For a magical period during the summer of 2009, 10-year-old Jack Fessenden slept in the closet of his parents’ bedroom in New York’s Catskill Mountains. His own room had been transformed into hair and makeup. Outside his family’s rambling farmhouse, the 11-person crew for the indie horror parody Bitter Feast slept in tents and bunked in the old chicken coop. Jack’s father, Larry, a veteran, was producing and acting. Beck Underwood, aka Mom, was production designer. This was not the first film shot at the old farm, but it was the first the boy saw in a new way: as a seductive experience. The house where the Fessendens spent weekends and summers now seemed bewitched to Jack, the familiar made wonderfully strange.
“I always thought what my dad does is so cool,” Jack, now 17, reflects. “The way he talks about film is so inspirational.” Discussion of every aspect of cinema was routine as toothbrushing in the Fessenden home, but seeing it put into action galvanized Jack. By the end of the Bitter Feast shoot, he had learned what differentiated director of photography from director and had gone Rollerblading with the boom operator. He stood in the still eye of independent filmmaking’s controlled whirlwind, watching everything. And he realized he wanted to do this when he grew up.