It is only fitting that FIFO (Fade In/Fade Out), a Lehigh Valley-based film-production consortium, holds their gatherings – the first Tuesdays of every month – at Two Rivers Brewing Company in Easton. After all, the idea for the filmmaking group was born over a beer between FIFO CEO and Founder Bill Hartin and actor Gene Connelly. Prior to this film-consortium-generating beverage imbibing, the pair worked together on The Writer’s Muse, a short written and directed by Hartin with Connelly as the lead actor, which won Best Film Short at the 2010 Pocono Mountains Film Festival.
“Well over a year ago, Gene and I talked – over a beer – about what we would like to do eventually,” Hartin recalls. “Gene said that he was dedicated to the craft and dedicated to wanting to act, but he has a house, a family, wife, kids and all that stuff, so he couldn’t just take off to Hollywood to become discovered. He said what we really needed was a production company that was dedicated to making films so that people like himself – and there are a lot of those with that kind of talent here in Lehigh Valley who are doing the same thing he is – to have an opportunity to be able to ply their craft and develop their careers. I agreed, but production companies take money.”
In the world of filmmaking, financing is everything – without it, productions rarely ever get off the ground. But Hartin and Connelly, along with Paul Luongo, sidestepped this sobering film-production fact by focusing on doing it, regardless of funding, for the simple love of the craft.
“I said to Gene, ‘If we form a consortium, nobody needs to get paid. I don’t need to get paid. You need an opportunity to act in film. And the people who would get involved would be as dedicated as you are,’” Hartin remembers.
They put the word out about the consortium, and slowly people from all talent, skill and experience levels of the filmmaking realm began to find FIFO.
“We spent probably the first five to six months just meeting and talking about possibilities,” Hartin says. “And then at one of the meetings, one of the members raised their hand and said, ‘These meetings are great, and I’m learning a lot, but when are we going to do something?’”
So FIFO took the first step of soliciting screenplays with the criteria of a limited budget, one to two shot locations and a short time frame.
“We landed on the script Tigers in the Soup by William D. Prystauk,” Hartin explains. “We went right through the process. Paul Luongo produced for it, and we used his house to shoot it. ...It’s not a very long film, [just under four minutes]. Some people got paid, most people did not, but everyone felt good about accomplishing something under the FIFO banner.”
With the first film under their belts, FIFO is already in the process of going through scripts for their next production. Hartin, however, does not want to settle for just making one short after another; he envisions FIFO having a much larger impact on the world of filmmaking.
“When I say that FIFO is trying to make filmmaking in the Lehigh Valley what music is to Nashville, people’s eyes roll back, and they think I’m crazy,” he says. “But I say you have to shoot that high in order to get anything established, and what you need to establish with filmmaking here in the Lehigh Valley is an infrastructure.”
Hartin adds, “FIFO’s goal is to get good at making short films, so that we are making big short films that people really want to see and enjoy watching. And then once we feel we’ve got our feet under us and have the right infrastructure in place, we will tackle a feature. ...We are interested in getting filmmaking established as an industry in the Lehigh Valley because then everybody benefits from it.”
To learn more about FIFO, check out their Facebook page.
Bill Hartin’s Favorite Film: The Shawshank Redemption
“Because it is a wonderful film,” Hartin simply states.