After two decades of commercial work, Paul Tracy is finally able to work on his passion project, “A Date for Anya.”
A Rochester Institute of Technology graduate, Tracy majored in film and animation. He initially worked in Hollywood for a year with the animation shop Playhouse Pictures.
Tracy returned to Rochester to start Envision Productions, a film company that specializes in advertising. Now, Tracy has launched Westwood Studios to create films.
“(After Covid) a lot of people want to get back to creative filmmaking and creative storytelling,” Tracy says.
Westwood Studios aims to create films that tell real-life stories.
“It’s all about the story,” Tracy emphasizes. “It’s about telling a person’s story, whether it be a script or a corporate identity story. So (people are) motivated, moved or converted to do something, take a call to action or just (be) entertained.”
Based on true events, “A Date for Anya” deals with addiction, divorce, recovery and restoration. This is tackled by showing the main character Rick’s struggle with sex addiction through the lens of his ex-wife, Anya. Sex addiction is often a taboo topic—most people either laugh it off or give in to it, Tracy notes.
“(People struggling with sex addiction) go in that denial stage where you’re talking about (it),” he says. “But there are other people (who get hurt), especially in this story.”
Sex addiction does not have the greatest track record in media portrayals; it can fall prey to stereotypes about alcohol and drug addictions, making for a shaky portrayal of what it’s like living with it rather than addressing the complexities.
“A Date for Anya” attempts to explore the subject in a way that is respectful to those who are struggling with it, while offering a better understanding of what it means to have such an addiction and the toll it can take on a person’s life. Viewers see the effects of addiction through Anya and her perspective on her relationship with Rick.
“Anya gets hurt, because Rick is turning his attention outside of his marriage,” Tracy says.
The movie does not shy away from the ugliness that comes with addiction, particularly with Rick’s behavior.
“He looks like a creep (in the movie),” Tracy says. “You’re kind of rooting for him to conquer his issues and sin. But sometimes he’s not able to, then you’re like, ‘Oh, man, what kind of guy is this?’”
While the movie deals with that aspect of Rick’s addiction, it doesn’t solely paint him as a bad guy. It also explores the root of his addiction. Rick, played by Collin Arend, has experienced trauma that has led to his issues, and like most people suffering from addiction he is multifaceted.
The film is part of a larger narrative, Tracy says.
“I have a total of three films (planned),” he says. “It’s a triple play on the same characters.”
The second movie, titled “Route Cause,” is in the works. It focuses on Rick’s life as a young paperboy, detailing events that lead to his addiction.
Tracy’s approach drew Amanda Phelps, the actor who plays Anya, to the role.
“I myself struggle with addiction and have seven years of sobriety. (I) felt like this could be a good movie for me to be in,” Phelps says. “I feel like while reading (the script, it) covered a lot of things that I feel are beneficial.”
Tracy looked to Phelps for suggestions on certain parts of the film, especially with the ending. There were discussions about changing it, but she felt the original ending was much stronger.
A challenge that comes with a movie like this is striking a balance between realism and creativity while also trying not to trigger the audience, Tracy notes. There were moments when he had to make compromises, like a shot where the computer screen is blurred when Rick is watching porn.
“A Date for Anya” is still in production. The crew is currently working on a trailer and the studio is working to fund “A Date for Anya,” its first film. Currently, through Kiva Rochester, Tracy is trying to raise $9,000 toward the project.
Rylan Vanacore is a Rochester Beacon intern and a student at Rochester Institute of Technology.