Lips are moving but there’s no sound being emitted. The actors are silently rehearsing their lines. Lights on the set have been strategically placed. The camera on a tripod is focused. Words come from the director: “Quiet on the set. Slate. Scene six, take one. Action.” The camera starts rolling as the words from the script come alive. It’s all in a day’s work for local filmmaker Barry Worthington who knew when he was six years old that he wanted to make movies. Growing up watching “Superman,” “Star Wars,” and “Jaws” with his family cultivated his interest in the industry. He said the films not only fascinated him with their storylines but they made him keenly aware of the impact they had on their audiences.
When Worthington was a student at Gaithersburg High School, he premiered his films in the school’s auditorium at lunchtime and filled the seats. “I was seeing firsthand the power that film has in affecting people, and I wanted to use that for positivity in the community. I was seeing that films weren’t just visuals and audio, they were opportunities to connect with other people in a very personal way,” he noted.
Since his high school days, the 27-year-old has received accolades for his films, earned a degree in electronic media and film from Towson University where he is an adjunct film professor, and he is currently working on his Master of Fine Arts at American University. “It’s this whole big gumbo of work,” he said. In addition to his own films, he sometimes freelances, and he is running a film festival in Los Angeles in October.
His award-winning independent production studio, Limitless Films, LLC, has been the “reel” deal since 2010, the same year he graduated from Towson. His latest project, “The Infinitely Generous Francis Victus,” is a comical mockumentary with some dramatic elements planted along the way. Residents of the small town of Victus are searching for the truth about its founder, farmer Francis Victus who is supposedly responsible for how the town has flourished. The entire town has benefitted from Victus’ peaches, which are reportedly very delicious. A variety of locations in the metro area, Delaware and Pennsylvania, including parks, farms, the track at American University, and the library at the Sandy Spring Museum, have been used to stage the scenes.
Worthington chose the first name for the film’s title character for its gender neutrality. “I knew that would provide some comedy and also attempt to establish the point that the movie’s trying to make.” For Francis’ last name, his research led him to the Latin word Victus, meaning that which brings life. “It’s a pretty safe town, an economically very stable town, and everybody is very happy. … It’s supposed to be that a lot of that came because of Francis Victus,” he said.
Worthington is very adept at building intrigue and keeping Francis’ gender a mystery whenever the name is mentioned. “Actually, right now, and I don’t mean for it to be a spoiler, but I’m going to be very coy about what the gender of that character is. It’s interesting because the whole compass of the movie is that as it progresses, you’re realizing that some people don’t really know who Francis Victus was as much as they claimed to have known who he or she was, so the void of the character’s gender ends up being part of the comedy of the mysteriousness.”
A wearer of many hats, Worthington writes the scripts and composes music for his films, produces, selects the cast, directs, edits and acts. For “Victus” he is behind the camera acting as the documentarian, asking interview questions of the characters. He equates the movie to an inkblot or Rorschach test because he said it is up to the audience to interpret the information provided by the collage of characters, 10 in all, who each have their own perspective about Francis. Their perspectives are encapsulated in their one-on-one time with the camera that Worthington refers to as “talking heads. … It’s like the characters are having their interview with the camera and they start to become very angry with the documentary crew that’s filming them so, sort of, you could say it’s like we’re breaking the fourth wall.”
Twenty-six-year-old actor Dominique Antonio Spencer from Baltimore, who is a Delta Airlines ramp agent by day, plays the leader of Victus Victories, which he describes as “somewhat of a fan club … a group who strongly believe in everything that Francis Victus has done for the community as far as growth: how it’s run, the vegetation, the stores, everything that holds the community together. I, along with my cohorts, believe that Francis Victus knows the way, he’s paved the way, he’s led the way, and we’re going to continue it.” Spencer said his character believes Francis is a man. “But not everybody is gonna believe the same thing and that’s kind of the gem. … Francis Victus can be anybody. He or she is just a person who has done some things for a community that some people agree with and some people don’t agree with at the end of the day.”
Sophia Reaves plays the town’s archivist, and when she is not acting she is a head server at Nantucket’s Reef restaurant in Rockville. “I do more drama so this is really different to do a comedy. I’ve never played a librarian. … I am the historian of the town … a lady of knowledge.”
Actor Donald Imm, who owns a graphic design business in Glyndon, Maryland, plays the mayor of Victus. “The script is fantastic. It’s very funny, and there’s subtle humor in it. Barry brings a nice, soft energy and he’s creative,” said Imm.
Worthington said his philosophy focuses on telling stories from perspectives and points of view of a variety of different people to “try to connect with audiences in a way to help us all understand each other a little better, even if we don’t agree with each other. I think the ability to at least try and understand each other is the key to a strong and healthy community, and I’ve chosen film as my storytelling form to do my part in that effort. That philosophy is absolutely the theme of ‘The Infinitely Generous Francis Victus,’ and I hope it is enjoyed.”
Worthington said he finds inspiration from other filmmakers, storytelling from the news, musicians, books, art, television shows, video games, web content, and “even something as simple as talking with friends. I think it’s been valuable to be open to inspiration from all sorts of different forms.” Teaching at Towson also brings inspiration and rewards. “It’s nice being with my former professors who are now colleagues of mine and being part of students gathering the skills they need for the future. It’s really interesting to see them developing their own unique wings and to see the large amount of talent that I think the next generation is going to have. Having anything to do with that is very humbling and very cool.”
At the conclusion of take three of a scene with Reaves and Imm on location in Sandy Spring, it was evident that the comedy was coming together like well-made peach jam as Worthington played back what had just been recorded and laughed out loud. He anticipates that filming will be wrapped up by the end of August and hopes to premiere “The Infinitely Generous Francis Victus” in the fall. For more information and to view a trailer for the film, visit www.limitlessfilms.com.