Team of Penn students and alumni produce debut feature film

The group created a Kickstarter page to raise post-production funds

· July 9, 2014, 5:10 pm   ·  Updated July 10, 2014, 11:13 am

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In the summer, everyone could use a good unrequited love story — especially when such a film features familiar places and faces.

A team of Penn students and their colleagues — all under the age of 24 — is nearly finished producing "Driving Not Knowing," a debut feature film and “a love letter to the place and people we grew up with,” according to the group’s Kickstarter fundraising page.

2014 College and Engineering graduates Dane Mainella and Dylan Hansen-Fliedner, 2014 College graduate Jay Jadick, and Temple graduate Benjamin Davis wrote and directed the film. Mainella and Jadick also star in the film, which is still in post-production.

Emily Rea — a 2014 College graduate — plays Jo, the lead role opposite Mainella and Jadick. Rea, along with other members of the cast such as 2014 College graduate Seth Schimmel and rising College senior Alex Temme and rising College junior Liz Barr met Mainella and the other Penn cast and crew members through the fraternity Pi Lambda Phi.

“Pi Lam, for us, has always been a safe-haven for the artistically minded and free-spirited of Penn’s campus and beyond,” Mainella said.

Now that the film is finished, the cast and crew is focusing on their fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, through which they hope to raise $21,170 to finish production. The film is also up for Project of the Week on indieWire — a news site targeted at the independent film community —, with the winner being awarded a creative consultation with the TriBeCa Institute, among other things.

Mainella said that the team hopes to gain acceptance into top tier film festivals such as American-based Sundance and South by Southwest and Euro-based Berlin and Rotterdam.

"Driving Not Knowing" is a love story that “follows two lost young men and the blurred borders of their relationship,” said Mainella. Main characters Will and Lee are artists — one a musician and one a poet — who are “at odds yet addicted to each other.” Will is “hesitant to make himself vulnerable to Lee’s [violent and intense] affection.”

Very few of the film’s lines of dialogue were pre-written. Mainella said that the group wrote an outline of each scene and then “felt immersed enough in [their] characters to be able to improvise dialogue.”

Mainella added that much of the conflict in the film comes from disagreement among characters in their self expression, a familiar conflict to college students at Penn and beyond.

“There is a big divide in the characters between living a life based on established practices...and living one that is more free-form and intuitive, however risky,” Mainella said.

The first act of the movie takes place in Philadelphia, and some of its scenes were filmed in familiar buildings like the Institute of Contemporary Art in West Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Contemporary Art in North Philadelphia, and Penn’s own Kelly Writers House.

Many Penn professors have also acted as mentors and inspiration to the "Driving not Knowing" cast and crew. Mainella said that Cinema Studies professors Nicola Gentili, Meta Mazaj, Tim Corrigan, David and Nancy Novack and Keir Politz and English professors Charles Bernstein, Kenneth Goldsmith and Deb Burnham offered encouragement and support throughout the process. Director of the Kelly Writers House Al Filreis helped the crew through much of the movie-making process and even appears in a cameo.

“We’re hoping [the film] will be received well,” Mainella said. “We think it has the potential to be universally enjoyable and relevant as an honest portrait of our generation.”

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