Garza as Fiyha Dog, center, with cast members on the cover of his soon-to-be-released DVD.
After two and a half years of writing, filming and editing, aspiring St. John filmmaker Jeremy Garza has wrapped production of his first feature-length effort.
“The Adventures of Fiyah Dog” relates the tale of an ill-informed Love City transplant from Indiana who has trouble in the lady department. The lovable loser lead, played by Garza himself, eventually learns the way to a woman’s heart, but not before following a path strewn with challenges and ridiculous situations — with no end of laughs along the way.
After wrapping filming last year, Garza hosted a screening of the rough draft, but DVDs of the newly edited version — minus a few of the raunchier scenes included in the first cut — will be available for sale for $25 next month at Woody’s and The Tap Room.
Garza will host screenings of the 85-minute edited version of “Adventures of Fiyah Dog” on St. John and St. Thomas in the beginning of August.
In addition to playing the lead role, Garza also co-wrote, produced, edited and directed the film. The seeds for the over-the-top feature film were sown years ago when Garza was waiting tables at a Cruz Bay restaurant, he explained.
“I was working at Chloe and Bernard’s and a friend of mine was dating this guy and the two of them were just totally crazy,” said Garza. “I knew if I could make a documentary of their life, I would get rich off it. Then I was in New York City and I met a filmmaker and I told him this idea I had.”
“The concept was a reality show that would be totally over the top,” Garza said. “I had no experience in any way. But the filmmaker and a friend of his were interested in the idea.”
When Garza’s friends broke up a few days before filmmakers Daniel Browne and Kep Monsta arrived, he scrambled to come up with a new idea for a film.
“Two days before these guys were coming down, the guy who I thought would be the star of the show left island,” said Garza. “I had already paid for their flights and bought the film and started writing the story. It was a great opportunity and I didn’t want to waste their time.”
“I figured I would have to star in the film because I didn’t know anyone else who could do it,” said Garza. “I had joked around for years with friends with this alter-ego and I immediately came up with ideas around this character.”
With help from his sister, Garza set to writing a rough plot line around what would eventually become the completely ridiculous Fiyah Dog and his adventures on St. John.
Garza worked with the New York filmmakers for five weeks and then on his own for another three months before flushing out the story line for the film. With the help of highly-talented friends who nearly improvised the entire script, Garza succeeded in filming all the footage he needed.
“I’m really lucky to have friends who are really good at improv,” said Garza. “No one had any acting experience, except for my sister who had minimal experience. But they all did an amazing job.”
Fiyah Dog features all local music, was shot solely on St. John and features an entirely local cast. It was also funded entirely by Garza himself.
“I did this on the smallest budget imaginable, but I still paid for everything out my pocket,” said Garza. “I’m hoping to make some money selling the DVDs and I’m looking for private donations to help with entry costs to film festivals.”
Garza hopes to parlay the film into a career in movies, he explained.
“I always wanted to get into the film industry,” he said. “So this film is basically me just trying to get my foot in the door. I feel like I pretty much learned every aspect of the filmmaking process.”
“I feel pretty confident going forward and focusing on directing,” Garza said.
During the years-long filming and editing process, Garza enjoyed the support of fellow local filmmakers, he added.
“Steve Simonsen and Andrea Leland have been huge supporters and have really helped me each step along the way,” said Garza.
After two and half years of work, Garza is more than relieved to see his hard work culminate in 85 minutes of edited footage.
“It’s the biggest relief ever,” Garza said about finishing the film. “It came out a million times better than I ever imagined.”
The “Fiyah Dog” DVDs will include special features like deleted scenes, a slide show and outtakes.
“I can’t wait for the DVDs to get here,” said Garza. “I think it’s going to be a cult classic.”
To get in on the “Adventures of Fiyah Dog” fun, check out Garza’s Facebook page and look for copies to buy at Woody’s and The Tap Room next month.