Big Screen Success

big-screen-success-portraitJonny Duerr, a recent WilmU graduate, knows how to go out with a bang. He held the premiere of his film “Meeting the Wickersons” at the Smyrna Opera House just two days before marching across the stage in the spring commencement to receive his bachelor’s in studio production and digital filmmaking. While his peers were perfecting their commencement gait, he was finalizing details for his movie.

What began as a senior project led Duerr to a full-length feature film, premiere party and a renewed love of filmmaking. He was truly inspired, and found himself up at night, bursting with creative ideas. The film took five months to write, five days to shoot and five months in production.

“Meeting the Wickersons” is a dark comedy detailing the life
of a clairvoyant woman whose mental degeneration is revealed through an interview with a stranger. The story is loosely based on true events set in 1972. Duerr directed, produced and co-wrote the film with his friend, Kara Boland, who also stars in the project. Its big screen debut at the Smyrna Opera house, a first for Duerr and the venue, was successful.

The entire cast of the film traveled to Smyrna, Del., for an event that included a Q&A session with the cast and crew. Duerr met his goal by nearly filling the 250-seat auditorium.

“One thing I wanted the audience to take away was the experiment of the story structure,” says Duerr. “It is not classically written because I wanted to develop an intimidating character who is not your usual lead.”

The response from the audience was positive, despite its nervous director, who watched from the balcony. “There are a few scenes that seemed to stick with everyone days after the film premiered,” says Duerr. “I got phone calls and messages after the film was presented.”

So what’s next for “Meeting the Wickersons”? Plenty of  film festivals, for one. After undergoing a few tweaks, it will run in the 2014–2015 festival year. Fundraising has allowed Duerr and his crew to submit the project to the larger, more expensive festivals.

Duerr switched his focus from acting to directing in 2011, when he left the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He’s now the director of Union Street Films, a creative team based out of Delaware. The company produces independent films, experimental shorts and music videos. Wu