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A Date with Destiny
A Washington Township filmmaker brings Hollywood stars to South Jersey for her first full-length feature, Calendar Girl.

by Jonathan Vit
A Washington Township filmmaker brings Hollywood stars to South Jersey for her first full-length feature, Calendar Girl. Faith Brody was the kind of kid who wandered around Washington Township High School with a video camera in hand. She was the kind of kid who grew up writing, directing and shooting her own uber-low-budget shorts—more than 30 of them by the time she graduated. It was a nice hobby, and Calendar Girl, the darkly comedic play she had been tinkering with since college, was a cute story. But no one really thought much would come of it—besides Brody, that is. “It’s not that my family wasn’t supportive, it’s just that they didn’t realize the significance of the project,” Brody recalls. All that’s changed, and fast. With celebrity names of yesteryear including Corbin Bernsen and Gilbert Gottfried among the cast, and a respectable budget—$25,000—for a locally produced indie, Calendar Girl has become far more than just a quirky hobby. The feature, which is hitting the film festival circuit this fall, just might be the launching pad for Brody’s filmmaking career. “When we started it last year, I thought, ‘Worst-case scenario, I’d have a lot of fun making a movie with my friends,’” says Brody, 26, who co-directed the film with Runnemede’s Derek Lindeman. “I always really liked this story idea.” It seems Brody wasn’t alone. With little more than an Internet trailer, Calendar Girl attracted enough attention to sell out a test screening at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia on Sept. 15. “We sold out within literally a couple of weeks; we haven’t even done the press yet,” says Bellmawr’s John Guarnere, the film’s producer. “At this point [the screening] is almost just to get more buzz about the film itself.” The film, at its heart, is a love story between a girl and her serial killer that rides the fine line between horror and comedy. The movie stars Jensen Bucher as Elsa, a self-involved waitress with a flair for the dramatic. One night, Elsa manages to convince herself that the Calendar Girl Killer, a serial killer who murders attractive women and leaves behind pin-up style photos for police to find, has marked her for death. Positive that one of her shady ex-boyfriends is the killer, Elsa decides to flirt her way through her list of suspects. “Don’t make any mistake about it, this girl is a train wreck,” says Guarnere. “She is the kind of person who enjoys that negative attention. She loves flirting with danger.” Guarnere describes the film as farcical slasher film, one that doesn’t skimp on the gore, but still promises plenty of laughs. A born organizer, Guarnere fell into working as a producer on Calendar Girl and Booted: The Movie with a core group of Jersey-bred filmmakers, including Brody and Lindeman. The La Salle University grad raised $25,000 from investors and organized the tight, two-week shooting schedule this past winter. It’s gratifying for Brody, who has refined the script numerous times since first drafting the story four years ago for a class at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Brody ended up becoming an elementary school teacher, a profession she loves, but her dreams of writing and directing a movie didn’t stop after college. She stayed with Calendar Girl as it jumped mediums, from a screenplay to a stage play and then to a short film before becoming a feature. “She is extremely talented,” says Brody’s friend, high school classmate and fellow filmmaker Jason Hall, 27, who adapted Calendar Girl into a short film for his own final project at Drexel University. “This is the type of thing that she would write. It is quirky and it is a little dark, and at the same time, the characters are very complex. On the surface it is this cute little thing, but when you start reading it and watching it, there is more going on under the surface.” The story was powerful enough to draw in plenty of local supporters—and shooting in South Jersey and Philadelphia proved a wise move for the feature film. The producers tapped into the region’s wellspring of talent and notable faces to ensure that the film has plenty of local flair, says Tommy Avallone, 27, a Haddon Heights-based producer who also worked on the film. Shot in Bellmawr, Runnemede and Philadelphia, the movie has plenty of local touches to intrigue South Jersey viewers. “Right around here, you get more bang for your buck,” says Avallone. “You go out to California and you tell everyone you are making a movie, and they put their hand out. We shot at the Aramingo Diner [in Philadelphia] and they were just so excited to be a part of it. It is not the norm out here. Here it is something special.” Guarnere says he was happy to shoot the film in the South Jersey and Philadelphia region. “We might not be the biggest market in the world, but I love Philadelphia and wouldn’t want to shoot anywhere else,” says Guarnere. Watch the trailer and learn about screenings at Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 7 (October, 2010).
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