Editor's Note: This story is re-published with permission from the Valley Advocate. It first appeared in the Dec. 10 issue as part of a longer article called "Film or Die." V.K. Levigne is the pseudonym of Parris Porter, a 2015 graduate of Holyoke Community College, where he studied Electronic Media.
Story by KRISTIN PALPINI
V.K. Levigne's passion for film was ignited by a VHS tape of Rush Hour 2.
"It was the gag reel," Levigne says. "It showed me that there were real people doing this."
It was the first time Levigne had caught any glimpse of the work it takes to make movies. From that point on Levigne, a 21-year-old director and actor with four short films to his credit, sought out deleted scenes, video commentaries -- anything that shown a light behind the scenes of the filmmaking process.
"My goal is to help people understand that they can do this here; they can make films here," Levigne says. "I'm just some guy. I work at the loading dock at Burlington Coat Factory. It's not only something that only people born into the right societies are capable of."
Levigne graduated from Holyoke Community College with an associate degree in film a few months ago. He lives with family in Springfield and works in the backroom at Burlington in the Holyoke Mall. He's making films in the Valley on little to no cash. And while Levigne says he would make movies without a penny because he loves the art, going to California where there are more opportunities to work in the film industry is weighing heavily on his mind.
"For me, it's film or die," Leveigne says. "I just graduated so it's either make films for a living or adult-up and get another job. But I couldn't do anything else except making films."
Levigne's most recent work is a short called 'Portfolio.' It's a film he wrote, directed and starred in. It was shot with a single video camera and a tripod with the help of Levigne's friend and frequent collaborator, actor Jocelyn Lopez. At 45-minutes, "Portfolio" is a day-in-the-life story of a young man named Harry whose world is turned upside down. How he deals with this dramatic shift may leave the audience wondering about Harry's own motives and whether he is innocent amidst the turmoil.
"It's like tunnel-vision," Levigne says of the movie, which came out in October and can be watched in full on YouTube. "You really get to know the character."
The style of Levigne's movies is decidedly gritty. Some of his favorite directors are Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Ridley Scott.
"I go for realism," he says.
Now Levigne is fundraising for his next film, "Sam," which is about a woman named Sam Morales who seems to have it all. Changing circumstances force Sam to take a job in the most dangerous part of town, which is when the mystery surrounding this action movie emerges. The script is set, the cast is picked, but Levigne says production needs $3,000, mostly for additional equipment.
A Kickstarter has been set up for Sam, though at the time of the interview, zero donations had been made. The drive closes Dec. 25.
"I'm very aware we have no donations," Levigne says shaking his head. "But I'll make this movie even without the funding."
Levigne wrote this film for Lopez to star in and he can't imagine anyone else filling the role. As much as Levigne loves the area, if funding for "Sam" doesn't go well, he's almost sure to head out to California this winter to start a career there working in the industry he loves, to make the films he needs to. But that doesn't mean the Valley will be without Levigne's creativity.
"Whatever I do, whenever I do it, I'll always be sending my work back to the Valley," he says, "so others can see it and get inspired by it. Who knows? Maybe some day some kid will be watching a VHS of my movie and will get inspired to make something great."
PHOTOS: (Left) Parris Porter in a scene from his movie "Portfolio." (Right) Porter, a.k.a. V.K. Levigne, explains his artistic vision while he was a student at HCC.