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Double Visions

Todd Raviotta's and Joe Carabeo's films prove that Richmond has a face for movies.



Two Virginia filmmakers are offering up a double feature of locally made movies at the Byrd Theatre Saturday, a much nicer location than the seedy, run-down "grindhouses" favored by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

Todd Raviotta, 29, and Joe Carabeo, 25, both came to Richmond to study film and photography at Virginia Commonwealth University. Since then, they've worked on countless local productions and decided that Richmond was as good a place as any to shoot their first feature-length films.

Like all good double-bills, the two films will come at you from very different angles. Raviotta says that "Mediated: The 21st Century Lifestyle" is about "a reclusive guy who lives in a one-room apartment where he surrounds himself with media. … an entire wall of televisions."

"It's about this current century and the birth of a new media era," he says, "and the way that TVs, computers and cameras enrapture all of us." Influenced by the media reaction to 9/11, Raviotta wanted the central character "to be an American, a metaphoric America" — and so "Mediated" functions as both psychological drama and social commentary.

The claustrophobic feel can be attributed to the influence of Roman Polanski, particularly such films as "The Tenant" and "Rosemary's Baby."

"[Polanski will] work with a very confined location, confine the cast and exploit the psychology of those characters," Raviotta says. "Polanski was also a big influence on the cinematography. All the French and Polish apartments he's shooting his films in — they're all old and have those really interesting textures on the wall, and a Fan apartment has that same sort of history."

Carabeo's "The Madcap Three" contains two parallel stories. One is about a girl who witnesses an accidental murder; the other is about the three guys responsible for it. It's influenced by the Coen brothers, both stylistically (think "Fargo") and in the way it was co-directed with his friend Bryan Sarvis. Each wrote half the movie before combining the two very different halves into a cohesive whole.

"We come from different worlds," Carabeo says. "He's from Norfolk and I'm from D.C. He loves drag racing and I love reading comic books." Those drag-racing skills came in handy on the day the two met.

After bonding over shared disgruntlement during a film-class screening ("In the time we've been sitting here on our asses, we could have made a movie" was the consensus), the two went to work. They came up with "Broken Glass," a quick car-chase film.

"The same day Bryan met me is the same day he hit me with his car like ten times and we made a film," Carabeo recalls. "Technically, I'm not sure how fast he was going, but it was enough to cause a huge screech when he put the brakes on." Such spontaneous thinking is also how Carabeo came up with the idea for this double bill after he became frustrated with the increasingly business-oriented festival circuit, which favors films with a star name attached.

"I said to Todd, 'Hey, we're not getting into film festivals right now, and it's all political. Let's just run our own show.' It's all about making your own destiny," Carabeo says.

And if you're wondering why the show is $9: "When Todd premiered his film, he charged $5, and when I premiered mine, I charged $4," Carabeo says. So the $9 double feature was born. It was a success at a screening in Fairfax last month, but Carabeo and Raviotta are looking forward to showing their work in Richmond, especially because both films were made here.

"We got locations at the New York Deli, and we got alleyways off of Boulevard and Belvidere," says Carabeo of "The Madcap Three." "We shot in the dark basement of the Westchester Hotel — just complete darkness — and in lots of local hotels and office buildings. That's what I like about Richmond: Places are very open towards catering to the arts and giving us locations, as long as we're respectful to them."

Raviotta goes even further. "I feel like right now this could be one of those scenarios like Haight-Ashbury in the '60s or Greenwich Village in the '50s," he says. "Just different areas where there's a lot of creative people surrounding a university, creating art and music and doing shows and events. It's really conducive to creating more work, and I feel great about this place." S

"Mediated: The 21st Century Lifestyle" and "The Madcap Three" will be screened back-to-back at the Byrd Theatre Saturday, May 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $9. 353-9911.

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