Larry Fessenden is a name that is as familiar as Steven Spielberg in the world of independent cinema. This is especially true when you consider that both filmmakers have a love for the horror genre.
Within the past decade, Fessenden has not only worn the hat of both an actor and director, but also has produced such films as “The House of the Devil,” “Wendy and Lucy” and “I Sell The Dead” through his production company, Glass Eye Pix.
These films were directed by rising talents like Ti West, Kelly Reichardt and Glen McQuaid, all of whom Fessenden has taken under his wing and helped to bring their creative dreams into fruition.
In the case of director Joe Maggio’s “Bitter Feast,” Glass Eye Pix has helped to create a film that never could have been made at a major studio.
Maggio has written and directed several independent features since 2001, and has spent time as a sound editor on shows like “The View” and the award-winning PBS series “Frontline.”
“Bitter Feast,” which tells the story of a scorned celebrity chef who exacts his revenge on a rather confrontational food blogger, was a collaboration between Maggio and Fessenden’s creative team at the company.
“Larry is this sort of all over the place, crazy guy, and I assumed that’s how this production was going to be run,” Maggio said. “But his team at Glass Eye Pix really do have it down. These are really efficiently run, carefully budgeted productions where they do not waste a penny.”
The secret behind Glass Eye Pix’s success is that being a member of their team is almost like being a part of the family. Sound designer Graham Reznick, composer Jeff Grace and make-up artist Brian Spears are all valuable assets to every film that Glass Eye Pix has produced, and that continues with “Bitter Feast”.
“It’s just an incredibly well-organized, tight bunch of people,” Maggio said.
As for Maggio’s first creative collaboration with the team, he likens it to a favorite childhood pastime.
“It was like going to summer camp,” he said. “It was all shot out at Larry’s house. We’d wake up in the morning, drink our coffee and get started.”
Over the past year, “Bitter Feast” has screened at events like the Los Angeles Film Festival, and both the film and Maggio’s writing and direction have garnered critical praise along the way.
Starring actor James LeGros as celebrity chef Peter Grey, and “The Blair Witch Project” star Joshua Leonard as the hated food blogger J.T. Franks, the film focuses on the effect Franks’ mean-spirited review of Grey’s prestigious restaurant has on the chef’s fragile mental state.
“People feel empowered to say things on a blog that they wouldn’t face to face,” Maggio said. “Because of a lot of these technological advances like texting and Twitter, we’re starting to lose the idea of the impact that certain words have on people. “
Maggio insists that he does not hate technology; in fact the director uses many of these communications tools himself. In his opinion, some aspects of technology have resulted in a decrease in the level of respect and privacy between people.
In “Bitter Feast,” Franks is consumed by the power he yields by having a blog with a large readership, and a lot of those readers go to Grey’s restaurant. After Grey suffers from a string of misfortunes in the wake of Franks’ review, he takes it upon himself to teach Franks a brutal lesson in etiquette.
Grey is a bizarre cross between a character that could be found in an Alexander Payne film like “Sideways” and notorious serial killer Charles Manson. The satirical tone the film takes, along with the scenes of grisly horror, makes that comparison even more fitting.
“Bitter Feast” is a film that certainly fits in with the rest of Glass Eye Pix’s catalog.
Maggio is currently working on another Fessenden-produced film, “The Last Rites of Joe May,” but also expressed the urge to move outside of independent dramas and dark comedies, and maybe one day even direct a “silly romantic comedy.”
“Bitter Feast” is now available on DVD from Dark Sky Films and MPI Media Group.