With an idea burning a hole in his head for the past decade, Brian Ferraro was faced with a difficult decision. Should he invest in something that could kickstart his career, or invest in his car, essentially “a rotting away piece of metal.”
He chose his career.
He sold his Honda, cashed out his life savings and, with the help of the local arts community, the 31-year-old Pittsburgh resident hopes that the next few months will finally find him accomplishing his dream of directing a feature film.
“It’s cool to see the reality of this and not just be a vision in my head,” Ferraro says.
The Erie native says he hopes to begin shooting Here After, a psychological horror movie — about a young man risking everything in his life to understand the death of a friend — in November. But the path from idea to production has been winding.
Ferraro first came up with the idea for the film a decade ago, when he was a senior at Penn State University, majoring in architecture and film. He was talking to a friend who wasn’t scared of anything: As Ferraro recalled, “she cried when Freddie Kruger didn’t come” to her birthday party one year.
Her lack of fear of the fantastic inspired Ferraro, who has done some work on locally shot Hollywood pictures like Unstoppable and The Dark Knight Rises, to take a different approach to a horror movie.
Ferraro notes that most movies make the viewer assume that the murderous clown, ravenous demon or angry poltergeist is real. But in real life, anyone who thought they saw dead people would be stigmatized.
“The truth is, that 6-year-old in The Sixth Sense ... would have been brought to a psychiatrist and put on antipsychotics,” Ferraro says. “Imagine him 20 years later.”
In Here After, Ferraro is trying to capture the uncertainty of dealing with the unknown, while telling the story of John Henning, a young man who feels directionless until the death of his best friend. The movie will follow John as he tries to figure out what exactly happened the night of his friend’s death.
This isn’t the first time Ferraro tried to shoot the film. About six years ago, his first effort didn’t work out because he was trying to wear too many hats and didn’t have enough money. But given his cinematic ambitions, he also knew that this idea deserved another try, regardless of his lack of resources.
“If you want to direct, if you want to produce, go start directing, go start producing,” he says.
Two years ago, Ferraro met Will Tolliver, and they have worked together on projects at Ferraro’s company, Nuvu Studio. For Here After, Tolliver is an associate producer.
After hearing that his friend sold his wheels, Tolliver knew that the production was serious.
“When I found out, I knew that this was it — sink or swim, and we are definitely going to swim,” Tolliver writes in an email to City Paper. “I know [Ferraro], I trust him; he makes bold moves and believes in them.”
Ferraro has also benefited in a small way from Harrisburg’s dysfunction. As the Pennsylvania state budget sits in limbo, it has also placed $140 million in film tax credits in jeopardy. While fall is usually a busy shooting season for big-budget pictures, the legislative logjam instead has left many of Ferraro’s friends and fellow movie-makers needing work — the perfect opportunity to develop his project.
The sale of his Honda Accord, complete with “Bluetooth and the fancy stuff” for $13,000, along with his life savings, means Ferraro has enough money to keep his crew fed. Meanwhile, he’s also explored partnering with the city for studio space, and is still looking for investors to help fund the project.
But overall, Ferraro is confident that the project will succeed. Since selling his car, he’s been getting around by bike, and location-scouting with a car-owning friend. Meanwhile, he’s already looking into selling the film to theaters rather than just posting the feature-length finished product for free on YouTube.
And with the vast resources of Pittsburgh’s burgeoning entertainment industry at his fingertips, Ferraro says anything seems possible. But with a hard November deadline to start shooting in an effort to miss filming in winter, the clock is ticking. Ferraro is just trying to look at what the project will mean to him when complete.
“I’ll be happy I made something I believed in and dreamed about,” he says.
For more information on Ferraro’s film, www.nuvustudios.com