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WATCH NOW: Filmmaker Carrsan Morrissey tells story of street performer in 'Roulette Girl'

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Orion Risk as Levi and Ally Jo Williams as Greta in a scene from 'Roulette Girl,' a movie about a young street performer spinning through life, art, love and even death.

WATERLOO – Local audiences will easily recognize movie locations in Carrsan T. Morrissey’s new film “Roulette Girl.” Shot in downtown Waterloo, the Cedar River, Fourth Street Bridge and Newton’s Café serve as quintessential Midwestern backdrops.

The City M Productions film premieres Saturday at Petersen Town Hall at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial St. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free. It is for mature audiences. A talk-back is planned after the screening.

Morrissey filmed some scenes at the WCA.

“I liked finding some of Waterloo’s iconic images. I love to go on walks around the city, and I set my film in my favorite spots, the places that inspire me. I wanted to treat Waterloo the way New York City is treated in movies, almost like a character in the story,” said the award-winning filmmaker.

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Filmmaker Carrsan T. Morrissey

“Waterloo looks gorgeous at night with the lights twinkling. Here in Iowa, we have smaller cities, so we love going to the big cities. We tend to miss the magic in our own backyard.”

His latest film tells the story of Greta (Ally Jo Williams), a young street performer who is struggling to find her place in the world of art, love and even death.

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Ally Jo Williams as Greta in a scene from the "Roulette Girl," a Carrsan T. Morrissey film premiering Saturday at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. 

The movie’s tag line is “spin ‘til the world stops turning,” because passersby can spin her homemade roulette wheel and land on the scene she’ll act out, then drop a coin or two into her bucket. In a bad break-up, her boyfriend accuses her of panhandling and doesn’t think her art amounts to anything.

“Anyone who has tried to make it as an artist has heard something like that,” Morrissey said. “I liked the idea of using that to determine what she does, and she’s spinning through a rough life and dealing with drama. It has darker connotations, too,” he explained.

Other cast members include Kate Robertson Pryor, Orion Risk, Andrea Morris, Joe Frenna and Dakota Fontes.

Morrissey wrote the script. “Originally I planned on it being improvisational, but I enjoy script writing, so I started with a vague outline and wrote stage directions, then added dialogue, letting it fall wherever I felt lines naturally fit. In my story, Greta is walking through her daily life and it has a cool kind of conversational feel.”

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Orion Risk as Levi and Ally Jo Williams as Greta in a scene from 'Roulette Girl.'

He was inspired by the works of Greta Gerwig and the Mumblecore genre, a low-budget independent film style from the 1990s that used naturalistic acting, improv and dialogue.

“Roulette Girl” is the filmmaker’s first drama. His work usually focuses on short and long-form horror flicks and thrillers. In the last decade, he has written, directed, filmed and edited more than a dozen films, including “Dark Thought” and “What If” and “Dawn,” fan-film adaptations of the video games “Life is Strange” and “Life is Strange: Before The Storm.”

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'Roulette Girl' poster art was created by artist Alissa Walton. 

A Cedar Falls native, Morrissey fell in love with moviemaking in grade school, filling binders with ideas, stories and scripts. He made his first movie in the sixth grade.

Now the filmmaker has won numerous Iowa Motion Picture Association awards, including the award of excellence. He currently chairs the IMPA awards show committee. His day job is as director of programming and outreach at the Grout Museum District. He also attends Upper Iowa University.

Morrissey said he’s particularly excited by the look of “Roulette Girl.” For the last 12 years, he used a hand-held DSRL Canon camera, but his new Blackmagic Pocket Forte “is meant to make movies. It gives you the look, texture, framing and composition you expect to see in movies. I shoot handheld because I like the pseudo-documentary feel in stories like this,” Morrissey explained.

Following the premiere, Morrissey hopes to have additional showings and plans to enter the movie in Midwestern film festivals.

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Ally Jo Williams as Greta in a scene from the "Roulette Girl," a Carrsan T. Morrissey film premiering Saturday at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

“Eventually I will put it online, but I’m not planning on that for at least a year. There’s something so much more special about sitting down in a room with friends and watching a movie.

“I’m going to try to keep that magic going for as long as I can,” he added.


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