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Virginia Is for Film

Burke man releases his first feature film this month in Richmond.

Film production is often a task associated with New York or Los Angeles, but for one Lake Braddock Secondary School graduate, filmmaking and screenwriting include the cities, towns and inspirations found in Virginia.

“First I wanted to be a comic book artist,” said Joe Carabeo. “But I can’t draw that well.”

Carabeo graduated from Lake Braddock in 2000, and said he knew he wanted to pursue a film career since well before high school. His mother said he’s always had a keen interest in movies, following in the footsteps of his father.

“That’s his passion, and he loves it a lot,” said Elba Carabeo, Joe’s mother. “My son is a person that when he likes it, he’s going to go for it.”

And go for it he did with his new movie, “The Madcap Three.” Joe Carabeo co-produced the movie with his friend Brian Sarvis, and the two are promoting the film throughout Richmond in hopes of a big turnout at their world premiere, July 22, presented by Yellow House Productions, a Virginia production company.

“Firehouse [Theatre] helped out by giving us the space for free,” said Joe Carabeo. “I can’t be more excited about that.”

Since graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University’s photography and film department, Joe Carabeo has funded his own film projects, with some help from his parents. Sarvis said the help Joe Carabeo receives from his parents has opened up doors for him and has eased his limitations.

“He’s a really, really dedicated filmmaker,” said Sarvis. “What’s nice is that he has the means to be.”

Joe Carabeo and Sarvis came up with the storyline of redemption, romance, mystery and consequences together, before taking about three weeks to finish writing the screenplay. They shot the film on location throughout Richmond in the spring of 2005, and used a volunteer-only cast and crew because of their tight budget.

“Basically it was just out of our own pocket,” said Sarvis. “Some of the equipment we had already built up ourselves.”

FINISHING THE three-week production was a battle, said Joe Carabeo. They never gave up though, even when locations would fall through at the last minute and they would get stuck scrambling around to find a new place. They always found one, and always expected the worst to happen, said Joe Carabeo. That is what , he said, kept them going.

Elba Carabeo said that when Joe was in college, she and her husband helped him buy cameras and some other equipment. They support his dream, and have all the faith in the world that he will succeed in film, said Elba Carabeo. But Sarvis said Joe Carabeo is extremely grateful, and he works just as hard as someone with less means.

“There’s a lot of people out there who take advantage of that and don’t do anything with it,” said Sarvis. “But Joe works his butt off.”

Both Joe Carabeo and Sarvis said they have no desire to pick up and move to a popular “film city” to continue their careers. The film industry has a lot to offer in Virginia, said Joe Carabeo, especially in the Richmond area, added Sarvis. Joe Carabeo currently co-produces a small film festival in Richmond called Project Resolution, where filmmakers can show their short films to crowds for the first time.

“It’s an outlet for all filmmakers who haven’t had a chance to show their work or who just want feedback,” said Joe Carabeo.

A discussion follows the screenings so filmmakers can get a sense of what audiences think of their film. They offer constructive criticism when it’s necessary, and Joe Carabeo said filmmakers really learn a lot from it.

As for Joe Carabeo’s first feature film, “The Madcap Three,” he’s excited to see an audience’s reaction to the film at the screening. He said he doesn’t want people to think it’s a gangster film, which is why he structured the central characters into a family-like relationship.

“There’s a lot of dark humor in there,” said Sarvis. “For me and Joe, it’s our kind of humor.”

When asked to relate it to a popular Hollywood movie, Sarvis said he guesses it’s “Fargo"-like. He said the movie is about people changing, and it creates its “own little world.”

Elba Carabeo can’t wait to see her son’s movie. She said, like a lot of things, he has kept the details as a surprise. She remembers going to his college graduation and not finding out he was graduating cum laude until she opened the program and read it herself.

“Joe is always full of surprises,” said Elba Carabeo. “We are so proud of him.”

Joe Carabeo said depending on the turnout and reaction to the film screening in Richmond, he might try to arrange a Burke-area screening as well.

“I think the film is bringing mystery back,” said Joe Carabeo. “You’ll have to watch the film to find out.”