It took Michael McGuire 13 years to create his film “Aquarians” since its inception. The film follows Danny Sullivan (center played by Chandler Massey) — who returns home as a seminarian and attempts to reconnect with his estranged brother.
by LAURA HAYES
One summer, Michael McGuire was an actor in Vermont’s Dorset Theater Festival when he had a dream about his younger brother. When he woke up, he had a question — what would life be like if a man in his 20s decided to join the seminary?
Now, 13 years later, the dream inspired McGuire’s film “Aquarians” that is debuting in the Twin Cities Film Fest on Sunday. “Aquarians” tells the story of Danny Sullivan — a seminarian traveling back to his hometown (a fictional town called Silver River near the Upper Michigan border in Wisconsin) to help an ailing priest. Writer and director McGuire explained when Danny returns to his home parish, he feels pressured to track down his brother, Jake, with whom he has lost contact after a tragic event. McGuire described the film as a story of brotherhood.
“How we respond to tragic events in our lives can dictate who we are for years to come. I think there’s a healing process following a loss where you can bounce back and reclaim who you are and not be defined by the events,” McGuire said.
He started writing the script in 2004, and while pieces of the plot have changed over the drafts, the small Midwest town setting has remained. Although McGuire was born in the Twin Cities and raised in Wisconsin, his roots lead back to Winona. His grandparents had a cabin between Stockton and Lewiston. His grandfather was a vice president at Watkins, and his parents both met when they attended Winona State University. “I always wanted to make a film that was specific to the cultural nuances of the Upper Midwest,” McGuire explained.
Growing up in Marinette, Wis., McGuire and his friends made videos. When he began pursuing a professional acting career in New York, McGuire worked with independent or student filmmakers. Sometimes after negative experiences, he would wonder if he should consider becoming a director. However, after his dream in Vermont, McGuire began to seriously consider a making a film and started working behind the scenes before pursuing his masters in fine arts at the AFI Conservatory in California.
Now, years after McGuire first started jotting down the script in a notebook in Vermont, he’s happy with the final product. You always wish you had one more take or another closeup, he explained. “There’s an expression that films are never completed, but abandoned,” he said. I’m confident that we made an entertaining and well-crafted film with high production value, he added. “I hope the audience members first and foremost are excited to see a story set in small-town Midwest in the winter,” McGuire said.
Parts of the movie were shot in McGuire’s hometown. The residents helped provide housing for production members and helped McGuire and his team get permission to shoot in parts of the town, close a street during a scene where a car goes into the ditch, and acted as extras.
“It was really touching to have all that support and it really benefits the film,” McGuire said.
He encourages people to support independent films. The world premiere of “Aquarians” will take place as part of the Twin Cities Film Festival on October 22 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the premiere are available online at http://twincitiesfilmfest.org/films/aquarians/.