Loyola film professor Casey Puccini’s new comedy “I Don’t Care” imparted a timeless insight — apathy is a dangerous antithesis to love.
The Phoenix sat down with 32-year-old Puccini to discuss his feature film shot in Chicago. The film set consisted of several small apartments, and the cast was made up of local actors Puccini had worked with before.
The film had a “microbudget,” according to Puccini’s website, and was mostly funded by donations from a Kickstarter campaign.
Although “I Don’t Care” was shot four years ago, it premiered at Chicago Filmmakers last month. Chicago Filmmakers is a non-profit media arts organization which serves independent artists.
The majority of production for “I Don’t Care” took place in 2014. Puccini said he spent the following three years editing on weekends and teaching classes during the week at Loyola, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Academy for the Arts.
“It was hard to juggle,” Puccini said. “You’d get into the flow of editing on Saturday and Sunday, and then you’d think, ‘I wish I had the day off tomorrow.’ [Editing] would have been a little bit quicker if I had delegated to other people, but there was something about the personal nature of the material. And editing is one of my favorite things in the world, so I wanted to be invested in the material.”
The film blurred the line between personal and professional roles. Each cast member played a character with the same name as himself or herself.
The central character, Casey, played by Puccini, is a filmmaker in pursuit of perfection, praise and proof of his own superiority. “I Don’t Care” opened with an argument between Sasha (Sasha Gioppo) and Bryn (Bryn Packard). Sasha is uninterested in dating, but Bryn insists he’s right for her. The camera followed their faces closely, allowing the characters’ tense expressions to take up the screen. Then the camera abruptly cut back revealing Casey, the director, staring at the actors with a crazed look in his eyes.
Casey hates the scene. It isn’t perfect.
Casey proceeds to dissect every second of the shot and hounds the actors for not performing to his liking. As the film progressed, Casey’s craziness only increases. He micromanages every scene, patronizes those who disagree with his decisions and encroaches on the personal lives of his cast and crew. At one point, Casey humiliates Sasha in front of the whole cast because of a minor scheduling conflict.
When conflict inevitably arises, and Sasha calls him out on his behavior, Casey responds with indifference. He doesn’t change his behavior or apologize to her. He doesn’t reflect on his actions or admit his faults. He simply doesn’t care.
“In a lot of ways, the meanest thing you can do is not care about somebody,” Puccini said. “If Casey was mad at Sasha, there would probably be a whole bunch of different things going on. But it’s not that. He doesn’t care about any of these people. They’re all just pawns to him.”
Sasha, in particular, is Casey’s pawn of choice. He relentlessly mistreats her throughout the film. In one scene, he barks a list of commands at her. Sasha must tilt her head to the right, but not too far right. She must sit taller, but not too tall. When Sasha makes a mistake, Casey patronizingly snaps his fingers in her face.
“I wanted to try to check and give a critical analysis of people who feel like they can control and manipulate others, because [they believe] they are better or more entitled,” Puccini said.
Puccini believes “a lack of respect and care for others” can be one of the darkest parts of the human experience. According to Puccini, the film traces the arc of his moral compass. He said he hopes his future self will be more ethical than his character.
“I want to present this [film] and have a very clear stance on it at 32 years old,” Puccini said. “So, when I become 45 or 50, and I feel like life has passed me by and I need to do more things for myself, which sometimes people in filmmaking start doing, I have this thing [film] that’s like, ‘No, don’t do that, because that’s not a good thing.’”
The trailer, deleted scenes and clips of “I Don’t Care” can be found at Puccini’s website www.puccinifilm.com.