As a kid growing up in Bellmore, and as a self-proclaimed movie junkie, Michelle Lulic spent a lot of time at the Bellmore Movies. The single-screen, more than 100-year-old showplace was her escape.
Now a filmmaker, Lulic returns to those same seats, greeted by a familiar face — her own. “Fine.,” Lulic’s first short film, which she directed, wrote and starred in, is screening as part of the Long Island International Film Expo, an annual event in Bellmore.
“It’s so exciting,” Lulic, 25, told the Herald on Monday. “I’ve gone [to the Bellmore Movies] so many times when I was younger. Now I get to see myself. It’s almost like an unofficial goal checked off.”
Lulic, who “grew up in front of the screen,” has long had a passion for acting, she said. As a Wellington C. Mepham High School student, she was often on stage. In her freshman year, she had a part in “Footloose,” and in her senior year, she was in “Cinderella,” for which she won the Best Ensemble Member award. She was a member of the Merrick Theatre and the Center for the Arts as well.
“Fine.” follows Lulic’s character during a typical therapy session, but takes a twist with science-fiction elements. Although the script started out as a drama, Lulic became inspired by her “nerdy side” and her love of films such as “Star Wars,” “Ex Machina” and “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
The film was inspired by a “dark place,” she said. It deals with depression, which Lulic said many people underestimate. Depression “leaves you with a feeling of hopelessness, almost emptiness,” she explained. “‘Fine.’ brings that to the forefront.”
While Lulic promised an “unexpected” twist, she preferred to keep it a secret until the expo’s screening. When the film premiered at the Big Apple Film Festival, she loved seeing the response: “The audience reactions to the twist were interesting — it was either too close to home for everyone or a huge shock factor,” she said.
The annual event always showcases Long Island filmmakers, and Lulic is not the only local represented at LIIFE. The feature “Family Obligations” was created by a local duo and filmed in Nassau County, said Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Office.
Markowitz, who is also the vice president of the Long Island Film/TV Foundation, which presents the expo, is heavily involved each year. “We’re very excited about the 22nd year of LIIFE,” which will show 164 films from around the world, she said. “There are so many good movies sprinkled about.”
A majority of LIIFE’s events, starting on July 12, are open to the public — including question-and-answer panels featuring actors, directors and other filmmakers. One session, Markowitz said, will take attendees through the filmmaking process, from an early script to full distribution.
Films will screen and premiere at Bellmore Movies throughout the week, too. “It’s an experience,” Markowitz said, noting that some locals even take time off from work to see showings.
This year also has a special deal for seniors. Visitors 62 and older get two-for-one $12 tickets for any showing before 5 p.m. during the week.
“Fine.” will screen during the 7:30 p.m. block on July 16. For a full list of films and panels and to purchase tickets, visit longislandfilm.com or the Bellmore Movies.
The Bellmore Movies is really just a few blocks from where I grew up,” Lulic said. “The really exciting part is being able to share my work with everyone at home.”