Many of The State’s readers recognize Gerry Melendez for his sports photographs.
Now, the longtime photographer is trying his hand at filmmaking, with his first festival submission in this weekend’s Indie Grits Festival, opening Thursday in Columbia.
Melendez, 47, produced “House of Saints,” a 15-minute film about a Columbia man the photographer met two years ago while on assignment in his neighborhood.
Melendez talked recently about the film and what he hopes his audiences will get from it.
First, what are you watching right now?
I’ve been watching “The Shining” recently, trying to analyze each shot and each angle. Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” is a feast for the eyes in how he frames each scene. Some of my other favorite filmmakers are Martin Scorcese and Stanley Kubrick.
Tell us about your film, “House of Saints.”
“House of Saints” follows Reggie Scott, a jazz musician and former convict released after serving a 32-year sentence for murder. Scott has returned to his childhood home, a historically significant place in Columbia’s Arsenal Hill, where he’s trying to bring the house back to life. Music and familiar spirits guide him in his quest. Indie Grits described the film as a “study of retribution and atonement.”
What was your inspiration for the idea?
As a documentary photographer, I’m always searching for interesting stories to tell. When I first met Reggie he had such a vast knowledge of Columbia’s black history and was a fascinating person to talk to. I knew there was a story there. As Reggie opened up to me, the story that became the film took shape.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Time. There’s never enough time to do everything right. It’s a massive undertaking to craft a story into a film. It took me almost two years to complete.
Any big takeaways for you?
It’s been a goal to complete a film and have it screened at a festival. For Indie Grits to find it worthy enough for acceptance makes me proud. I’m also happy to call Reggie a friend. He opened up and shared extremely difficult things about his life to me. It takes courage to open up your life to others.
Can we expect to see other similar projects from you in the future?
Yes, I’m planning to do more films. This has been a learning experience and I think I’ll be more prepared for the next one.
What do you hope Indie Grits audiences will take away from “House of Saints?”
The film touches on universal themes of music, faith and family. I’m hoping audiences will connect to this imperfect man as he struggles to atone for his past.