Documentary Filmmaker Melanie Perkins

Published on .

Gone, But Not Forgotten

When Melanie Perkins, a filmmaker and a producer at Smash Advertising in Boston, was a 9-year-old in Lawrence, Mass., in 1976, something happened that changed her life: her playmate, 10-year-old Andy Puglisi, disappeared. He was never seen again, just another statistic in the missing-children files, but for her, and indeed the entire town, it was an intensely personal and traumatic experience - the kids who knew Andy were adrift in a sea of fear and confusion. "The community was overwhelmed," she recalls. "Parents didn't know what to tell their children. The '70s were a different time. My mother simply told me they didn't know what happened. Just to stay away from strangers. Andy's family is still holding out that he's alive. It's bothered me all along, it festered, and I felt I had to do something about it."

So about two years ago she went to work on a documentary, titled Have You Seen Andy? Inspired in part by the celebrated non-fiction film styles of Errol Morris and the team of Joel Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, "It's been a labor of love," she says. And as with most such labors, financing is hard to come by. Perkins initiated the project in her spare time with startup money from Boston's WGBH, and later negotiated a production and marketing deal with Smash's Entertainment Group that allowed her to work on the film full-time. She hoped to have it ready for the upcoming fall festival season, but the project is short of funds for completion. The film is about 95 percent shot, and shortly to be edited, she says; "Now we're marketing to broadcasters for the rest of the funds."

The final project may be a 60- or a 90-minute film, depending on whether or not she has the wherewithal to explore surrounding issues like sex offenders and pedophile organizations like NAMBLA. "It's still a work in progress," she says. "There are still aspects of the investigation that need to be pursued, like ground-penetrating radar to search for a grave in the area."

There were indeed pedophile suspects in the Lawrence area at the time of the disappearance, but none was ever charged. One of the leading suspects was long ago jailed on other charges and will be released in 2004. But the film is not about vengeance; "There's no personal revenge motive at all," Perkins insists. "In fact, I learned a lot about compassion."

See for more info. (TK)

Andy Puglisi

Melanie Perkins

Extracurricular Activities: Ric Kallaher

A Career in the Key of F-stop Major

Ric Kallaher is a self-taught musician who plays "computers and keyboards," though he started his professional career in New York as an actor. "But I realized early on I wasn't one for waiting tables," he laughs. He got into advertising in the '80s, when he was hired at the Benton & Bowles production department, mainly because he could type 100 words per minute. Not one for secretarial chores either, "after nine months they saw the light and promoted me to head of music production," he says. He was later a senior producer at Elias & Associates, then he joined North Forty Music and went on to open The Wave Band Music & Sound Design in '94. Wave Band is still thriving, now based in Hoboken, N.J., and Kallaher's reel includes spots for clients like Lexus, Ikea and Thom McAn.

But through it all he was a more than competent self-taught photographer as well. "I used to live in the Hamptons, and I regularly took photographs there," he explains. "Over the years, I developed a body of work, but I never had the time to pursue it seriously."

Until now. Not only did Kallaher have a sizable show, "On the East End," at the Estia Gallery in Amagansett, N.Y., from April to July, but he's got a recent Japanese print and outdoor campaign to his credit, for a cosmetics company called Arsoa, via Carol Denison Design. "It was my first studio-lighting people shoot, and it went very well," he says with satisfaction. Kallaher des-cribes himself as a "mostly medium-format people and places guy," but his portfolio - yes, he's shopping one around, and it's a very distinctive book of handmade Japanese watercolor paper - exudes a Zen-contemplative respect for nature. Indeed, he names Peter Beard and the Cape Cod landscapes of Joel Meyerowitz as major influences. Nevertheless, Kallaher is open to a wide range of photographic ideas, and he's eager to develop a dual career. He's even looking for an agent, being too busy to be a self-taught rep. "I'm just glad the business has gotten to the point where not everyone expects a creative person to do just one thing," he says. (TK)

Kallaher by Kallaher and "The Red Boat II" from his Estia show

Most Popular
In this article: