By Tazio Ruffilo
Many college students’ final year is spent scrambling to figure out how to graduate on time. Tough courses they avoided during their first few years of school, research papers on obscure theories, some programs might require a capstone project, especially in the creative arts, all that stuff is what typical college students who are close to graduation are doing. Geoffrey Makowski, DePaul Catholic alumnus, born and raised in Wayne, did those things while earning his degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Unlike other college students, while working towards graduation he produced a feature length film with some of Hollywood’s well-known actors. And then he started a production company with his best friend and business partner, Michael Perrone.
Makowski was 23, Perrone still 19 years old when they made their first feature film EVOL. The film is a coming of age story about troubled seventeen-year-old, Jacob, played by Conor Donavan, who moves into New York City to undergo psychiatric treatment. During Jacob’s summer in New York he learns several brutal lessons, especially about the realities of love.
EVOL is not what you might expect when you hear student production. It is a full-length feature with a substantial budget, but it didn’t start out that way.
“Ready to start production, we were down to zero dollars in the account. It was raining. I was sitting in my car. I was about to cry. I remember the day. It was my sister’s birthday. I called her sobbing. I told her that I think I’m in over my head and that I’m going to fail. The next day we raised another $150,000, and then a week later another $450,000.”
Makowski insists that many people could succeed at realizing their dreams if they are honest with themselves and are willing to take a plunge into the unknown.
“When I went to school the first time around, I hated it. I was writing papers on microeconomics and interning at my father’s place. I had to dress a certain way, sitting at a desk, all that. I decided I didn’t want to do it. I want to go to art school.”
So, he bought a camera and enrolled at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) to study photography. The education was much different than finance school.
“Art school was everything you’d expect it to be. We’d meet for four hours and discuss our work. They taught us the basics, black and white photography, film. But it was also a lot of fun. Our teacher, on the last day, she bought us a bottle of Dom Perignon, for those of us that were old enough to drink.”
But nothing, he says, can prepare you for making that first film. Makowski says he would like to go back to SVA and teach one day. He wants to show students some of the things that do not get mentioned.
“How to file a claim, the business of renting equipment, how to do taxes, tax credits. They have the fundamental classes. But there is always something you encounter on a project that’s new.”
While in college at SVA, Makowski crossed paths with his eventual partner, director of Evol, Michael Perrone.
“I got to know Michael while doing concept photography for his project. Then he asked me if I’d be interested in doing a movie poster.”
The two came together to form a friendship and business relationship. The synergy that’s been created since them coming together is apparent. Their confidence in each other has paid off. Together Makowski and Perrone have a raised a considerable amount of capital for their films in a short time. They casted stars like Matthew Lawrence (Boy Meets World, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Hot Chick). Evol won eight awards at ten different film festivals, including the Best of the Festival Jury Award at the Hoboken International Film Festival.
“By the grace of God, we were able to find money, shoot the thing in three weeks in the summer. It was the greatest month of our lives.”
Makowski is currently working with Perrone on their next film Kurt, starring Matthew Lawrence, a drama about some of the darker aspects of the photography industry. Also, Makowski and Perrone’s production company, Sonder Pictures, is wrapping up a period piece called Churubusco, which will make the rounds at some of the industry’s prestigious festivals.
Evol is available for streaming on Amazon Prime or visit Sonder Pictures website at www.sonder.pictures.