To a young boy growing up in a small town like Fuquay-Varina, walking down a Hollywood red carpet and rubbing elbows with big-time movie stars can seem like unattainable feats.
Film making is a dog-eat-dog business, a tough scene to break into. But for John “Mario” Marchioni, it’s a dream worth pursuing.
Marchioni, 32, graduated from Fuquay-Varina High School in 2000 and then headed to Wilmington to perform music.
After a brief stint as a drummer, Marchioni became more interested in the art of film. Wilmington is known for attracting production companies, serving as the backdrop for shows like “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” as well as movies like “Safe Haven,” “28 Days” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
“I had always been interested in film, and I knew that film happened here,” Marchioni said.
He studied film at UNC-Wilmington and started working as a film teacher at Cape Fear Community College.
“It’s been rewarding to work with students and do something positive,” Marchioni said. “Teachers have always been really influential in my life.”
He still had an urge to break into the film scene, and his first big break came when he recently snagged a producing job with the independent movie “Pieces of Talent.”
“This is the first film that I’ve been a part of creatively at a producing level,” Marchioni said.
“Pieces of Talent” follows a young aspiring actress. While working as a waitress at a seedy joint, she meets a murderous director named David who’d do anything to make it in the movie biz – including killing off his competition.
The movie has been well received by film junkies across the country, winning 17 awards from various horror film festivals.
The film’s graphic nature is not for the faint of heart: It is not recommended for viewers younger than 18.
The movie character’s struggle to make it as a film director is something a lot of filmmakers can relate to. Although he doesn’t feel like going on a homicidal spree, Marchioni knows the frustrations of trying to break into the movie business.
“The way the business is set up, it’s hard to get into,” he said. “A lot of the time, you have to know somebody.”
The horror film is unique in its casting. Marchioni said many indie films hire more popular actors to star in their movies, hoping the big names will draw a larger audience.
But for “Pieces of Talent,” the production team only wanted to hire actors and crew from North Carolina. Even the soundtrack is made up of local bands and musicians.
“That’s something we are proud of,” Marchioni.
Making an independent film can mean more creative expression and fewer boundaries, but it’s no easy task. Working with little funding and a small crew can be tough. If something went wrong on set, it was up to the crew to be creative.
“We had to think outside the box,” Marchioni said.
He planned to return to Fuquay-Varina on Saturday and Sunday to hold a promo for “Pieces of Talent” at Aviator Brewing Company. He and the crew planned to sell DVDs of the movie and will host a screening of the film.
Marchioni said he’s not dedicated to sticking with the horror genre long term. As long as a film has an intriguing back story, he’s in.
“I just want to be able to tell a good story,” Marchioni said.