Vic’s Note: I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching a screening of “Step 9” here in Rochester, New York. I was graciously invited by local D.J. and Film-maker Scott W. Fitzgerald of http://fairportpictures.com , to attend the showing at the beautiful Memorial Art Gallery here in the Arts district. I would like to personally thank Scott, his lovely wife Kelly, Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media for the invitation. It was a wonderful and revelatory evening. Thanks, guys!
A former drug addict attempts to make amends with his ex-wife by telling her a secret he’s been keeping to himself for years.
“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”
Directed by Scott W. Fitzgerald
8 out of 10
“Step 9” is a powerful and somber short film which is an amazing character study efficiently told with sobering detail and an almost funereal reverence. Co-writer and director Scott W. Fitzgerald, of Fairport Pictures, handles the material with respect and a like-able craftsmanship that leaves the viewer completely immersed. Then eventually exhausted by the deep testimonial that is the result of a 20 minute journey into a man’s attempt to put his life back in order at any cost. Fitzgerald’s story, which he co-wrote with “Step 9” actress Kelly Austin, is an acute observation that tempers the soul of those who particularly understand the tribulations of the lead character, Ray, played brilliantly by Danny Hoskins. (Better Than Wine) Ray is a recovering drug addict who wants to clear the air about his troubles with substance abuse to his estranged wife, Addison (Kelly Austin of the upcoming “Bury My Heart with Tonawanda”).
Fitzgerald’s film begins bleakly with Addison (Austin) getting into her vehicle in order to follow her husband, Ray. DP Derrick Petrush, from http://dtrainmedia.com/ ( Mason Darby, He’s Our Man!) keeps his camera tight on all the prologue proceedings. When Addison gets in her car and we see close ups of her starting the ignition and clicking in her seat belt. Fitzgerald automatically gives the short a claustrophobic feel as Addison drives, the shot lingering of her eyes in the rear view mirror, after Ray one snowy and rainy day. She eventually catches up with Ray at what appears to be warehouse/ storage facility. Addison pulls her car into frame and she watches as Ray and another man, a stranger, are in the middle of what looks to be a transaction of sorts.
Addison jumps out after moving closer and confronts Ray as the other man turns and runs. Ray tries to calm Addison down as she yells and attacks him. She turns to get back into her car as Ray attempts to explain what is transpiring. But it is too late. Addison gets into the car and Fitzgerald quietly reveals the film’s title as we continue to hear Addison’s crying. The film flashes slowly white then we come to Ray contemplating better and jovial days with his beloved wife as he sits eating a meal. Confined to a compact dwelling, Ray sits somberly and eventually Addison arrives to speak with Ray. Things are frosty and as Addison tries to be immediate and hurried, Ray comes off as a bit standoffish as he makes a biting comment about Addison’s prosperity. It doesn’t sit well with her and almost leaves Ray alone to wallow. Ray tells Addison about some bad news and he realizes that he is not getting any support or sympathy from her. In the course of the conversation she asks Ray about his prior drug use already making a judgement. Fitzgerald and Austin make their characters hot headed and prone to arguing. They continue this discourse for a while as the movie slowly boils in the incommodious environment.
Ray begs to have the “old Addy back” as he tries desperately to get her to understand that this disclosure is not easy for him. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald adds the occasional flashback in black and white of Ray being sneaky and devious all the while with a devilish grin on his face. Ray tries to take a trip down memory lane but Addison decides otherwise. Ray, then, proceeds to tell her what he was going through and how he felt during his use as the steely Addison rubs her hands with antibacterial lotion in a very symbolic gesture. Fitzgerald’s characters are people under a microscope in “Step 9.” They are being slowly picked apart by their movements, dialog and emotions. The short incorporates layers of dynamic drama and it is fueled by slow and deliberate conversation. The film peels back layers upon layers exposing issues, trauma and deep rooted despondency. Self image, addiction and insecurities come to surface. Especially when Ray finds out something salient about Addison’s past. All of this is on display and it works because of Austin and Hoskins. They play the conflict and then resolution well off of each other.
It isn’t all done with an easy flow though. Hoskins’ somewhat maniacal outbursts towards Austin seems a bit forced and heavy handed but it is fleeting. The script, too, clunks around a bit in the beginning but it finds it’s footing and never trips again. By the end of the short after all things are said and done between Ray and Addison, things are very different and the climax is both appropriate, crushing and eye opening. “Step 9” is about forgiveness, despair, re-creation and sometimes futility. There is hope in this short though. In spades. My hat’s off to Fitzgerald, Austin, Hoskins and Fair Port Pictures for putting together a beautifully shot and wonderful short that is well acted, relevant and engaging. “Step 9” is indeed about what the 9th step is all about. Making amends. That in itself is a conviction that Fitzgerald and company express brilliantly in this short. Highly recommend.
“This is not right, Ray. You are a good man. You SAVED us.” – Addison
“The slate is clean.” – Ray
“Step 9” was shot and filmed in Rochester, New York
You can watch the Festival Cut of “Step 9” from Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media here: