Bill Blaney, seen last week in Manhasset, unearthed his 1986...

Bill Blaney, seen last week in Manhasset, unearthed his 1986 student project movie, which is based on his experience with Long Island's teenage stoner culture. Credit: Danielle Silverman

A film about Long Island’s teenage drug culture in the early 1980s will hold its first-ever theatrical screening Wednesday at 9:15 p.m. — more than 35 years after it was made.

“I thought at the time, ‘I’m sort of making a documentary of this crowd and this world,’ ” writer-director Bill Blaney, 59, said. “I remember thinking, ‘If I looked at this 20 years from now, it might look interesting.’ ”

"The Three Phases of Fern," written and directed by Bill...

"The Three Phases of Fern," written and directed by Bill Blaney in the 1980s, co-stars Jon Howard, left, and Tony DeRiso. Credit: Richard Erhardt

Blaney’s half-hour fictional drama, “The Three Phases of Fern,” is something of a time capsule within a time capsule. Though shot in Manhasset, Sea Cliff, Great Neck and Port Washington during the summer of 1986, it’s set a few crucial years earlier in the decade. For those who were there, “The Three Phases of Fern” will be a flashback to an era when classic rock was giving way to new wave, denim tuxedos were still in vogue and feathered hair had yet to become asymmetrical. Digitally restored and re-edited after languishing in the filmmaker’s closet, the movie screens as part of this year’s Long Island International Film Expo at the Bellmore Movies and Showplace.

Blaney, who lives in East Northport and works as a creative director for a marketing agency in Smithtown, said the project was inspired by his years at Manhasset High School. There, he fell in with a drug-dabbling crowd nicknamed the Bleacher Creatures, named after their favorite campus hideout. Blaney still recalls watching “Stoned,” a 1980 episode of ABC’s “After School Special” that featured Scott Baio, and thinking it lacked authenticity.

“Man, somebody’s gotta do better than this,” Blaney complained at the time. “So my goal was: What if I tried to do something realistic? To say, ‘This is the world, and this is the way it is?’ ”

Blaney got his chance while studying filmmaking at Temple University in Philadelphia. He wrote a 35-page screenplay, scraped together earnings from a summer job and hit his parents up for another $2,000 to help fund his movie. For the lead role of Jim Fern, a sensitive kid who falls in with a dead-end crowd, Blaney turned to Jon Howard, a high school classmate who had been in the theater program. To play Craig, a bad influence with a good heart, Blaney found a Queens-raised actor named Tony DeRiso.

Blaney grew displeased with the movie and buried it, he said, but found the original 16-mm version while cleaning out his closet during the pandemic. A screening for several co-workers brought positive feedback, so Blaney submitted the film to the Expo, which nominated it for three awards, including Best Short Film. Blaney and his two stars plan to attend the screening.

“The beauty about film is that it does last forever,” said DeRiso, now principal at Plainedge Middle School in Bethpage. “So while Bill may have been disheartened back then, look at all the excitement around it now.”

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