Hoboken resident John Vargas isn’t new to the entertainment world. He’s the force behind Original Sessions, an all-encompassing booking and entertainment company, and also behind showcasing original talent at Love Sexy, a live music venue in Hoboken, which closed.
Vargas’ own talent, if it is narrowed down to one thing, has been the talent for making things happen.
And now, he has just finished his own project, a feature-length film called “Scattered Limbs.”
The first spark for the film came from a poem that Vargas wrote, also called “Scattered Limbs.” The poem is on the poster art for the film.
The poem reads: “In the beginning was the word, and some said the word was God. The poet has the word so he creates. Now all we have before us are the Scattered Limbs of the dead poet.”
According to Vargas, no matter what medium he is working in, he always works with a poem. He greatly admires the work of Jean Cocteu, a French filmmaker who was also known as a poet and musician.
“The main premise is coming to terms with our own mortality,” said Vargas. “It’s about growing up in a certain environment.”
So approximately eight years ago, with the poem as a starting board for the movie, Vargas and four friends discussed ideas. They met once a week, but the first draft was all over the place and eventually fell apart.
One of the co-writers, Oscar Maldonado, stayed on with Vargas and they began again. Four years ago, with a new draft in hand, Vargas, who also directs the film, went into production. The filmmakers eventually ran out of money and had to stop production again.
“I can’t let things go,” said Vargas. “It starts to bother me.”
Six months ago, Vargas began again. Instead of recasting, he decided to restructure the film. He re-shot some of the scenes and added a new character.
Vargas ended up acting in the film, although that wasn’t his intention. The actor who was originally cast as Manny had another job during production and had to back out.
“It’s pretty much about rolling with the punches,” said Vargas. “Just when you think you are on top of it, something happens. Being in an urban environment makes you more resilient. You find a way to get around it.”
So finally, after years of setbacks, Vargas has his finished feature-length film.
Guilt, incest, and colonization…
The movie is an urban allegory that deals with Christian guilt, incest, the effects of colonization and mortality. The characters all represent something and have secrets.
“People might think it is a slasher film [because of the title],” said Vargas. “Whether they get it or not, I’m confident they will enjoy it.”
According to Vargas, inspiration for the title actually comes from a Latin poem by Ovid and really refers to “scattered remains.”
“What it comes down to is a poem,” said Vargas. “No matter how original you think you are, ideas are universal. If people get the poetic references, great. [The film] is about broken people. Whether rich or poor, life is what happens when you think you have it all figured out.”
The story is told in two acts. Vargas initially saw it as a triptych, but now thinks the third act can be told as its own story.
The core of the film revolves around the lives of two brothers – Kenny, played by Pete Diaz, and Robert Leonardo, played by Oscar Maldonado. Kenny Leonardo is in love with Virginia Muerte, played by Corinne Paquin. Their relationship is complicated by Virginia’s brother Willie, a drug dealer, who also forces Virginia into an incestuous relationship. Willie Muerte, played by Steven David, is threatened by her new love interest and decides to do something about it.
Robert Leonardo also has a girlfriend, Margaret LeBlanca, played by Lorna Courtney. Margaret is tired of their relationship being kept a secret and wants a commitment from Robert. Robert is confused about his own sexuality, which is why he doesn’t want their relationship to be public. He is unaware that his brother and their friends all know about his confusion.
Kenny’s friends Daryl, played by John Emhler, and Ronnie, played by Fernando Zambra, want Kenny to join them in making a name for themselves on the streets. Kenny wants no part of it, but finds himself involved in their plans.
The film also deals with coming to terms with death.
“At the end of the day, we are all going to die,” said Vargas. “You could be the most righteous person or the most evil, but the only people that are able to cheat death are poets, because their words live on.”
The first screening is at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 4 p.m. Vargas decided to distribute the film himself rather than taking to the festivals.
According to Vargas, you have to make your own opportunities.
“This is what I did on my own,” said Vargas. “I can’t do it the way the studios are doing it. I’ve got to make my own rules.”
His plan is to screen it once a month at select theaters in the United States, and already has a dozen places lined up after the first show at the Knitting Factory. Updates will be posted on the film’s website.
“I don’t want to have a limited run,” said Vargas. “You have to make your work happen. I measure success by what you are able to accomplish for yourself.”
For more information, please visit: www.scatteredlimbs.com, or www.originalsessions.com. Or check out the film this Sunday, Jan. 8 at 4 p.m. at the Knitting Factory.