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Maryland Film Festival: four questions for 'Septien' director Michael Tully

Update: The screening dates were originally posted incorrectly -- the dates below are now the right ones.

Central Maryland-bred Michael Tully directed "Septien," an unusual humor-streaked drama about brotherly bonds that's been a hit on the festival circuit. It plays at the Maryland Film Festival twice: Saturday at 6 p.m. at Charles 1 and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at MICA's Brown Center. The trailer above makes it look original and intriguing. (Office-watching alert: one brief, semi-comprehensible shout might contain an expletive -- my ears couldn't tell.)

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For Friday's Live section, I asked several Maryland-born-or-based directors about the influence Baltimore or the region has had on them. Space cut down the number of filmmakers I could include, but here are Tully's answers in full.

Do you feel part of a community of filmmakers?

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As the editor of HammerToNail.com, it's actually my job to be part of the independent filmmaking community. That said, I quite enjoy getting excited about films and spreading the word as loudly as I can (for example Alex Ross Perry's "The Color Wheel" is an entry this year that everybody should see!). As for being a filmmaker, making movies isn't like writing books or making music. Even tiny-crewed micro-budget productions need many bodies to bring these projects to life. Going to festivals and meeting like-minded souls is the only way to not abandon this thankless profession completely. With regards to Baltimore in particular, in a roundabout way my friendship with Matt Porterfield ("Hamilton," "Putty Hill") helped connect me to the cinematographer and editor of "Septien" —Jeremy Saulnier and Marc Vives—who are great filmmakers in their own right but who were also responsible for the fine images and edits in "Putty Hill." So this film is a definite, concrete example of community in action!

Do you (and your peers) feel connected to the other art and media in town?

As I haven't lived in Baltimore in many years, I feel less connected to the city than I would like. But I try to support the Maryland Film Festival however I can and I am indeed a fan of Baltimore music (ala Beach House, Romania/The Oranges Band, Arbouretum, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, etc.). When it comes to the small/big screen, while I don't really need to say this, I will: "The Wire" is, without question, the greatest work of art that has been produced in the 21st century so far.

Even though you filmed "Septien" in Tennessee, did it have a Maryland inspiration? (Would you have filmed here if there had been a better incentive program at the time?)

As of this time last year, I was 95% set on shooting "Septien" in Maryland (the Frederick County area, where I grew up). But finding a devoted producer was proving to be tough. When I met and befriended Brooke Bernard and Ryan Zacarias—the main producers behind the Nashville-based Nomadic Independence Pictures—at the Sarasota Film Festival in April of last year, this originally Maryland-inspired project became a bona fide, Super-16mm, multi-crew Tennessee production. Having said that, while I do hope "Septien" has a definite sense of place and is honest about its rural, some-might-call-it Southern landscape, this is as much a direct tribute to my Central Maryland upbringing as it is the actual Nashville terrain where the film was shot.

A tiny production like "Septien" doesn't have anything to do with incentive programs. Productions like these coast under the radar of anyone who considers filmmaking an "industry" or a "business." Having said that, my next film will be an on-the-radar type of production, and because of the Maryland tax incentives, *if all goes well* (pretty please!), this will actually make my dream of shooting a feature in Maryland a reality.

Is there actually a Baltimore or Maryland cinematic sensibility that inspired you or informs you work?

I wouldn't say there's a "Maryland cinematic sensibility" that informs my work—though lately, the name John Waters has been popping up when people have tried to describe the strange brew of tones that makes up Septien. In a more directly personal sense, however, it cannot be denied: although I've lived in New York City for over ten years, I am a Marylander through and through. That is where my distinctly Maryland sensibility kicks in, as it continues to provide inspiration for the many different stories that I hope to tell on film. Since my days at UMBC, I've been fantasizing about finding a comfort zone where I could shoot feature films exclusively in Maryland—from Ocean City to Baltimore to Cumberland—and if all goes well (please join me in knocking on a big, thick block of wood), the next one is lining up to see that fantasy come true.

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