Your typical student film is a brief, unmemorable affair, which attempts to tell a compelling story with the flailing abilities of an amateur cast. That was totally not what Verena Faden wanted for her thesis project. This 23 year old Miami filmmaker had big dreams when it came time to write and produce her final film for the New York School of Visual Arts.
Her film is titled Category 4, and it captures a Cuban-American family’s turbulence in the midst of some impending inclement weather. The film debuts locally tonight at 7:30 at the Tower Theater. There will be an open bar, hors d’ouvres, and a Q and A session following the screening. Click here for ticket donation information.
“I had planned to make a thesis that was as close to being a real film as possible. When I started writing the script, I had Steven Bauer in mind. I started looking for him right after I wrote the treatment,” says Faden. Despite Bauer’s history of playing gritty gangsters and tough cops, Faden believed he was ideal for the part.
“The character was so close to home, and so perfect for him. It’s not Que Pasa, USA and it’s not Scarface, but I knew he’d be perfect for it. I started watching all of his films, and studying him, and trying to reach him,” she says. The magic connection proved to be a former co-worker of Bauer’s, who read and liked Faden’s script enough to pass the well-known actor’s phone number along to the student filmmaker.
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“I called him from a busy street in New York City, and of course every ambulance had to drive by! I told him I’d been looking for him for months. He told me to send him the script so he could read it. I expected a brush-off. A couple weeks went by, and he called me back. He left me a voice mail message that made me cry,” she recalls.
Bauer said he was surprised, and he described Faden as a great writer. And that cemented their deal. The pair quickly discovered that they had a similar sensibility about the project, and Faden’s willingness to adapt her script impressed the seasoned actor. Bauer thought his friend, Ivelin Giro, would be perfect for the role of the mother. When Giro auditioned, her immediate bond with the young actress who plays her daughter was so powerful, it moved them both to tears.
Faden’s chutzpah landed her two recognizable and respected actors while the rest of her classmates stuck to the traditional student film structure. Much of her ambition comes from being a Miami girl; she’s always dreamed big, worked hard to actualize her vision, and made eager use of the materials available to her. Even before she went to film school in New York, she had already won the What’s the Real Deal screenwriting contest when she was a student at Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High. As the winner, director David Frankel – whose most recent feature was The Devil Wears Prada – directed her fledgling script. So far Verena Faden has had a script directed by a respected and working director, and a short film starring two known, working actors.
So what’s next for this ambitious 23 year old? “I don’t know, I just graduated four days ago!” she laughs. “I’m trying to get a writing agent, and for now, I just need some down time.” --Patrice Yursik