What’s it like to chase your celluloid dreams in L.A.?

Not easy.

That’s according to hometown Helena actor, screenwriter and director Bryan Ferriter, speaking to students at Project for Alternative Learning Monday afternoon about his career and newest film.

He’s in town this week from Los Angeles for the Helena premiere of his latest film, “What Separates Us,” which has its Montana premiere 7 p.m. Friday at the Myrna Loy Center.

Ferriter, a Helena High School and Carroll College graduate, is the director and lead actor in the film, which was created by a crew of Carroll College buddies and Montana natives.

A number of them have relocated to L.A. in recent years to make a go of independent filmmaking.

“What Separates Us,” a coming-of-age story, recently won Best Feature Film at the Machetanz Film Festival in Alaska and has been accepted to several more festivals that will be screening it in coming months.

This is the same crew that produced two other Helena-based films --“Crimson Winter” and “My Favorite Movie,” both of which premiered at the Myrna.

The film follows the life of Danny, played by Ferriter, after the death of his parents. A fallen track star, the only running Danny does is from himself, living for his friends and the whiskey-fueled rush of a midday brawl. His fortunes change when he meets Parker, an art student at the local university, played by Shannon Mary Dixon.

Danny’s best friend in the movie is Jack, played by Nathan Mills, a PAL grad.

“What Separates Us” was filmed in Helena and Missoula and runs Oct. 21-27 at the Myrna Loy with a grand opening Friday night attended by many cast and crew members.

Ferriter directed, wrote and produced the film, as well as played the lead, which he admitted is very demanding.

Some of Danny's life is similar to his own, he said, such as Danny’s tendency to get into fights -- a phase Ferriter went through in adolescence. And like Danny, he suffered the loss of his father, who he was very close to.

“It’s challenging playing someone similar to myself,” he said, adding that a lot of the film is fiction.

Financially, filmmaking hasn’t paid off -- yet. But Ferriter added that there’s nothing he’d rather be doing.

And it won’t pay him much of anything, unless the film takes off, he said. The first people paid will be investors who backed the film.

“I work other jobs. I do it because I love it. Some day I’m hoping to make a complete living off of it.”

Ferriter, 29, has been making independent films for nine years, but started out making small films when he was 16.

“It takes a lot of dedication and hard work any time you’re trying to chase your dream,” he told the students. “It has to become your life.” Like anything you want in life, it takes determination. “Your life is what you make it.”

Ferriter also talked about the group that came together to work on the film, including Mills and a host of Carroll grads -- some of whom he met on the football field and others in the theater department.

Often those two worlds don’t mix, he told the students, but he was lucky that at Carroll they did.

Other Carroll alumni who worked on the film include: Isaac Marble, Mary Riitano, Ryan Pfeiffer, Brandon Day, Nick Milodragovich, Jordyn Auvil and Thomas Castona.

Helenans or former ones you might recognize in the film include: Mills, David Noel, Michael Day, Tashia Gates and Mike Butters.

“We’re making it happen one day at a time,” Ferriter said. “You have to believe in yourself.”

He urged students who are interested in acting or theater to take advantage of all that Helena offers, from Grandstreet Theatre to the high school theater programs to Carroll College’s call for community members.

“It looks like a really good movie,” said one of the PAL students, after they watched the trailer.

Ferriter urged them to come see it, but cautioned that it’s R rated for language and violence.

The next project in the works is “Wuthering Heights.” Ferriter hopes to finish the filming in England.

The film is produced by Interwoven Studios and Running Bear Media. It will be showing in Billings and Red Lodge in November and will be available to watch On Demand or to buy as a DVD, Black Friday, Nov. 25.

Reporter Marga Lincoln can be reached at 447-4083 marga.lincoln@helenair.com

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