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Independent filmmaker Joe Talbott is waiting patiently for his phone to ring. Waiting for agents, producers—anyone who can bring his feature film debut, Eat Me!, to the big screen.

“It’s been frustrating,” he says. “Here I have a film that’s objectively funny, but I don’t have a deal yet.” He screened the film at the Johns Hopkins Film Festival last year, where, he says, “It was like my wildest dreams come true. The style and the jokes came through.”

But there were no takers. “I thought I’d get a call the next day,” he sighs. “Unfortunately, no one from New York was in the audience.”

Talbott, nevertheless, says he’s been in regular touch with “major distribution companies” and insists he’s even received a few offers from smaller distributors. “I turned them down,” he says. “I’m holding out for wider distribution.”

Eat Me! follows four suburban D.C. housemates who pool their money to buy their house under threat of eviction: Gary, a bureaucrat; Barry, a medical intern; Mike, a film director doing porn; and Sean, a forlorn druggie artist. When Sean begins to neglect his girlfriend, Glynna, Barry steps in to make his move on her. Meanwhile, Talbott introduces a tangential subplot involving two bumbling mafiosi-type murderers looking to whack Sean. The reason is never made clear.

When the 35-year-old Talbott, who produces corporate videos full time, decided to try to become the next darling of indie film, he and co-writer Kevin McMahon “did the classic Hollywood thing,” he recalls: “One of us typed on the computer while the other paced around drinking coffee.” According to his press kit, the dream is still alive. “‘Failure is not an option,’” he quotes himself saying.

Failure, though, is subjective. So is comedy.

“It’s a dumb film,” concedes friend and co-star Andy Rapoport, who plays the hapless Mike. “It sucks. When you’re alone, watching it, you think…what? Why?”

Ian LeValley, who plays beer-swilling friend-of-the-house Dave, is less candid. “Since it’s the first major film Joe’s put out, it’s certainly a learning experience,” he says. “Parts of it read a lot better.”

Upon hearing this comment, Talbott seems a little surprised: “I didn’t know any of my principal actors felt that way.”

Although Rapoport and LeValley enjoyed their experience on set, the end result is not what either expected. “The film that we shot was not the film that was produced,” says Rapoport. “I don’t think this film is very funny. Joe is a good guy, but this one didn’t work.”

However, Rhea Seehorn, who plays Glynna, disagrees. “I think it’s very clever,” she says. “It appeals to my sense of humor.”

An eastern European film distributor also likes it, Talbott says: “They feel [Eat Me!] transcends the language barrier.”

After considerable time spent waiting for the big-name scouts to go to the mat over this script, the young director—who cites Hitchcock and Truffaut as influences—remains confident that Eat Me! is a winner. “No one in the industry’s gonna say, ‘I don’t like it,’” he says. “Because if it becomes the next big thing, they’re out of a job.”—Guy Raz

To find out about upcoming screenings of Eat Me! look on the Web at www.anvilpro.com.