Person of Interest is a dirty film--shrouded, gritty, elegantly dim. It's a film that in most senses is about a hidden consequence of war: the isolated, disaffected soldier returning home to try to reassemble a life. But Person of Interest is also about family and betrayal, domestic terrorism and acute loneliness, hate mongering and greed and paranoia and prostitution. It's a many-layered story that in our muddled modern days seems particularly ripe for the telling.
Terrance Dyer, the protagonist in Person of Interest--a film by local filmmakers J. Reuben Appelman and Gregory Bayne--is an Iraq War vet, an explosives expert freshly out of the military and back home in Seattle living on the knife's edge in a city and society he is perpetually at odds with. Terrance sees and feels a broad moral decline encroaching--from the gloomy city streets where he watches young prostitutes being bought and sold, from his own government's betrayal in not offering him help as he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from his father who has long been unkind and darkly absent from his life, from his older brother who is confined to a wheelchair due to a war injury, from his beloved younger brother who walks the streets and sells himself. This decline infects Terrance's spirit, his person. Within this decay, this carving away, he needs to do something: speak out, act out, solve what it means to be an American in this new conflicted century.
Appelman, the script writer and lead actor and Bayne, the director, are bringing their vision and story to the public for the first time on Wednesday, Sept. 16 when they host a benefit showing of Person of Interest. The two have worked diligently on Person of Interest during the last years, and both men bring serious credentials to the project. Bayne is a graduate of Vancouver Film School and co-founder of the True West Cinema and i48 film festivals. His work has played at the Sundance, SXSW, Seattle and Munich film festivals, as well as on PBS and the Sundance Channel. Appelman is a poet, novelist, actor and an award-winning screenwriter who has penned projects helmed by George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh and Michael Hoffman. He has also been profiled by NPR's Andrei Codrescu, and on American Public Media's "The Story."
Both Appelman and Bayne hope that Person of Interest will be newly defining, a film that will be enjoyed, appreciated and learned from here in Boise, as well as when they take it out onto the festival circuit. Appelman and Bayne believe it can be a project that will open doors to big budget Hollywood films, thus leading them on to the next step as a creative team. They want to make a living as filmmakers and artists, telling their stories and showing their visions to national and international audiences.
Person of Interest began with high hopes that moneyed investors would be willing to take a chance on a primarily unknown entity--a filmmaking duo with experience in their individual careers, but with little proof of what they could do together, however, after months of hustling, Person of Interest was made on a small budget, or really on no budget at all.
"The script was written to be big," Appelman says. "We looked for money, never found any. The script was written to be less big. We looked for less money, never found any of that either. Eventually, the script was written to be big again, but differently. We committed to a movie that would still be huge in scope, but insular in environment, and which wouldn't cost us anything. We were forced into a more authentic way of storytelling than our original budgeted plan would allow."
The intricately psychological Person of Interest, which Appelman was fueled to write after his 42-year-old brother enlisted in the Army to go to Iraq, was filmed in Boise and on location in Seattle, and was shot with Boise actors and crew.
"We operated a skeleton crew in mid-winter," Appelman adds. "We took over the abandoned wing of Idaho's largest hospital, shot all day inside a $70 million office building, shot in the trendiest restaurant in town, in three historic apartments, in diners that shut down for us, inside the sound booth of a corporate radio station, on fire escapes, atop parking garages and in borrowed taxis. Nobody asked for money. We bartered with kindness and energy. Everything was borne of the resourcefulness of poverty. The story maintained its complexities, but fed off a grit our situation enforced."
Bayne and Appelman are now ready to take their hard-won film into the world.
"It's always such a process, and a long one," Bayne says. "We started out with this script that we both liked a lot, then because of the limitations, our original vision turned into something different. And it was almost like we were rewriting the movie. It really became this ever-evolving thing, which was a process that I like, that works if you're willing to put in the work."
"We have high hopes and big goals for this project and for ourselves as artists with this," Bayne says. "We feel like some good things, some great things, can happen because of this film and the hard work we've done. I feel there is a real place for this movie, especially right now in our modern political environment, and I feel like others will, too. In the end I'd say we're very proud of this film and are going to continue to be proactive in bringing it, and ourselves, success."
Wednesday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m., $8. Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Idaho St., egyptiantheatre.net.