For Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola, leaving Boston behind to pursue filmmaking careers in Los Angeles wasn’t easy.
When the married Somerville multi-hyphenates — behind bands including Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling and Darling Pet Munkee, and movies like “Magnetic” and “Blood of the Tribades” — split the Boston scene in which they’d played a key role, they wrote a lengthy, much-shared Facebook post qualifying the decision.
“We felt we owed everybody an explanation,” said Cacciola. “We’d been so involved in this community.” But rising rent costs, coupled with a sense of growing indifference toward artists, sent them packing.
“We wanted to be in a place with more industry and infrastructure,” said Epstein. “A week into being there, Sophia was on her first film.”
Three years later, the expats are back in town for the Boston Underground Film Festival (March 20-24 at the Brattle) to screen “Clickbait,” their first feature since swapping coasts. A campy horror-comedy, it follows a vlogger stalked by a crazed fan in a Trump mask.
Epstein boarded the project as a cinematographer, eventually offering notes on the script; his involvement then escalated. “Somehow, over the course of a year, [Sophia and I] just took over and became the ones making the movie,” he said. “It was this serious thriller, without the social commentary.”
Epstein and Cacciola’s surreal end product skewers popularity culture while referencing classic horror film “Halloween” and sci-fi satire “The Stuff.”
“It’s easy to call millennials vapid,” said Epstein. “We wanted to look at the impositions of fame culture on people, how it damages them.”
The sound, from a John Carpenter-esque synth score to songs the pair lifted from their old bands, was a particular focus. “We’re control freaks with everything, but especially music,” said Cacciola. “Luckily,” adds Epstein, “we’ve written a lot of weird songs that fit the film.”
BUFF is their last planned festival with “Clickbait,” which ITN will distribute later this year. They’re excited to bring it home.
“When we lived here, we’d sit in the Brattle balcony day and night, watching movies continuously,” recalled Epstein. “We had a hashtag, #BalconyForLife. Some of our friends even got tattoos. That’s how extreme we got.”