Clenet Verdi-Rose Emerges As A Film Director

Clenet Verdi-Rose on the set of “Sand Castles,” the third feature film he directed that he hopes to submit to the Sundance Film Festival. Clenet, who graduated from Falmouth High School in 2000, currently resides in Los Angeles.
Ryan Hodges - Clenet Verdi-Rose on the set of “Sand Castles,” the third feature film he directed that he hopes to submit to the Sundance Film Festival. Clenet, who graduated from Falmouth High School in 2000, currently resides in Los Angeles.

This past October Margaret (Peg) Verdi of North Falmouth took a one-week trip to Goshen, Indiana, where she met up with her son Clenet Verdi-Rose on the set of his latest independent film, “Sand Castles.”

That snippet in time was enough evidence for Ms. Verdi to realize that her son was more than suited for this line of work. “Being on the set was huge because I got to see Clenet doing what he loves to do,” she said.

There, on the set of a feature film, she said, is where her son belongs. “I was amazed with how Clenet made the decisions, in terms of him being in that role. He was so calm,” she said, during an interview with her son at Coffee Obsession on Palmer Avenue, last Wednesday. “And I watched how he could evoke these emotions out of the actors... They would come up to me and say, ‘I love working with him because he helps me bring out the best in what I have to offer’.”

“Sand Castles” represents the third feature directed by the 30-year-old filmmaker, whose creative roots were established here in Falmouth, thanks to his mother’s involvement with Falmouth Community Television as well as her work at Falmouth High School, where she most recently taught web design and computer graphics before retiring this past June.

By the time he was 5, Clenet was using the video camera to tell stories, a craft that was later nurtured at Falmouth High School under the guidance of video production teacher Barry Sadoff.

After graduating in 2000, Clenet continued to hone his skills as a studio arts major at Wheaton College, tapping into his creative side through painting as well as filmmaking—his senior thesis, “Life Off The Floor,” was a short documentary focused on a Boston-based breakdancing troupe whose mission is to help children get off the streets.

Following college, Clenet moved to Boston and teamed up with fellow Falmouth High School grad Josh Golder to make a medical documentary about Crohn’s disease titled “True Guts” that premiered at the Woods Hole Film Festival in 2006.

Go West, Young Man

By that time, Clenet had already made the move to the West Coast in pursuit of a larger dream to become a film director.

Initially that road would be fraught with minor difficulties—sleeping on friends’ couches with no job—before he finally landed an internship in the assistant director’s department on “Little Hercules,” a family film starring Hulk Hogan and Judd Nelson. That internship led to more work, primarily as a first or second assistant director (AD) on movies such as “Meet Bill,” “Green Street Hooligans 2,” and “American Virgin,” that allowed him to join the Directors Guild of America as an AD.

Although those jobs paid the bills, Clenet longed to direct, an opportunity he finally got at the end of 2008 when he was tapped to helm “Skyler,” a low-budget film that is set to be released on DVD and will be available for streaming next month on Valentine’s Day.

Clenet's next feature was “Minor League: A Football Story,” shot in Michigan during the spring of 2009, when he befriended Jordon Hodges, an actor who had been cast in the small role of Charley Jones.

By the time “Skyler” had premiered in March 2011 in Beverly Hills, Hodges had moved out to Los Angeles from his hometown of Goshen. The pair struck up a friendship and not long after Hodges gave Clenet his screenplay for “Sand Castles,” a drama that revolves around the Daly family, which has fallen apart after their 5-year-old daughter is kidnapped. A decade later a now-mute Lauren (Anne Winters) returns home to find that her father has committed suicide, her mother is an alcoholic, and her brother Noah, played by Hodges, is the only thing keeping the family together.

“The story is all about what it means to be a family and the relationships we have with people,” Clenet said.

For Clenet the experience allowed him to grow as a filmmaker, from his collaborations with the screenwriter, the cinematographer Chris Faulisi, and actors, both before and during production.

When originally presented with the script, Clenet gave notes to Hodges, who spent six months rewriting it before the pair moved toward production.

CLENET VERDI-ROSE

An Emerging Director

Before that point, Clenet said, he sat down with Faulisi and went over every shot, establishing a distinct rationale for why they would film a scene a particular way. “There was a lot of theory behind why we chose certain styles for shooting and lighting,” Mr. Rose said, explaining that scenes with the family’s uncle, Tommy Daly (Randy Spence), were shot handheld because “he is a loose cannon,” while those with the mother, Marie Daly (Saxon Trainor), were framed to indicate her struggles with alcohol.

It was much more stylistic, he said, than how “Skyler” was shot. And it was unique to independent cinema, which traditionally uses handheld cameras “to give you a feeling that it is raw. Technically, this was more well thought out,” he said.

Admittedly Clenet has not yet found his style as a director, although he said his work on “Sand Castles” is a step in developing that voice.

Midwest Shows Its Love

While it would have been easy to shoot the film in Los Angeles, Clenet said Hodges lobbied to have it be shot on location in Goshen. Ultimately, Clenet said, it was a perfect fit as the community welcomed them with open arms.

The production drew interest from those throughout the Midwest, he said, noting that in one theater scene more than 500 people came to fill the venue as extras, some driving from as far as four hours away just to be a part of the film. “You don’t get that kind of commitment in LA unless there is a dollar sign attached to it,” Clenet said.

The allure of starring in the film was enough to inspire Farrah Tucker to fly all the way from Arkansas with her mother to audition for a role in early August. “She put some money together and bought a plane ticket to audition,” Clenet said. “We booked her on the spot,” and she played the role of Connie, a nurse, in the film.

“It was amazing the commitment people had, even for some of the smaller parts,” Clenet said. “They weren’t looking to be famous. They just had a love of filmmaking and wanted to be on set, and were willing to do anything to be there and have a part in making the movie. It was exciting.”

On occasion, he found himself challenged by the likes of veteran actors like Clint Howard (”Apollo 13” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”), who was tapped to play Todd Carlson, a mechanic who is suspected of kidnapping Lauren.

Beforehand, Clenet had a lengthy phone conversation with Howard to discuss the character and his motivation. “Mind you he’s only working for two days and his part was in three scenes,” Clenet said. “When you work with seasoned people like that, they see that I am a very young director and they like to challenge me to see if I understand their character’s thought process. They want to make sure you know what you are talking about because they want to trust in your decisions.”

Ultimately, Clenet said, that ability to trust others is necessary for ensuring a film is successful. And for him, developing those relationships, from the actors to those in craft services, is the most rewarding aspect of being a director.

And while it may seem glamorous, his mother can attest it is often the opposite, having witnessed the last day of production in which shooting nearly went from sunrise to sunset to sunrise again.

Once production ended, Clenet retreated to Los Angeles, spending the next three weeks at home painting landscapes that included Venice, Paris, and New York City. “I like to paint because it helps me unwind,” he said. “As much as I love being on a film set, there is a lot of pressure. It is very intense. It is nice to have that therapeutic release.”

That feeling of serenity is one he feels whenever he returns to Falmouth, a setting he hopes will one day serve as a backdrop for one of his movies. “This is my home,” he said.

Last week, he left the place he calls home to fly down to Orlando, Florida, where he will be field producing a reality television show focused on a repo company. There are also two additional films he is lined up to direct as well as a television pilot he directed, “Playing The Field,” that he hopes to sell this spring. 

And, of course, there is the work of completing “Sand Castles,” which is currently in post-production. He plans on finishing it in the first half of the year, at which time the goal is to submit it to the Sundance Film Festival.

Whether it is accepted may not entirely matter to Clenet, who expressed a sincere joy in carving a niche as a filmmaker. “It is an expression of who you are,” he said. “It is exciting to me how you have a chance to make people feel and think about things. That is why the art is so important to me.”

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