Senior debuts film, Aesthetic, based on his own relationship – The Diamondback : Campus

Photo by Johannes Markus courtesy of Peter Garafalo

Photo by Johannes Markus courtesy of Peter Garafalo

Rachel Barron For The Diamondback

Rather than sit home and whine about a failed relationship his freshman year, Peter Garafalo decided to channel his frustration into something more constructive.

Nearly three years and many long hours of writing, filming and editing later, the senior film studies major debuted his first feature-length film, Aesthetic, at the Hoff Theater in Stamp Student Union on Friday. The story follows the experiences of a freshman named Biv — played by 2012 alumnus Josh Allen — who struggles to fit in with his peers at college until he finds a connection with a girl named Indigo, played by 2012 alumna Maria Navarro. However, in a cruel twist, Indigo is just a figment of Biv’s imagination.

“It’s kind of taken from (500) Days of Summer and building people up to be more than they are, but taking that and running with it to the extreme,” Garafalo said.

Garafalo said Biv’s character is based on his own experience with heartbreak. As a freshman, he poured everything into a relationship because he, like Biv, desperately wanted that romantic connection. However, Garafalo said he found out the hard way the relationship was not as serious as he thought.

“I was like, ‘Oh wow, so all of that fantasizing about us falling in love and being together was never coming from her at all,’” he said.

Garafalo started writing his script in the summer of 2010, and he was ready to start shooting by fall of the next year. With a budget of less than $2,000 and a cast and crew of six people, Garafalo had to wear multiple hats on the set — director, co-cinematographer and editor.

However, Garafalo said he was quickly overwhelmed by the daunting process and almost completely lost interest in the film until his composer, Dhanesh Mahtani, began creating music for the film.

“It’s a lot of fun composing creepy music at 3 a.m.,” Mahtani said.

There were other bumps in the road. Initially, Garafalo could not afford high-definition cameras and shot the early scenes in standard definition. However, he later managed to borrow HD cameras from friends. The earlier work did not go to waste, though — Garafalo used the lower-quality footage for scenes set in Biv’s depressing reality and the HD footage for scenes set in his dreamworld.

“The minute we cut to this dreamworld, it really does look like a dreamworld,” Garafalo said. “The fantasy world is in this beautiful HD, DSLR, dreamlike-quality footage, which really works to the story’s benefit.”

Garafalo also went through three recasts for the movie because actors kept dropping out of the project.

“Time after time, the actors said they couldn’t commit to it,” he said.

Allen succeeded in getting Navarro onboard as Indigo after the previous lead actress backed out of the film. Navarro said because she was already friends with Allen, she was able to act naturally in scenes with him.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do it that way if we weren’t such good friends,” Navarro said.

It took the crew a year to shoot all the scenes, and Garafalo spent another year editing the movie alone in his room. Garafalo said he was still tweaking the finer details of the film the night before its debut on Friday, when about 100 students, family members and friends gathered to show their support.

For the next step, Garafalo plans to post Aesthetic on the Internet for the world to see, and said he does not care about making any money off of the film. Moreover, he said he plans to go back to producing shorter films rather than feature-length productions.

“I’m going to stay away from feature-length films until I think I’m ready for another one,” he said.

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