Attendees at the 66th Berlin Film Festival got to see a slice of Philadelphia life in Haddonfield native Ted Fendt's Short Stay.
The 61-minute film was a part of the Forum program, a section of the prestigious fest known for its daring and experimental pieces.
Short Stay focuses on Mike (Mike Maccherone, who worked with Fendt in an earlier short film, Broken Specs), a pizza boy in his 30s who lives with his mother in New Jersey.
Mike is not into seeing friends or going on dates. But his unexciting life does not particularly upset (or please) him. When a high school acquaintance invites him to a party in Philadelphia, he unenthusiastically accepts, and ends up subletting his friend's apartment and taking over his job as a tour guide. Mike gives some tours, ruins a joke about the Broad Street Bullies, and points people in the wrong direction before getting kicked out of his room.
Speaking from the festival in Berlin, Fendt said he didn't worry about developing an unlikable protagonist. Short Stay is a character study, and Fendt said his main concern was making sure Mike's actions were true to the character.
Fendt's experimentation was also not hampered by outside investors, considering he financed the $50,000 film himself, no small feat considering it was shot on relatively expensive 16mm film (later blown up on 35mm film).
Fendt now lives in New York, where he worked as a projectionist and French translator after attending New York University for film production. He lived frugally so he could afford to finance his own work, which also includes locally shot short films Broken Specs, Travel Plans, and Going Out.
His roots in Philadelphia run deep, especially because that's where his love of film began as a teenager, attending the Philadelphia Film Festival, hitting up the Prince, the Ritzes, and International House to give himself a cinematic education.
Fendt found shooting locally was an advantage for a crew of 10 people and few resources. "We were astonished at the ease we had shooting on the streets of Philly and availability of businesses," Fendt said, noting how different it was from working in New York.
Fendt used bars in South Philadelphia, as well as the exterior of South Street's Jim's Steaks to his advantage. "There's a scene at the end of the tour in front of Jim's on South Street. We were filming there on a day with a street fair in May, and it was pretty much one of the few times that drunk people kept going by, messing up takes," Fendt said. "Besides that, you'll find places I like, of which there are many."
The ease and cost is why he'll be back next time he makes a movie, because Philadelphia allows him to follow his passion. "The kind of film I fell in love with as a teenager is barely surviving," Fendt said about shooting on film. "This very specific aesthetic quality is something that I love and have been really passionate about. But I think it's becoming more and more rare, which is terrible."