This gave him, he says, “a chance to go deeper and darker with the conflict between couples: how do they talk to each other, how do they not talk to each other, and how do they talk around problems.”
“Mercury in Retrograde,” is set in Chicago and Fenville, Michigan, just south of Holland, where three couples vacation at a lakeside cabin. “They are away from the routine of daily personal life to face each other as problems come to the surface,” Smith says.
Starring in the cast of 13 are filmmaker Jack C. Newell, Andrew Sensening, Najarra Townsend, Roxane Mesquida and Steppenwolf stage actress Alana Arenas. Casting was handled by Theatre Wit’s actress Clare Cooney
“Mercury” was filmed last August on a budget of $130,000, most of which, Smith says, was used to rent the Michigan cottage and feed cast and crew on location.
Smith’s “Mercury” co-producers were Clare Kosinski, who co-produced “Apocalypse” and Mike McNamara of the Midwest Independent Film Festival. Producers were Shane Simmons, one of the co-stars, and effects coordinator Kevin W. Wright.
Cinematographer was Jason Chiu (“Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”); line producer, Jeremy Freeman, camera and jib operator; production designer, Amy Geist; sound mixer, Brie Birt. Editorial.
German-born Kubilay Uner, Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia College, will be creating and recording an 8- or 16-piece symphonic score once the film is locked. Smith says he wants a “lush sound score that would be romantic and not typical of indie films.”
Editorial of the 123-minute drama by local editor, actor, and filmmaker Frank V. Ross (Bloomin Mud Shuffle,” “Drinking Buddies”) will wrap by year’s end. It then head for the festival circuit on which minuscule-budget “Apocalypse” was successful in garnering an armful of “Best” awards.
Smith, a North Carolina native with a master’s degree in film, has lived in Chicago since 1993. In addition to being a professor of film at Oakton Community College and Harold Washington College, he is a frequently-published film critic and a founder of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.
His 2015 book, “Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry,” co-authored with Adam Seltzer, is a fascinating account of the 1900s rise and fall of Essanay and Selig Polyscope studios – Essanay being where Charlie Chaplin made a comedy one-reeler that brought him to Hollywood and fame.
Based on his successful film experiences, Smith has advice for his fellow indie filmmakers: “Stay in Chicago!” he encourages. “The expanding local industry is very exciting now. Stay here, make connections, and help build up the industry to even greater heights.”
Smith will practice what he preaches as, of course, he will shoot his two features in Chicago next summer.