NEW PORT RICHEY — After being rejected by the University of Central Florida’s film school and working for two years as a circus clown throughout the United States and Japan, 1981 Gulf High School graduate Erik Helfrich has gone on to become an award-winning independent filmmaker.
Helfrich, an Orlando resident, will screen his newest film, “7 Lives of Chance,” in New Port Richey this Friday, Dec. 27. The full-length feature film, which Helfrich describes as a “psychedelic drama comedy,” centers on a woman who is a hoarder. The character is loosely based on an individual Helfrich knew when he was in high school.
“She hoards everything,” Helfrich said. “When I mean everything, I mean everything. She especially likes balloons. It stays with her entire life and then there is some resolve in the end.”
Helfrich declined to give more specifics on the individual’s life, saying her parents still live in New Port Richey and know about the film. He’s taken a lot of “creative liberty” with the storytelling, though, so it can’t be considered a biography, Helfrich said.
“It deals with a situation that happened and this film is a way of me creating something to keep her memory alive,” Helfrich said.
The idea has been flitting around the corners of Helfrich’s mind for 30 years, but it wasn’t until about four years ago he felt his filmmaking skills were honed enough to properly write and film it. In 2012, he filmed the 160-minute movie in Orlando with a cast and crew before submitting it to film festivals throughout 2013.
Earlier this year “7 lives of Chance” was invited to the Cinequest Film Festival, one of the top 20 festivals in North America. Last month, it was invited to the Daytona Beach Film Festival and won Best Florida Feature.
The film is one of three in a “Three Years, Three Films” project Helfrich is aspiring to. Following in the footsteps of one of his movie idols, Woody Allen, Helfrich is attempting to produce a film every year. The second movie, about a miserable writer who writes himself a new life, was shot in 2013 and will be sent out to film festivals in 2014.
The third film, “Lester,” is about a compulsive list maker. Helfrich plans to shoot that in March.
“I thought, instead of putting my money into the film program, I’ll just make films,” Helfrich said. “Twenty years later and I’m still making films. I’ve stuck with it and haven’t stopped.”
The film screening in New Port Richey is a fund-raiser for Helfrich’s next film. It costs money to hire actors, pay crew, purchase equipment and put together sets. While there is no ticket price, there is a suggested $10 donation to see the film. Helfrich’s mother, Gabriella Banks, owns Whole Note Acres restaurant in New Port Richey and will provide refreshments.
After the film, Helfrich will be present for a Q&A session from audience members about the film and filmmaking. For more about the movie and a short trailer, visit http://7livesofchance .com/.
The screening will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4204 Thys Road, New Port Richey. Seating is limited, so call Susan Sawyer at (727) 858-2479 for a reservation.