Half the battle when it comes to pursuing creative projects is knowing which to stick with.
Local filmmaker Joe Gietl has found such a project with “The Fledgling,” a mini-series he’s working to produce that’s equal parts thriller and coming-of-age story.
“At some point, in this business, you need to put a stake in the ground and go all in for a project. And this is that project for me,” Gietl said.
It follows a teenage orphan named Charlie who finds out her father is alive and sets out on a cross-country road trip to find him. She’s joined by 300-year-old vampires that just turned her into a “fledgling.” Together they travel the roads of a dying America, all the while being pursued by a private investigator hired by a shadowy organization.
Gietl started writing the seven-episode series during the pandemic, and it took about two years to complete. It’s an homage to the adventure stories he enjoyed growing up, though he also explores themes surrounding parenthood.
“I poured my soul into ‘The Fledgling’ for two-plus years now because it was one of those ideas that I couldn’t put down and I felt like there was something about this world, and the characters that inhabit it, that kept beckoning me to return,” Gietl said.
During that time, he was also working on several other projects as well, including “A Void,” a short feature film released in 2021. He was encouraged by Christopher Gaunt, a Queensbury actor/director, to pursue taking “The Fledgling” from script to screen.
“When Joe and I sat down to review a list of potential projects a year ago, The Fledgling was the project that we could envision millions of people watching and enjoying for a number of reasons,” said Gaunt, who has since become the project’s executive producer.
“Our team all agrees that this project is the one that we need to lean in on in an effort to help bring it to life. The writing and character development [are] so compelling.”
They started working together to make “The Fledgling” a reality. Being independent filmmakers, securing funding topped the to-do list and they opted to produce a proof of concept film that features a tableau of key scenes and would set the tone for the rest of the series.
They brought on actress Juliet Landau who played Drusilla on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and up-and-coming actress Anastasia Veronica Lee who has worked with big-name actors like Dustin Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Candace Bergen.
Having someone with Landau’s experience level and background involved with the project was key.
“A lot of people are going to tell you that something like this is impossible. [That you can’t] get a big actress for the short. It just doesn’t happen. And so Chris and I were like, ‘Why not?’ I want to talk about how it can happen, as opposed to why it can’t.”
She came on board with help from casting director Heidi Eklund and Gietl felt Landau really understood and connected with the material.
“Her attention to detail was something that was unique,” Gietl said. “Just the intricacies of how she prepares was really refreshing . . . I’ve worked with a lot of great actors, but just one thing unique to her was just like her process in terms of getting a deeper understanding of the character and that’s informed by like many years of experience in the business.”
Filming began last September at The Albany Academy, which lent a gothic aesthetic to the 10-minute film. It was shot with help from local filmmakers John Stegemann, Jim Powers, Cameron Mitchell and others.
When The Gazette caught up with Gietl last month, the team was in the final stages of post-production and was working with Company 3, a post-production company that’s worked on “Stranger Things,” “Yellowstone,” “Wednesday Addams” and many other shows.
The next step is getting into film festivals like the Tribeca Festival among others. The team is also looking for investors and for a seasoned showrunner. To set “The Fledgling” apart from other projects, Gietl plans to publish a children’s book of the story and bring it to pitch meetings, along with the film.
“Any way that we could show our creativity off and that we’re thinking outside of the box on this one is what I was trying to do,” Gietl said.
Following the film festival season, Gietl hopes to hold a local screening of the film as well. For updates and more information visit @fledglingseries on Instagram.
Monday, February 13, 2023
The Daily Gazette