By Mort Kaplan
Gloucester Daily Times Staff

What road does one follow to become a filmmaker?

First off, especially these days, a young person makes a decision to study film at a college or university and earns a degree. After a series of student films and graduation, there are apprenticeships in low level jobs in the industry and, later, down the road, if the person has earned a good reputation, is lucky and wise enough to seize upon opportunities, someone gives him/her a chance to make a movie.

Prize winning Gloucester filmmaker Henry Ferrini-nephew of Gloucester Poet Lauriat Vincent Ferrini and cousin to award winning actress Shiela Ferrini-- did not, as the poet Robert Frost said, take the road well traveled.

Although, he says that he got "interested" in film when he was in college, he did not start out to make films. He came to the Boston area almost thirty years ago from Springfield to study the flute and become a serious musician. He was so good at it that he studied with the head flutist of the Boston Symphony and eventually taught the flute himself, privately and at Rockport High School.

"How did I get started professionally making films? I learned while I earned. In 1978, during the Carter Administration, I saw a job being advertised for a media director in the Gloucester office of CETA, the federal job training office, and I said I had the qualifications and they gave me the job." During that time he had access to filmmaking equipment and made his first film" "The Light, the Quality, the Time, the Place" a meditation on environmental responsibility.

Hooked on making films, he supported himself as a house painter so that he could pursue his artistic development. eventually working at cable stations as a camera operator, editor and, eventually, director. This was the foundation, not only for his craft, but also for his present way of working on his films. Ferrini does not work with a crew as do most filmmakers. He works by himself: is his own grip, operates the camera, does his own lighting, sound and editing. This gives him total control over his product.

When asked what the toughest thing is about making one's own films, he replied, "Raising the money. A tremendous amount of time and energy go into convincing funding agencies and people to back the project and to educate them about the subject matter of the film." Because of this it took 8 years to finish his film "Poem in Action" a portrait of his uncle Vincent, which the San Francisco Film Festival praised as a "heartfelt glimpse into the life of a poet" and which later was broadcast on WGBH-TV.

His latest film "Lowell Blues: The Words of Jack Kerouac" which debuts this week, Friday, October 6th at 8:00 P.M. at the O'Leary Library, Umass Lowell, and which is a featured part of the "Lowell Celebrates Kerouac" festival, took 3 years to make at a cost $75,000.00.

How did he get interested in doing the Kerouac film? "I started out writing a grant to do a film on an entirely different subject but I was at the time hanging around Lowell and reading Kerouac. Lowell is a wonderful place. Very much like Gloucester: rich in ethnic colors. Great buildings, working people, and that river!" So he erased the name of the original subject and slotted in "Kerouac," and was awarded a Humanities grant from the MA Foundation For Humanities and other monies from an anonymous donor.

"Lowell Blues" is a 30 minute film poem fusing language, music and image to explore the Beat literary movement's Icon Jack Kerouac's childhood holy land-Lowell, MA. The film is excerpted from kerouac's novel "Dr. Sax" that is set in his hometown.

The film interprets how place activates the writer's imagination. Between the frames the viewer recollects the life of a young writer exploring his origins-education, the Catholic Church, birth and death. Kerouac's text speaks to the 1930's in which he grew up. By using both archival and contemporary footage the film melds modern experiences together with Kerouac's childhood to create a palpable sense of place.

By sheer dint of his own personality and stick-to-itiveness, Ferrini was able to get famous contemporaries of Kerouac and present day admirers of the author's works to work with him on the film. Movie star Johnny Depp; poets Robert Creeley and Gregory Corso; chroniclers of the Beat period Carolyn Cassady and Joyce Johnson and world-renowned composer David Amrram perform the text. Jazz great, saxophonist Lee Konitz-to whom Kerouac in his early days listened to and who was seminal to Kerouac's writing technique: writing with spontaneous bursts of creation like a jazz musician-and local legend Willie Alexander are heard in the background.

There will be other showings of the film on Monday, October 9th at 1:00 P.M. at the Boot Mill Museum in Lowell and from there to a showing on WGBH-TV and other film festivals.

According to Ferrini, "This is my last documentary. There isn't enough of a market for documentaries in this country. Full-length films is where things are now. My Next film is called "Know Fish" based on one of Vincent's books. It going to be a full-length commercial story about the fish business in Gloucester. I've got another script in progress called "Nahamkin" which is about a Russian Jew who dreams of becoming an American farmer and settles in Wyoming. It's about my grandfather." end