Film Reviews: Wednesday, May 8, 2003
Fagan’s Games

Obscure influences and big dreams fuel a local filmmaker.


If you saw a man chasing madly after another man through downtown Fort Worth a couple of years ago, you most likely were watching the filming of Philip Fagan’s Pocket Fool. The filmmaker staged a chase through the area as part of a student assignment at UNT. “We didn’t get any permits or anything,” he said. “It was true guerrilla filmmaking. We did get chased out of a parking garage, but by then we had everything we needed.”

The Fort Worth native has been active in the local filmmaking scene, having turned out seven short films in the past two years. Last week the Wreck Room screened a handful of those films, to a warm reception. He had worked a number of jobs, including as a bartender, private investigator, and manager of a travel agency, as well as serving a stint in the U.S. Navy, but he got turned onto a filmmaking career while working at the Black Dog Tavern. That was where he met director Chris Connolly, who adapted Fagan’s story into the film Uncle Fred, which starred the writer and played at the 2000 Fort Worth Film Festival. “I had always been reading about film,” he said. “Instead of watching movies for the story, I’d watch to see how they did that.”

When asked for his cinematic influences, he first came up with the usual suspects (Welles, Scorsese, Sayles, Cassavetes), but then moved on to more esoteric names: the horror films of Abel Ferrara and Larry Fessenden, and the experimental films of Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage. “My stuff has more narrative [than Brakhage’s], though. I want to entertain the audience, not just bombard them with images.”

He cited Deren’s 1943 short film Meshes of the Afternoon and Herk Harvey’s 1962 horror classic Carnival of Souls as influences on his silent film Annulment. His other horror film, Haunted, came from his research into heroin addiction and a viewing of Abel Ferrara’s black-and-white vampire film The Addiction. “I wanted mine to be more of a ghost story than a vampire movie,” he said.

His work covers a wide range of subjects, from his low-budget horror flicks to his skateboarding documentary Ripped to his Fellini-influenced Jeckelbee and Hydo, which he called his favorite. “There are definitely common themes if you watch my work as a whole. Someone pointed out that there’s an athleticism in the camera movement. There are always people moving around, like they’re searching for something.” He added, “Of course, that could just be me being pompous about my work.”

His next projects include a music video for the band Ghoultown and a script that he is shopping around to the major Hollywood studios. He calls it Little Moses, though the full title is Little Moses’ World-Famous Traveling Fun Faire and Playhouse. It’s about a traveling carnival in the 1940s that a boy goes to see at ages 10, 14, and 18. Fagan has high hopes for the script, but he knows how much he owes to his collaborators. “I’ve learned that it’s not easy,” he said. “You can get equipment, but are you willing to go through casting and be where you’re supposed to be? After the shooting is over, the work has only begun. I’ve never had to abort a project, and I haven’t had to compromise much because of my wife, my brother, and [backing musicians] the Anthropods. I’ve been very lucky.”

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