The Bushwick-based production company, FilmGym, which is run by the husband and wife team of Michelle Glick and Phillip Wolter, premied their short film “Chance of Rain” this past weekend at the prestigious Sonoma Film festival, which is being held this year from April 10th through the 14th.
Wolter directed the drama, shot in New York City in 2011 and stars in it, along side his wife. The film is about a man who walks into a psychic parlor while trying to escape the rain and gets a reading, which ends up changing the course of his life. “It’s kind of like a love story too. There’s a twist in there, but I don’t want to give it away,” said Wolter in a telephone interview just days before “Chance of Rain” premiered on Saturday.
FilmGym has been in Brooklyn since 2004. Initially, the company started as nothing more than a small group of directors, all graduates of the School of Visual Arts, who collaborated on various projects, taking turns writing, directing, producing and shooting. “It was like a gym for your film muscles,” Wolter says.
Eventually, the group grew into a small community and soon became a full-fledged production company. “When Phillip and I got married (in 2008) we decided to push the films. It became more than a hobby or a passion project, we said ‘lets make a livelihood of it,’” explains Glick. Hence, the two became heads of the company, which boasts several other in-house directors, composers, cinematographers and editors.
Brooklyn seemed the perfect spot to do this, both personally and professionally. “I feel like there’s a lot of art and a more artistic feel to it,” says Wolter, “You can sit in a café and write and have more free space in your head and come up with more ideas.”
The couple settled down in Buswick. “You know how something suits you? I can definitely say I’ve lived in every borough and every part of Manhattan and somehow Brooklyn… I just feel most at home there,” says Glick.
As the principal figures behind FilmGym, the couple, who initially met in an acting class, have a jack-of-all trades approach to filmmaking—both write, direct, produce and act. “After running around going to auditions—I didn’t want my life to be that. Somehow that wasn’t enough,” says Glick, “I’m very interested in writing and story telling and I enjoy connecting with people in that way,” who, for the last couple of years has chosen to immerse herself in producing, more so than acting.
For Wolter, the job of producer is one he takes on only out of necessity. “Its something I’d give happily to someone else, but between directing and acting it really depends on the project.”
In “Chance of Rain,” which is based on a one-act play Wolter saw in Manhattan three years ago, he was able to do both. “I initially had someone else to play my part and then he couldn’t do it,” Wolter says. At first he was reluctant to both direct and act in the film, but the experience proved to be a positive one. “I was so involved with directing, that when it was my time to do the acting, I wasn’t overthinking things and it came more easily,” Wolter recalls, “It was a great lesson in terms of not getting in your own way.”
This is FilmGym’s second time in Sonoma, following their debut at the festival in 2011, with the short existential drama, “The Bridge,” which won the Audience Award and went on to the international film circuit, playing in Berlin, Sao Paulo and China.
But the Sonoma Film remains one of the couples’ favorite events. “Sonoma has this laid back, casual atmosphere and that I think is missing in some festivals– you don’t have people connecting as easily.,” says Glick. “It’s not just about promoting your own film but it’s about seeing other peoples’ films as well” Wolter, a native of Berlin, Germany, adds that the festival’s picturesque setting in Northern California and abundance of wine, help to enhance the experience as well.
Once the Sonoma Film Festival winds down, Wolter and Glick will head back to their Brooklyn home base and hope for FilmGym to start producing feature films in the near future. When asked if they find it difficult to work so closely with someone you’re married to, both laugh. Glick says the key is not to talk about work all the time and give each other professional space as well– “We know where we can collaborate together and where we need to work separately.,” says Glick.
“It has its challenges, but on the other hand it’s really good too because you trust each other,” Wolter adds.