By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Three longtime friends wrote, directed and produced the film “Gutterbug,” which was recently awarded the Grand Jury Award for best narrative feature film at Dances with Films in Los Angeles. Algonquin Regional High School 2007 graduates Chris Tobin and Mike List along with Andrew Gibson, who they met while attending the University of New Hampshire, are excited to see what comes next.
“Gutterbug” premiered at the Boston Independent Film Festival in Somerville in April. A young man narrates his experiences and conflicts between running away and his journey back to his family. Homelessness, mental health, drug addiction, family and violence are all portrayed in an intense and emotional story.
In high school, Tobin and List would opt to do class projects as a film. In college, they met Gibson and worked on sketch videos, parody music videos and short films.
“Andrew is the most talented person I have met,” said List.
Gibson directed and co-wrote the film and has been working full-time in the industry, while script writer Tobin is a teacher and uses the summer to focus on film projects. Executive Director List works as a senior sales director and also secured project funding from private investors and friends.
“Gutterbug” is the first film produced by their film company, Dead Air Films.
The idea for “Gutterbug” began in 2013. The backdrop is Allston, Mass., home to the punk music scene and where List and Gibson lived.
They would see punks in their early 20s attend the shows and realized some were homeless, drifters, begging for money and eating meals out of dumpsters.
What started as a short film was the seed that led to the creation of “Gutterbug.”
“We saw young people like ourselves and started talking and creating the story of how did this happen,” said Tobin. “There was a lot of trial and error and diving in and doing it. There were more struggles than anticipated. It was stressful – a 17-day shoot with 12-hour days.”
Noise of planes and traffic, casting, and the difficulty in obtaining permits to shoot the film on location were some obstacles.
The quote “You can look back, but don’t stare” is a favorite for List.
“We have to be progressive-minded; there’s always trials and tribulations,” he said. “It’s a tough industry and there are more doubters than supporters.”
While en route to the airport after attending the West Coast film festival and premiere, Gibson received an unexpected call to tell him to stay as “Gutterbug” won.
“It was an honor just to be in the festival,” he said. “That in itself is worthy for celebration.”
There are two more summer local film festivals. Gibson hopes to have the film shown in film schools, small theaters and on streaming platforms.
A private showing for family and friends was recently held at List’s parent’s house.
“A lot of people were shocked at the quality,” said List. “It was a large success.”