JOE MAGGIO (2023 87 mins, 16:9)

Virgil Bliss (Clint Jordan) has been on the run from the law for twenty years. His decision to return to the scene of his original crime and finally make amends is complicated by the sudden death of his girlfriend Amy (Faryl Amadeus), and the unexpected arrival of Amy’s holy-roller sister who ensnares the well-meaning Virgil in a web of lies and deceit.

BLISS is the sequel to the 2001 Indie Spirit Award nominated feature VIRGIL BLISS and is the second installment of the Virgil Bliss Trilogy.

Slamdance unveils 2024 roster
“Our 2024 Slamdance lineup is a testament to filmmakers
who dare to push their stories to the very edge of filmmaking,
making it deeply personal yet globally resonant.”
Spotlight Feature: BLISS

Film Threat

Michael Talbot-Haynes, January 20, 2024

SLAMDANCE 2024 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Heaven is a moving target that drug addicts try to hit with a spike in the gritty noir-tinged drama Bliss, directed by Joe Maggio. Way out west, Virgil Bliss (Clint Jordan) has been hiding out for two decades under the false name of Dwayne Bells. He is breaking his back doing stable work when he gets a call from back home that the woman who raised him back east had a stroke. He hangs up and buys some opiate pills from fellow stablehand Anton (Juan Fernandez). He gives them to his lady Amy (Faryl Amadeus) so that they can celebrate her new job at Party City. They crush up the pills, cook them in spoons, and inject themselves into the veins of their hands. They both get fly-away high.

The next morning, Amy stays lying in bed, dead from an overdose. Virgil panics, as he is wanted by the police. He snorts some dope, buries his drugs in the yard, and buries Amy in the desert. When he gets back to their house, he finds Jo (Amadeus), Amy’s sister, waiting there. Jo is very religious and has been estranged from her drug-addicted sister. However, it is very important she speak with Amy, when is “Dwayne” expecting her back?

Bliss, which Maggio wrote with actors Jordan and Amadeus, is billed as the second film in a trilogy. The first installment is Maggio’s Virgil Bliss from 2001, also starring Jordan as the same character. It is absolutely not necessary to see the 23-year-old’s first film to totally get hooked on Bliss. Maggio strikes the perfect steel guitar chord of the Call of the West. Its tonal landscape has an intravenous Sam Shepherd feel, with people rolling like tumbleweeds off the end of the Earth.


BLISS (2024) is the culmination of over 20 years of filmmaking experience – all of my cinematic discoveries and creative breakthroughs, as well as the mistakes and missteps. In the spirit of Michael Apted’s 7-UP series and Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD, I reunited with Clint Jordan, the star of my debut feature VIRGIL BLISS (2001), to pick up Virgil’s story over twenty years later. In many ways, Virgil’s journey as an ex-con and fugitive has mirrored my own journey as a filmmaker. We both set out with the best and purest of intentions, but somehow, either through fate, or plain dumb luck, Virgil and I just always seemed to get knocked a little off course. Now, all these years later, we’ve found each other again – older, perhaps wiser, our bodies dinged and bruised, but our spirits unbroken. BLISS is the second film in a planned VIRGIL BLISS TRILOGY. It also marks my return to the filmmaking philosophy of “Incidental Cinema”, an initiative I started back in 2006. Incidental films are films made with total creative freedom. An incidental film can be commercially exploited, but market considerations play no part in its actual creation. For more information about Incidental Cinema, please visit

I wrote the script with Clint and co-star Faryl Amadeus, an actor/filmmaker with whom Clint had been working in LA. Together we imagined all the people and places Virgil had encountered over the past two decades, how the world had acted upon him, molded him into the grizzled-looking man we encounter grinding his horseshoe in the film’s opening frames. Over the course of six months, we hammered out a screenplay during epic four-hour phone calls as I drove between my home in NYC and Boston where I teach film at Emerson College, and then began putting the pieces of our humble production together. Larry Fessenden and his legendary NYC production company Glass Eye Pix came on board with financing and we were off to the races. Paula Killen, a legend in her own right, took on the day-to-day producer duties with a tireless zeal which to this day still amazes me. And no film of mine would be possible without Seth Anderson, editor and co-creator extraordinaire.

Before we could truly dive in, we needed a realistic production plan that would enable us to tell this off-the-grid desert story with our very limited resources. Matt Myers, one of my closest friends and collaborators, and easily the most brilliant producer I’ve ever known, assessed the situation and, while juggling producer duties on back-to-back films for Netflix and Amazon, fashioned the kind of brilliant, ultra-low-budget production strategy we’d used on so

many films in the past. Little did we know at the time that BLISS was to be Matt’s last film; he died suddenly three days before we wrapped principal photography. It’s to Matt Myers that we dedicate BLISS. I think he would be proud of what we’ve accomplished, of the story we tell, and the timeless themes we explore:


Clint Jordan, “Virgil” –  is known for The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999), Virgil Bliss (2001) and Phoenix Forgotten (2017).

Faryl Amadeus, “Amy” – She is the creator, writer, director and star of the TV show, Fancy Nancy’s Funny Hour, and was featured as one of Paper Magazine’s Most Beautiful People. Faryl’s debut short Mary Meet Grace (filmed during the 2020 pandemic) is a nod to the birth mother she was reunited with as an adult, and an exploration of what lengths an adoptee might go to to discover who and where they come from. Faryl is developing two features, and three TV drama pilots.

Juan Fernandez, “Anton” – Juan Fernández was born on December 13, 1956 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is an actor and producer, known for A Man Apart (2003), The Collector (2009) and Crocodile Dundee II (1988).

David Yow, “Pizza Guy” – Most recently Yow’s portrayal of “Marshall” in Macon Blair’s ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore’ alongside, Elijah Wood, Jane Levy and Melanie Lynskey, has received a ton of buzz and excitement. His versatility is displayed fully in David Robert Mitchell’s ‘Under the Silver Lake’ with Jimmi Simpson, Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Topher Grace, as “The Homeless King”.

Joe Maggio – writer/director: Joe Maggio is an award-winning writer-director. His work has screened in festivals and museums around the world, including Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, MoMA, The Museum of the Moving Image, The Paley Center for Media and The Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

His first film, Virgil Bliss (2001), was nominated for two 2002 Independent Spirit Awards – The John Cassavetes Award (Best Feature under $500,000) and Best Debut Performance (for actor Clint Jordan.)

His second film, Milk + Honey (2003), premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and won a Special Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the 2003 Atlanta Film Festival.

Paper Covers Rock (2008), premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and was purchased by IFC Films for worldwide VOD and DVD, and by Showtime for North American cable.

Bitter Feast (2010), premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was released theatrically and on VOD through MPI Media/Dark Sky Films. It was nominated for two Golden Chainsaw Awards (Best Actor, Best Blood FX) by Fangoria Magazine.

The Last Rites of Joe May (2011), was produced in conjunction with Steppenwolf Films of Chicago. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, was acquired by Tribeca Films and released theatrically to critical acclaim throughout North America. The late Roger Ebert included The Last Rites of Joe May on his list of best films of 2011.

His sixth feature film, Supermoto (2016), was shot on the prairies of Eastern North Dakota and premiered at the Minneapolis International Film Festival.

He has collaborated with Vincent D’Onofrio on three radio plays, Man on The Ledge (2012) and Ram King (2013), and Cannibals (2015), as part of the Tales From Beyond the Pale series presented by NYC horror impresario Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid.

In 2006, he founded Incidental Films, a production company devoted to making “Incidental Cinema” – ultra-indie films that favor narrative truth and creative freedom above all else.

As of 2022 he is completing work on a feature documentary, Gary from Omaha, about one man’s hunt for a mythical creature in the wilds of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, and he has just completed the feature film, Bliss, the sequel to his award-winning debut feature, Virgil Bliss (2001), and the second installment in the Virgil Bliss trilogy.

He has taught at NYU in the Film and Dramatic Writing departments, and is on the faculty of Emerson College where he teaches directing.