Filmmaker, musician follow in the footsteps of Kerouac

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Dru DeCaro

An independent short film that follows a musician as he follows in the footsteps of iconic beat poet Jack Kerouac is receiving praise on the national film festival circuit.

Produced by songwriter and first-time filmmaker Dru DeCaro, “Destination Angels” rides along with DeCaro’s longtime friend and fellow musician Christopher Mansfield, aka Fences, as he embarks on a journey of self-reflection while paying tribute to his literary hero.

The adventure begins when Fences receives a call from Jim Sampas, Kerouac’s nephew and head of his estate. The conversation prompts Fences and DeCaro to head north up California’s Route 1, retracing Kerouac’s spiritual journey while creating music inspired by his writings.

“Heading north, we followed in Jack’s footsteps, places that he had written about 60 years before,” DeCaro recalled.

They managed to record several songs in roadside motels and vacant train yards while traveling along the stunning cliffsides of Route 1, ending up at City Lights, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s famous Beat Generation bookstore in San Francisco.

The journey highlights the similarities between artists of different generations and genres as they search their souls and express themselves creatively through their art. Maxine, Fences’ wife, provides support as he faces his demons, makes peace with his past, and looks to the future for a fresh start.

The short film offers 18 minutes of compelling storytelling, beautiful scenery, and a touch of nostalgia as it embraces the freedom of youth and young love. Additional poignancy emanates from the period in which it took place: in the middle of the pandemic when the roads were empty and people sheltered inside. Those months of seclusion made many of us reassess our lives and feel the need to start over. Maxine and Fences were no different. “I think we both maybe sort of lost our minds and set fire to our entire lives and started over,” Maxine stated.

I spoke with DeCaro about his experience as a first-time producer and the Calabrese origins that he holds so dear. His great-grandfather Cosimo DeCaro immigrated from Calabria to Revere, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Cosimo pursued law as a profession and generations of DeCaros followed suit. Dru, who referred to himself as the wayward son, assumed he’d also take that road until he discovered music.

When he was 10 years old, his uncle gave him a guitar. “That’s that, everything else fell to gray, and I decided right then and there in a very strange lightning bolt moment that this is what I was about.”

During our conversation, DeCaro cited the similarities between producing a film and producing music. “Filmmaking is a brand new pursuit for me. The work that I do is music production, touring, and writing songs and things of that nature. I have always been adjacent to film in that I played on all the TV shows. I did Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. I’ve been making music videos since my very first band when I was a kid. I’ve always been doing things on camera. However, “Destination Angels” represents the first time I was producing the film and writing it, on the other side, which just felt like an extension of what I was always doing,” he explained.

DeCaro said that his experience in television made him the producer of this film by default. After hiring director Daniel Lir to bring all the footage together, he learned the mechanics of making a film and how the process differs from his perspective as a songwriter and music producer. He made the comparison to writing a love song. “You have three minutes to tell a story. In the first verse, you might say, I love this woman, and the audience believes it. The suspension of disbelief is immediate. In storytelling, in theater, and in film, it is not quite so immediate.”

Although DeCaro has visited Italy many times for work, he’s never made a pilgrimage to Calabria to trace his family origins, but said, “It’s on the bucket list.”

To view the short film on video, click here.

DeCaro is currently working on a feature-length musical. Keep up with him on Instagram at @falconry and follow Fences’ latest projects on Instagram at @fencesmusic.



About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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