessional actors and a multitasking crew, while also persuading the Vermont rock band Concentric to donate instrumentals for the soundtrack.
The $8 tickets for the 5, 7 and 9 p.m. shows are available at Pure Pop or, unless they're already sold out, at the door. For another $5, the public can attend a 10 p.m. cast party at the Opaline Gallery. Should all go well, La Croix estimates he'll only be left with $2000 worth of debt.
Another project on the horizon, The Crystal Method, will be a sci-fi trilogy in the form of an online graphic novel. For the time being, the La Croix Method requires a balance of filmmaking and dishwashing skills.
Writer-director Jane Campion was widely regarded as a feminist icon for her film, The Piano. In the overrated 1993 drama, Holly Hunter's musically inclined character loses a finger to the axe wielded by her domineering husband.
A decade later the New Zealand-born Campion is once again chopping off women's body parts. Her contrived In the Cut (see full review page 43A), puts its heroine Frannie, an English teacher played by Meg Ryan, at the mercy of a serial slasher.
Gore-fests aside, Campion's most serious crime is forcing viewers to endure a profusion of skanky settings: The protagonist, who is collecting street slang, arranges an inappropriate after-school meeting with a black teenage student at what has to be the skankiest bar in Manhattan. Her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose performance screams "victim") lives above a skankier-than-usual strip club. Frannie's own downtown apartment? Skanky.
As vile a movie as you're likely to see all year, In the Cut is more film murk than film noir. And it stands in sharp contrast to An Angel at My Table. That haunting mini-series about a real-life novelist wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia was broadcast on Australian TV in 1990, before Campion lost her aesthetic way.