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  • Jared Huizenga

TCFF Spotlight: Darcy

Over the course of 11 days, October 18-28, film fans and filmmakers from across the country will descend upon the ShowPlace ICON Theatre at the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park for the 2017 Twin Cities Film Fest.

More than 120 films – including features, shorts, animation and documentaries – will screen over the course of the festival. In addition, a large number of directors, producers, and actors will walk the red carpet, present their films, attend the mixers and chat with fans about their work.

Over the course of TCFF 2017, we’ll be chatting with some of those filmmakers and stars to find out more about what they’re bringing to the TCFF screens.



Film: Darcy

Showtime: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 24

Among the films getting their world premieres at TCFF 2017 is the drama “Darcy.” With co-directors, co-writers, actors, and executive directors scheduled to attend, the film will certainly have a strong presence during the festival. Prior to that, however, co-directors Heidi Philipsen and Jon Russell Cring spent some time time chatting about their film.

Q: Tell us about “Darcy.”

Heidi: “Darcy” is about a teenage “every girl” who is on the cusp of womanhood, but still very much a girl. She has ideas about the world, but no real proof, except for her surroundings – and Darcy’s surroundings are really starting to feel confining for her (as they do for many a teenager).

Darcy dreams about romance, as well, like so many do at that age – not sure when or where it will happen, willing it to happen, just to experience it. Meanwhile, her parents hope and pray she won’t will her hopes and dreams on the wrong person who could shatter her innocence.

I put the word out that I was looking for a character-driven drama to produce and potentially direct as my first feature film in the Hudson Valley. It had to be something that was about the characters, so I could work with actors with great chops – and it had to be authentic.

I knew Jon and Tracy from independent filmmaking circles upstate, but had never worked with them. When they heard that I was looking for a script, they sent me “Darcy,” (then with the working title “This is Nowhere”) – I couldn’t put it down. I called them the next day and said that I found my script.

Darcy spoke to me because I, too, had been that girl. I could identity so well with her dreams and aspirations, but also her heartache, fears and confusion … her bravery. And I was so compelled by the fact that Jon and Tracy had the courage to tell what was, essentially, part of their real-life story. It was – so bold, so authentic, so to be commended.

And yet, I had never grown up in such circumstances of poverty and hardship in the same way. Thus, “Darcy,” enlightened me.

I’m an activist in getting all stories out to give the viewer another perspective to think about and consider through art. This film definitely does that.

Jon: “Darcy” is a feature film written by my wife and I. It really at its heart is about a 15-year-old girl's coming of age in the midst of oppression. Growing up in a “no tell motel” owned by her parents, Darcy falls for Luke – recently released from prison, but trying to change his ways. It’s a film that makes you care for the forgotten of society. We wanted a movie without cliché. The lead actress in the film, Gus Birney, is a revelation. Since we finished the film her career has skyrocketed with multiple features and a starring role in the series “The Mist.” What really comes across in her debut performance is the soul of a girl struggling on the cusp of womanhood. She will break your heart.


Gus Birney stars as "Darcy," which will have its world premiere at the 2017 Twin Cities Film Fest.


Q: What was the inspiration for the story?

Jon: I think you can trace the story back to my wife and my separate experiences. She brought a lot of her growing up poor in Tennessee to the script and I lived in a motel with my family for about a year and a half populated by the castoffs of society just trying to make their way. Add in a newspaper article about a local motel being picketed for housing former offenders and that was the genesis of “Darcy” as a script. Enter our producer and co-director Heidi Philipsen. Every project needs a champion and Heidi believed whole heartedly in this film and has never stopped pushing for the movies integrity of vision.

Q: You’ve got co-directors on the film. What kind of opportunities or challenges does that provide?

Heidi: Opportunities: To get the full picture from both male and female director. It’s like a gender-experienced and perspective VR – you get all the angles to weigh and then decide. I’ve rarely sensed that male directors truly get female characters in all of their complexities and nuances. And I would never dare to believe that I fully understand the male psyche. I just don’t live in those jeans. And you get a tag team that is there 200 percent for the crew and actors. When one actor was having issues with his/her character, one of us would step out of production to confer – while the other stayed “on deck” to direct. You also get two separate styles that come together to create one: i.e. I tend to be a technical tactician, while Jon is often “big picture.” I have my head in “serious mode,” while Jon keeps everyone happy and feeling comfortable. It’s like having two parents for different needs … when you need to get one kind of feedback, Jon was your director, when you need another perspective, I was up to bat. And, more often than not, we stood together and played devil’s advocate for each other’s thoughts and ideas, or confirmed a singular thought between two artist, to make sure that no idea was cliché or prejudice.

On the challenges side, I would say that co-directing is like running a three-legged race. You need to get the right pacing, you need to work together, and you need to check your ego – there is no “I” in team, as they say.

Jon: I highly recommend a male and female co-directing relationship. I can’t always see a scene from the same perspective as a woman that has lived it. We worked beautifully together because it always comes back to what was best for the story. We also made it a point to try and give every opportunity on the crew to a female. If the playing field is ever going to be leveled, then we have to stop doing what we have always done and make room for all the different voices. It makes for a deeper cinematic experience. If it takes quotas or mandates so be it, but we can’t continue with the status quo. “Darcy” was never status quo.


Heidi Philipsen as Toni in "Darcy." Philipsen also serves as a co-director and producer of the film.


Q: It appears this will be the world premiere for the movie. What made the Twin Cities Film Fest the right place to debut the film?

Heidi: I’m a Midwesterner from Michigan with deep roots in northern Wisconsin, stretching to Minnesota – and, as such, I love that sense of being in the heart of the country with very independent and, yet, dedicated sensibilities toward filmmaking and supporting independent cinema.

Further, our Executive Producer Stephanie Dillon is from Minneapolis.

Lastly, I went to the Twin Cities Film Fest three years ago and was blown away. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before – full of glamour, generosity and high-level content, grace and independent edge, all without the pretentious attitude. Now THAT’s the fest I want to experience!

Q: If someone is only going to see one or two films at the Twin Cities Film Fest, why should “Darcy” be one of them?

Heidi: Because “Darcy” is unlike any other film out there right now. It steers clear of the cliché and allows itself to show all sides of its story and face, yet in a streamlined fashion. It’s complex, but honest. Brutally honest about many tough topics that we are only now starting to understand and examine in America. It doesn’t plaster a “happy ending” like a bunch of fluff at the end like an opioid trying to block the pain; rather, it takes you on a journey and truly allows you to see the world from this girl, Darcy’s eyes.

And it’s a prime chance to see some of the most incredible, as of yet “non-famous” actors of our time, including, but not solely, our lead actress, Gus Birney.

We were her first feature film (she had only one short film prior), and this was our first feature film. We both took a huge chance on each other. Gus is now in a film as a lead character opposite Sarah Jessica Parker and Renee Zellweger. I guess you could say that the gamble paid off for both parties.

Jon: All I can say is what other people who saw the film said, “This film showed me a world that I never had seen and made me care deeply about people that society has forgotten.” If you want a simplistic story, this isn’t the film for you. The Golden Age of movies told deeper stories with complicated people struggling to find happiness. I don’t want to tell an audience how to feel. I just want them to feel something. If that is what interests you, then checkout “Darcy” at Twin Cities.

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