Marathon’s rising star: Michael Pettit directs ‘A Day in the Life’ comedy

Marathon’s Michael Pettit wrote, raised funds and co-directed “A Day in the Life” in less than a year. It’s a feature-length comedy … and comparisons to “Booksmart” are very real.

Marathon native Michael Pettit is putting the finishing touches on a feature-length film he co-directed. The comedy, “A Day in the Life,” was shot earlier this year in Jacksonville, Florida over two weeks. If the trailer is any indication of the film’s future success, the Florida Keys can claim another talented artist for the history books.

“We’re just finalizing the way it looks, working on the sound and hiring someone to make the musical score,” Pettit said. “We have industry professionals working on this stuff.”

Pettit also said the film is well-rounded. “It’s not like we used just the funniest bits for the trailer,” he said. 

The film stars Jake Pearthree, who also co-directs with Pettit. Pearthree’s character (Casey) finds a bag of money. The movie unreels 24 hours in the life of Nick and Ricky who set out to spend the ill-gotten gains in an attempt to cheer up Nick, who is suffering over a bad break-up. Of course, the bad guys are hot on the trail of the cash and the three friends. 

“A Day in the Life” is a madcap, modern take on coming-of-age, a la “Booksmart,” the 2019 hit film directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.  

Pearthree and Pettit had earlier success with “We Do Feel Bad,” a short movie that became a finalist in the national Campus Movie Fest. Pettit is a graduate of Florida State University, and Pearthree graduated from University of North Florida. The two hatched the idea for “A Day in the Life” about a year ago. All of the pre-production was done over the phone from L.A. (Pearthree) and Atlanta, New York and the Florida Keys (Pettit). 

And then came COVID.

“It was touch and go for a while, but we figured out a way to film safely,” Pettit said. Cameras were rented, locations scouted, and auditions were virtual. The actors hail from all over — New York, North Carolina, Orlando. The film features about 30 characters, but the directors kept interactions minimal with at most only 10 on the set at any given time. 

Pettit was probably more prepared for the pandemic than anyone; he’s used to thinking outside the box. Although he was determined to become a filmmaker after graduating from Marathon High School in 2013, he didn’t enroll in film school. Instead, he majored in English (editing, writing and media). 

“I wanted to be more entrepreneurial, to network, and surround myself with other creative people. I’m big on collaboration. So while I hung around the fringes of the film school, I wasn’t part of it,” he said. And he worked. Hard. “I didn’t go out a lot; I wasn’t doing normal college things. I was writing, and working and studying filmmakers and watching interviews. And eventually I learned how to replicate things I learned into something that looks like a movie.”

“A Day in the Life” was filmed in two weeks in Jacksonville, and co-directed by Marathon High School alum Michael Pettit.

Through his wide network of friends, Pettit said, he was brought onto other projects, sometimes as a cameraman, sometimes as an unpaid intern. After graduating from FSU, he left a paid gig on a FOX television series filmed in Atlanta to intern for free in New York City on “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.” And although that job entailed standing in the rain for sometimes 15 hours a day (“telling New Yorkers they can’t use the sidewalk; you can imagine how well that went over”) it was all part of the learning experience he needed. And that led to … painting houses.  

“I came back to the Keys and painted villas at Hawks Cay to save enough money so we could shoot ‘A Day in the Life,’” Pettit said. Both Pettit and Pearthree chipped in their own funds, and a Kickstarter fund did the rest.

What’s next? Pettit and Pearthree need to find a distributor for the movie. And it would be great to have it entered into some film festivals. Most definitely he wants to direct again. 

“If ‘A Day in the Life’ makes it at a festival and someone comes up to us and says, ‘You two. I must have you on my next project,’ I would love that. The chances of that happening … well, but it could. And then Pearthree and I would have no choice but to team up again and make another comedy.”

But he’s also seriously considering solo directing a dramatic film, based in the Florida Keys. 

“Honestly, I want to do something in the Keys. I want to make some stuff happen,” he said. 

We think it’s happening already. We smell cult classic.

Here’s a sneak peek at Marathon man’s feature-length comedy:

Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.