IN WINTER international release July 10, 2018

 

In Winter is now available to oder on DVD!

In Winter screened at 8 festivals!

Honorable Mention at Experimental Forum Los Angeles for “Vision and Unique Contribution to Cinema”

“A stately drama of stillness and silences, even with roiling emotions beneath the
surface.”
– Queens NYC Ledger – Focus on Film

“Camara and Gutterman have created a masterpiece of a film..It is one that dares to take its time and we are so much better for it.”
– Unseen Films: http://www.unseenfilms.net/2018/07/in-winter-2017.html

To order In Winter please visit: https://amzn.to/2J0wdlS

Also available through Barnes and Noble and Walmart online.

 

 

 

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Funeral Day, directed by Jon Weinberg

Funeral Day Official Trailer from Random Media on Vimeo.

Los Angeles, Calif. (May 2018) – In Due Time Productions and indie film leader Random Media present June 12th national DVD, Digital and VOD release of a dark, quirky and timely new comedy feature, Funeral Day. It is the story of Scott, a neurotic man, who thinks he found a lump on his testicles and fears he might be dying, so he skips his friend’s funeral. Instead, all in the course of a day, he quits his job; begs for a second chance at love; attempts to look death in the face and of course gets his prostate milked — all in the name of ‘living life to the fullest.”

Cheered at film festivals with awards including ‘Best Comedy Feature’ at the Twister Alley Film Festival and the Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival, Funeral Day stars and is directed by Jon Weinberg. The quirky and hilarious feature also stars Tyler Labine (Super Troopers 2, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil), Suzy Nakamura (TV’s Doctor Ken, Modern Family), Dominic Rains (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Girl Who Walks Home Alone At Night), Tygh Runyan (Versailles, K-19 The Widowmaker), Kristin Carey (TV’s Scandal), Jed Rees (American Made, Deadpool), Rahnuma Panthaky (TV’s Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) and Sarah Adina (TV’s The Young and the Restless).

Although a comedy, Director/star Jon Weinberg and Screenwriter Kris Elgstrand’s Funeral Day ultimately deals with the serious subjects of mortality and testicular cancer. In creating the film, Weinberg and Elgstrand were proud to have joined forces with the Testicular Cancer Society (WWW.TesticularCancerSociety.org) during post production, and continue to work with the organization, to promote education. It’s their hope that by creating an atmosphere of comedy surrounding the sensitive subject, they might increase awareness of the need to ‘check yourself.’

Debut on DVD, Digital and VOD
June 12, 2018

Synopsis:
Scott thinks he might be dying. Not at all an uncommon thought for Scott, but today the lump he believes he found “down there” might actually be real. Today also happens to be the day of his friend Ken’s funeral who did in fact die of cancer. When his buddy Chris comes to pick him up for the funeral, Scott refuses to go. Instead, he sets off on a mission to make some “dramatic” changes in his life and he doesn’t have much time because, well, he may be terminal himself. Skipping a friend’s funeral and pissing off a buddy may not be the best way to start his mission, but Scott is nothing if not determined. (Determined to avoid death, doctors, and adult responsibilities, but determined nevertheless). Along the way he quits his job; begs for a 2nd chance at love; attempts to look death in the face and, of course, gets his prostate milked — all in the name of changing his life. Maybe it will all make a difference. Maybe not. But at the very least this day has given him the courage to start taking on some responsibilities… and to get someone qualified to check his nuts.

Funeral Day’s dark comedic humor struck a chord with film festivals, netting a wide selection of honors, including:

Best Comedy Feature at the Twister Alley Film Festival (a festival that was included in the
2017 MovieMaker Magazine Top 50) and the Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival.

Best Director, Feature Film at the Windy City Int’l Film Festival and the Austin Revolution
Film Festival

Other festivals included: Key West Film Festival, Twin Cities Film Fest, Vienna Independent Film Festival, Gig Harbor Film Festival, Readin Film Festival and more.

Funeral Day has a running time of 80 minutes and is not rated.
Starring: Jon Weinberg, Tyler Labine, Suzy Nakamura, Dominic Rains, Tygh Runyan, Kristen Carey, Jed Rees, Rahnuma Panthaky and Sarah Adina.
Director: Jon Weinberg
Screenwriter: Kris Engstrand
Original Music: Ariel Blumenthal
Producer: Jon Weinberg, Ron Butler, Christopher Carley and Jesse Alson-Milkman
Executive Producers: David I Weinberg and William Brydon
Director of Photography: Jeffrey A. Cunningham
Production Designer: Caitlin Linguine
Editor: Jay Trautman

# # #
Funeral Day
WEB/SOCIAL MEDIA:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FuneralDayMovie
Twitter: @FuneralDayMovie (https://twitter.com/funeraldaymovie)
IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4061424/?ref_=nv_sr_1

About Random Media:
Random Media is a content company that acquires and distributes films on a worldwide basis through movie theatres, conventional brick and mortar retailers, digital platforms, cable and satellite companies and television networks. Random Media is known for its commitment to building strong, supportive relationships with its filmmakers. The companies growing library includes such acclaimed films as Fare, Desert Cathedral, The Lonely Italian, Killswitch: The Battle for Control of the Internet, Frank Vs. God, Finding Kim and The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Captain Hagen’s Bed & Breakfast, written and directed by Rafael Friedan

In Captain Hagen’s Bed & Breakfast, which I caught this past weekend at the New York Indie Film Festival, writer/director Rafael Friedan accomplishes the considerable feat of creating a truly laugh out-loud comedy that also offers a few poignant moments. Shot over a little more than two weeks in Sag Harbor, Long Island, in a rambling house whose nooks and crannies practically make it a supporting character, the story follows a disparate group of four couples spending what they expect to be an uneventful weekend at a B&B run by Captain Hagen (William Beckwith, Scent of a Woman), an eccentric retired German sailor who enjoys doling out free advice. That this all doesn’t devolve into ridiculousness or a dull attempt at farce is due largely to Friedan’s writing, whose witty dialogue often gives surprising lift to situations that might otherwise feel cliché. Yes, various guests sleep with various guests but often in unexpected pairings, such as the sultry Kate (Bri Oglu) who takes the virginity of the Captain’s hyperactive and very naïve son, Felix (Dino Petrera). Later, when at last sad-sack Jared (Tyler Bellmon), who pines for long-time friend Kate who loves him “like a brother” ends up in bed with the knock-out Sandra (Jessamine Kelley) who just broke off her engagement to the frustrated Preston (Andrew J. Cornelius, Just Eat It), the scene feels right and satisfying, thanks to Friedan’s bold decision to film with the actors in the nude and daylight streaming in through the windows. It’s a hot and sexy scene but its realistic manner gives it a refreshing frankness.

Similarly, two scenes that could have easily gone awry are presented with a simplicity that gives them an unexpected resonance: the Captain emptying an urn of his dead wife’s ashes into the bay, finally attempting to free himself of hanging on to the past, and a scene involving a long-married couple with children (Rhonda Ayers and Lynn Berg) who admit to each other that when they made love (after several attempts at finding themselves no longer connecting sexually) they were each thinking of other people. That Friedan doesn’t belabor this mutual confession allows the humor to become affecting.

It’s often small moments that make a film linger for days after seeing it and two such moments worth mentioning are especially memorable for one being dramatic and the other comedic. After the Captain has disposed of his dead wife’s ashes, he moves a framed photo of her from its prominent place on a mantelpiece to a side table; he is ready to emerge from the shadow of her memory but not abandon her presence in his daily life. In another scene, goofy surfer dude Darren (Zach Wegner) barges in on Sandra and Preston in bed; an exasperated Preston orders him out of the room and Darren leaves, but then pops back in to wish Preston a good night. It’s a completely frivolous joke, fitting for the flighty Darren, but one of many moments throughout the film where Friedan admirably gives a funny situation a little extra room to breath and become funnier than expected. The film itself is a great example of independent filmmaking where limited resources are creatively mined; kudos to cast member Chris Wandell (who plays Rico, Darren’s studly fellow surfer-dude) who also handled production and costume design, crucial elements for a film set mostly in the single location of the house.

Follow the film on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/captainBBmovie/

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

The Depths, directed by Jamison LoCascio, written by Jamison LoCascio and Robert Spat

"the Depths" Official Trailer from Halcyon Valor Productions Inc. on Vimeo.

The Depths, 89 minutes. Desperate for a measure of success, wannabe screenwriters Mickey Hansen and Ray Ferguson decide to fully explore the depths of murder and crime within their story only to discover their obsession with their work has made it all too real. Starring Michael Rispoli (The Rum Diary, Sopranos), Patch Darragh (Sully, The First Purge), Charlotte Kirk (Vice), written and directed by Jamison M. LoCascio.

Feature film The Depths is set to release on Amazon, I-tunes, X-box, Google Play, DVD and more on April 24th, 2018.

—-Winner Best Feature Film Manhattan Film Festival 2017
—-Winner Best Narrative Feature, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Patch Darragh) Los Angeles Film Awards 2017
—-Winner Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Rispoli)- International Independent Film Awards 2017
—-Nominated Best Original Screenplay, Best Leading Actor Maverick Movie Awards 2017

Visit the IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4301112/?ref_=nm_knf_i1

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Clara’s Ultimate Christmas, written and directed by Emily Aguilar

Producer Faith DeVeaux, Writer/Director Emily Aguilar and Producer Katherine Smith had their film Clara’s Ultimate Christmas picked up for distribution by Bridgestone Multimedia Group after shopping it at the 2017 American Film Market (AFM).

The story is about a young girl’s quest for a happy holiday after a couple of disasters threaten to ruin it.

For more information, go to www.cuxmasthemovie.com.

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

The Last Movie Star, written and directed by Adam Rifkin

Review written by Mike Fishman

I saw this film at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival and happy to see it is getting some well-deserved attention. The latest film written and directed by Adam Rifkin and starring Burt Reynolds as Vic Edwards, an octogenarian actor who travels to the International Nashville Film Festival to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. The problem is, this is the (fictional) International Nashville Film Festival, not the much-admired and very real Nashville Film Festival and Edwards finds himself facing a mixed crowd of about 40 people (to their credit enthusiastic fans) in the backroom of a bar with a projector and a make-shift film screen. Some expected clichés are in evidence: the rundown motel room the festival booked for him; a drunken Edwards lashing out at at the festival staff; the protagonist in need of saving doing some saving himself; even a reconciliation with an old lover who has Alzheimer’s but who peers out clear-eyed from her cloudy mind at the right moments. But the quality of acting and the level of commitment from Burt Reynolds and co-star Ariel Winter as Lil, his reluctant, nose-ring wearing caretaker/chauffeur for the duration of the festival, bring to their roles make most scenes utterly believable and the film as a whole ultimately moving.

Rifkin (whose previous work ranges from the comedy Detroit Rock City to the gritty Night at the Golden Eagle) wrote the screenplay specifically for Reynolds. And one can see why the actor, reportedly looking for one last great role, would be game for boring deeply into the semi-autobiographical storyline. The film embraces the aging process with Reynolds, 81 years old himself, staring directly into the camera, and then humorously yet pointedly engaging his younger self in conversation in scenes from his actual films Smokey and the Bandit and Deliverance, generally to warn him about the quick passage of time. It makes for a fascinating unveiling of a fictional life reflected by the actor’s real life. Shot differently, the film could have been a mockumentary.

Along the way we are treated to snapshots of Reynolds in his prime: spraying a can of whipped cream down Johnny Carson’s pants; conducting interviews in his trademark winking, self-deprecating style; and even his infamous nude pose for Cosmopolitan magazine, which the director interestingly utilizes onscreen while Lil soaks in a huge bathtub. Happily, the film goes nowhere near a romantic entanglement between the two, saving the real relationship complexities for a reunion with Claudia, his first of five wives (!), played by Kathleen Nolan. Vic and Lil “rescue” his now wheel-chair bound ex-lover from her nursing home, hurriedly wheeling her out to freedom with the staff nearly chasing after them. They take her to the picturesque spot where Vic had proposed to her decades and a lifetime ago. If this particular sequence sounds predictable, it is to a degree, but Reynolds’ palpable regret and Nolan’s unadorned responses make for a truly poignant and affecting scene. That such a powerful moment can occur within such a familiar framework is part of the magic of movies and the film gains impressive momentum and succeeds beyond expectation at ruefully portraying a man nearing the end of his road, lamenting the passage of time.

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

The Seventh Seal, written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

It is a rare pleasure to see The Seventh Seal on the big screen with an audience, as I was fortunate enough to do last weekend at New York City’s Film Forum. Playing as part of their Ingmar Bergman Centennial Celebration, The Seventh Seal (1958) stands apart from Bergman’s other films, not for its themes of the search for meaning in our lives and the existence of God and an afterlife, which permeate much of his oeuvre, but for its Middle Ages medieval setting. Taking place when the plague was spreading in Europe, the film follows Antonius Block (the formidable Max von Sydow) and his squire Jöns (the irrepressible Gunnar Björnstrand) as they make their way across a bleak Swedish landscape to Block’s home, having returned from fighting in the Crusades for six years. The world-weary knight is confronted by Death, famously personified by actor Bengt Ekerot in black robes and wielding a grim sense of humor along with his scythe. Block challenges Death to a game of chess, knowing the Grim Reaper’s pride will not allow him to resist. The stakes? Block’s soul until he (inevitably) loses, in exchange for enough time to do one last meaningful act and to be reunited with his long-suffering wife, living alone in their abandoned castle, tending to a fire with what can only be described as little enthusiasm for her existence.

Along the way, Block and Jöns encounter a young woman accused of being a witch burned at the stake, plague sufferers, self-flagellating religious fanatics, and the theologian who first convinced Block to go off and fight in the Crusades. Most crucially they meet a small group of traveling actors: Jof, the juggler who has mystical visions, his wife Mia, played tenderly with occasional bursts of boldness by Bibi Andersson, their infant child Mikael, and Jonas, the puffed-up leader of the amateur troupe. This chance meeting allows Block to perform the one last meaningful act he longs for when he diverts Death’s attention away from Mia, Jof and their child long enough for them to escape his grasp, at least for the time being. For those unfamiliar with Bergman’s comedies, the director’s playful humor most evident in scenes featuring Jonas should be a welcome surprise, as the traveling player hams it up on stage and flirts with the local blacksmith’s saucy wife. One remarkable scene finds Jonas hiding in a tree after getting caught by the blacksmith; hearing the sound of a saw, Jonas looks down to see Death sawing away at the tree trunk. Jonas tries to bluff his way out as Death admonishes his deceptive ways, then pleads for mercy asking for special dispensation as an actor (typical Bergmanesque humor), all the while Death working away at the tree, amused with Jonas’s cunning efforts.

The scene is absurd and wryly funny and yet resolves with a moment of true profundity: the tree cracks and breaks, hurling Jonas to the forest floor, leaving a clean tree stump; after a moment, a squirrel hops onto the stump and scurries around, then runs off. The indifference of nature to man and a reminder that we share this planet with creatures who exist on a very different level of consciousness. And who is to say which is more noble? The civilized man, who would burn women as witches, or the more elemental animal? One might even say the animal’s actions show more integrity, foraging for food, than the greedy Jonas who tried to con Death into sparing his frivolous existence.

And what about those whose existence is perhaps not as frivolous, yet empty in its own way? Bergman notes the suffering seeking men are prone to when Mia muses to Block, “I often wonder why we torment ourselves as soon as we have the chance.” Their conversation, during one of the film’s iconic scenes, takes place as they sit in a clearing in the countryside, Block sipping fresh milk from a bowl he holds in both hands, carefully cupping it, almost as if it were a religious rite. “I shall remember this moment,“ he says, referring at once to the milk, the innocent Mia next him offering him wild strawberries (the title of another classic Bergman film starring Andersson), her toddler son playing on the grass. Block knows this may well be his last moment of peace, one final respite from his journey to death, drawing ever closer. As is often the case with Bergman, the tone of the scene skates the line between touching and sentimental and is remarkably devoid of irony. There is the beginning of the road and the end of the road. The potential of a child as pure as wild strawberries and fresh milk, and the journey’s end, the snuffing out of life’s candle, a passing into…what? A Heaven or a Hell? Any kind of afterlife? Or is it just nothingness, as the young woman tied to the stake, flames growing around her, seems to confirm by the confused, lost look in her eyes?

And yet later, in one of the film’s final scenes, as Death enters the castle to call on Block and his entourage, a mute girl Jöns saved from death suddenly sees a tunnel filled with light opening on the stone wall; she slowly, blissfully, smiles. Is she glimpsing the afterlife? Are we to trust her vision? Earlier in the film, Jof has a vision of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus walking in a field and we, the audience, see it as well. Is Bergman, by letting the audience share the visions (along with the image of Death, visible only to Block and Jof) suggesting that there is a God but that He can only be seen by a blessed few and for the rest of us, the vast majority of us, we must rely on blind faith? For Bergman, the son of a strict Lutheran minster but agnostic from a young age, the question is one of silence. Why does God remain silent? The title of the film itself refers to a great silence: “And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” (Revelation 8:1). That silence has been interpreted in many ways, but whatever the interpretation, it suggests an image of man under God, waiting for something momentous to happen. A moment of judgment? For some of us, such words are relied upon and deeply invested in, while for others, they are merely words written by men for other men. What’s remarkable about The Seventh Seal, aside from its startling imagery, is the very direct way in which it addresses such questions.

Written by Mike Fishman.

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

“PERFECT,” directed by Eddie Alcazar with music from Flying Lotus presented by Steven Soderbergh.

PERFECT
SYNOPSIS: A boy in a cold and stark modern house, in a vaguely science fictional world, is seduced by advertisements of perfection to install implantable characteristics directly into his body. The implants heal his dark, twisted visions, but come with a corporeal cost. He persists on applying them, hoping to reach perfection, but ultimately he discovers that purity of mind is not exactly as he’s imagined.

Producers: Eddie Alcazar, Javier Lovato | Executive Producer: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Garrett Wareing, Courtney Eaton, Tao Okamoto with Maurice Compte and Abbie Cornish. Sci-Fi Thriller/Feature Film.

Director Eddie Alcazar was the winner of an art scholarship to AAU and named one of the 25 up and coming faces in Hollywood by Filmmaker Mag. He directed TAPIA for HBO, and FUCKKKYOUUU a Sundance selected short scored by Flying Lotus. His latest project is the feature PERFECT exec produced by Steven Soderbergh through Alcazar’s company Brainfeeder Films.

PRESS ARTICLES:
SXSW – https://schedule.sxsw.com/2018/events/FS10383
Dread Central – https://www.dreadcentral.com/news/267329/exclusive-poster-premiere-challenges-concept-perfect/
Brainfeeder Films – http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/toronto-flying-lotus-eddie-alcazar-team-for-brainfeeder-films-1201855405/

Posted in Filmmaker Profiles

Napping Princess, written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama

In Napping Princess the year is 2020, three days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. While she should be studying for her exams, Kokone Morikawa is often dozing off, stuck between reality and a dream-world full of fantastic motorized contraptions. But after her father, a talented but mysterious mechanic, is arrested for stealing technology from a powerful corporation, it’s up to Kokone and her childhood friend Morio to save him. Together they realize that Kokone’s dream-world holds the answers to the mystery behind the stolen tech, and they embark on a journey that traverses dreams and reality, city and country, and past and present. Their mission uncovers a trail of clues to her father’s disappearance and ultimately a surprising revelation about Kokone’s family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This film is very creative and entertaining. It reminds me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, which I love and I found myself completely immersed in this movie.” See her full review below.

Watch the trailer:

Posted in Film Reviews, etc.

Ladrones, written and directed by Brendan Kelleher Rose

Ladrones is the story of high school boys on a summer day in Brooklyn. Brian and Julian have nothing to do and nowhere to be. What choices will they make and with what consequences? What is their future in this changing borough?

IndependentFilmNow recently sat down with writer/director Brendan Rose to discuss his new short film, Ladrones (a word that means “thieves” in Spanish). Excerpts from that interview follow.

Mike Fishman for IndependentFilmNow (MF): Where did the idea for Ladrones come from?

Brendan Rose (BR): I’ve always been attracted to dramas that tell stories which, in some way, depict the inequalities inherent in our social structures. I’m also drawn to stories about teenagers that capture their imperfect attempts at self-definition, their contradictions, their authenticity. Ladrones aims to do a bit of all this. The specific story in this film is built around a sequence in which high school boys from a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood have a confrontation with a recent arrival to the borough, a privileged white guy, a hipster, if you will, at Brighton Beach on a summer day. The other scenes in the film complement this beach-confrontation sequence and seek to further develop the characters and the circumstances of the high school boys.

The spark for this story was personal. I was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois and grew up just a few blocks from the border with Chicago. I was back home and I went with a friend to Foster Beach on the North Side of Chicago, a beach I spent a lot of time at in my late teenage and early adulthood years, and one that I dream of all winter. My buddy and I jumped in the water. When we emerged, no more than five minutes later, a woman sunbathing nearby got my attention and let me know that I should check my bag as she had seen some boys rummaging through my backpack. Sure enough, the money in my wallet was gone (though the wallet and its other contents remained). The woman then pointed down the beach, about one-hundred yards, and indicated that the boys who robbed me were surprisingly still on the beach. I strolled over to them and we had a discussion. Initially the boys were coy and professed their innocence. They mentioned having been on the dog beach down the way, a fact which I figured to be untrue. One boy seemed like the instigator, the other to be more playing along. Eventually, after I reluctantly indicated that my next step would be to go to the lifeguards or the cops with the witness, the boys relented and offered me back my money. We parted on seemingly amicable terms, shaking hands. The boys promised to not steal again, though I have no idea to what degree they were sincere. Hopefully, something resonated.

Anyway, as I reflected on this situation, something about it struck me as a potential dramatic story. As the days passed and as I wrote down some recollections of what transpired, laying the groundwork for a screenplay, what I kept thinking about was the question of how these boys would have viewed me. They both seemed to be from a nearby North Side neighborhood. And while the presumed instigator, like me, was white, he and his buddy (who was of Latin American descent, I believe) may have perceived themselves to be of a different social class than me, an assumption that was likely correct. In short, I was the yuppy-hipster guy; they were the local kids from a humble neighborhood. Well, this is how I started to perceive the dynamic for the story, at least, and this is how the screenplay took off. Obviously, there’s plenty of conjecture here, given how little of these two boys I really knew, but stories of this kind inspired by ‘real events’ are typically more like archaeological analysis – you take limited information and then try to extrapolate (or in this case, create) a richer picture.

I initially wrote a draft that hewed quite closely to how things transpired for me at Foster Beach – i.e., an adult male (Joel) emerges from the water and is told by a sunbather that his money has been stolen, and so on. As I showed the draft to a few trusted confidants, it became clear that the story as written was missing a dimension. To complicate the picture, the sunbather character was dropped in a subsequent draft and Joel instead picks out the boys as the likely robbers and approaches them. This adds the question (or fact) of Joel as a racial-ethnic profiler, a dynamic relevant to our fractious times and to the implicit racism still at play even in otherwise liberal circles, of which I presume Joel to be a member.

MF: How did you cast the film?

BR: I was lucky to work with an exceptional cast with Ladrones. There are five characters in this film – Joel (the adult on the beach) played by Chris Rubio; Brian and Julian (the two lead high school boys who have the confrontation with Joel) played by Robert Ruiz and Carlos Portillo, respectively; Robert (a friend of Brian and Julian who figures prominently in the film’s first scene) played by David Vino; and Woman on the Boardwalk (integral to a short but memorable scene highlighting Brian’s swagger and proto-womanizing tendencies) played by Fatimah Ali.

The film’s producer, Mark Castillo, and I knew we needed to find great actors to make this film work, so we put out a wide casting call, utilizing traditional venues such as Breakdown Services, but also canvasing a number of high schools and theater non-profit organizations. Chris Rubio (Joel), Carlos Portillo (Julian) and David Vino (Robert) all came through the casting call and really impressed in their auditions. Robert Ruiz was recommended by one of Mark’s former professors and had a stellar audition. He came in reading for Julian but was clearly a better fit for Brian. I had worked with Fatimah a couple times years prior and she kindly agreed to come on for the one-scene part. She helped improvise exactly what happened in that scene and added the pitch-perfect line – “Not happening” – as a rebuke to Brian’s solicitations. I should add that we secured the SAG low-budget short film waiver to allow union actors to participate.

Ladrones is a film made by its actors. Each member of this five-person cast was a joy to work with and brought great understanding and sensitivity to their role, and all five actors made the characters their own, which is what you hope for as a director.

MF: What were some of the challenges of shooting at Brighton Beach? Did anything go wrong or unexpectedly right? I love the cutaways to people on the beach, were they planned or did they present themselves?

BR: Shooting on Brighton Beach was quite the adventure, I suppose as predicted. Prior to the shoot, I was really worked up about potential continuity issues – i.e., with all the background beachgoers coming and going as the camera rolled. As we commenced shooting, it became obvious that this would be the last thing we could worry about because there was no real way to control our set. People were going to lay their blankets and strip down to their bathing suits wherever they pleased, film shoot be damned. True New Yorkers! And, in truth, the action in the background of our shots really adds to the feel of this sequence for me.

The real concerns included the following: (1) Our two long days on the beach coincided with an East Coast ‘heat dome’ in which temperatures soared upwards of 94 or 95 degrees as the sun blistered all day; (2) We staged pricey equipment under an overhang that also became a gathering point for publicly intoxicated individuals who were eventually arrested for reasons unrelated to our film; (3) We had to haul equipment over the sand of a very wide beach; (4) We needed to keep everyone hydrated and well-rested on such scorching days; (5) It was imperative that we devised an artful way to shoot Joel spending time in the water without compromising our equipment insurance (something which would have happened had the camera entered the water!).

One of my favorite aspects of the film is the atmospheric series of cut-away images on the beach captured by maestro cinematographer Pedro J. Padilla. As we scouted Brighton Beach, Pedro and I talked a lot about the local architecture of the surrounding neighborhood and I think we were able to incorporate this environmental presence into the final edit. In addition, Pedro took every free moment during the shoot to pick off lovely b-roll of passersby, swimmers, and sunbathers. A few memorable beachgoers (and seagulls!) make it into the film and really help develop the midweek, dog-days-of-summer vibe.

MF: It seems likely that Brian was the instigator when he and Julian stole the money but Julian is the one who asks Joel where he’s from. Earlier we saw a shot of an airplane overhead when Brian, Julian and Robert were drinking beer on a roof, which could suggest a yearning for something more, something better than their particular life in New York City, especially as Robert talks about his family having to sell their home and move out of Brooklyn, possibly even to Long Island. What would you say are Brian’s and Julian’s view of Joel when they find out he is not a native New Yorker? Resentment? Jealousy? A little of both?

BR: This question is at the heart of the film. I’m glad you noticed the shot of the airplane, a cut-away shot that occurs about halfway through the film’s first scene set on the rooftop of Brian’s building. That shot was initially just a plug to avoid a continuity issue between two sections of the scene. It was a suggestion made by our excellent, perceptive film editor, Ulysses Adams. It felt too much out of left field for me as I first experienced this choice, too jarring in terms of the established grammar of the film. But, as Ulysses and I continued to discuss this option, it became clear that Ulysses’s instincts were spot-on: The inclusion of the airplane shot underscores the yearning these boys may feel, even if not fully realized, for other places, other lives, other options. It adds a sort of objective correlative. None of these three boys is poor. They range from working class to middle class, which is part of the film’s point: One doesn’t need to suffer from poverty to be forced out of a neighborhood in contemporary New York City (which has become the case with Robert’s family, as he tells it).

This brings us to Joel. The way I conceived it, Brian and Julian probably assume from early on in their interaction that Joel is not a local, that he’s a transplant, and this becomes the motivation for Julian’s question in the first place. It’s a check-mate move to play: Joel may have gotten his money back, and he may have lectured the boys a bit about their behavior, but the one thing this guy’s never going to be is a born-and-raised New Yorker. And that’s a card young people like Brian and Julian can always play – as every transplant has, at heart, at least some modicum of envy about not growing up here in New York City. And so there’s a fierce pride among a lot of teenagers who have spent their entire lives in the city, as it can be a hard-won heritage.

But yes, despite all this – i.e., the born-and-raised status that Brian and Julian possess which Joel does not – these boys certainly resent Joel at some level. They’re jealous of his options in life, of his ability to move from ‘outside Cleveland’ and invent himself as he likes in Ditmas Park, in their home borough of Brooklyn. And they resent that folks like Joel with college degrees (who happen to mainly be white and often at least upper-middle class) can move to the city, afford the high rents, and pay to enjoy all the expensive new amenities in the neighborhoods. Whether resentment is a productive feeling is a different question, but it’s certainly an understandable feeling for young people like Brian and Julian. Maybe in the future, when they’re older, Brian and Julian will have similar life options – to move cities, to change careers, to enjoy daily macchiatos at the nearby cafe – but that’s only if they play their cards really well, as their margin for error is far slimmer than it would be for the Joels of the world. And, more to the point, at this moment, at this stage in their lives, none of that really seems feasible to them anyway.

MF: Did their getting caught by Joel mean anything to them? Where are they headed, future-wise, when they get off the train back home?

BR: Julian never wanted to steal from Joel. He just sort of went along with Brian’s urge to do so. For Julian, this moment may serve as a catalyst for reflection. If anything, getting caught by Joel hopefully reminds Julian that their buddy Robert avoided the entire thing because he had his act together and had a summer job. That’s probably something Julian’s parents had wanted him to secure weeks earlier. (In fact, Julian’s employment status was more of a theme in a previous, baggier version of the script.) An interaction like this hopefully reminds Julian to, in the future, resist Brian’s impulses a bit more, as he’ll end up equally implicated (if not more so), when any trouble is caused. On a more fundamental level, Julian probably considers that he’s a bit more of a thinker than Brian, that he may have more opportunities in life if he applies himself. He’s certainly the more thoughtful of the two, and, as we’ve conceived them, the more book-smart, as well. After getting caught by Joel, I’m not so sure that Julian makes it to Ahmed’s party later that night (a party which Robert had alluded to in the first scene of the film). Instead, he maybe stays at home and spins a few records or reads a novel.

Brian’s future is cloudy, to use a bad cliché. He’s neither as conventionally studious nor as bright as Julian, but neither is he a complete delinquent. He’s somewhere in between a guy with a college-bound future and a teenager who could end up with low-grade legal trouble. He does enough to get by at school, but he makes sure to cause as much trouble as he can along the way and is certainly the class-clown type. Given how we’ve conceived Brian, I’m really not sure how much self-reflection will go on here. Does he take anything Joel says to heart? Or is it all a joke to him? It’s tough to say. If anything, I’m sure he recognizes an emotional change in tone from Julian after the altercation. Julian gets quieter and more serious and more reflective, and maybe this, if anything, causes Brian to pause and think and examine his choices. But to what extent he learns from such reflection, and applies what he learns going forward, is anyone’s guess. My hunch is that he’s at Ahmed’s party later that night throwing beer cans off the roof at guys strolling on the street below who remind him of Joel.

Overall, I like the idea of films that leave an audience with a question, or a series of questions, as this allows the viewer to take an active role in shaping the story and crafting a personal response to it. With any luck, we were able to do that here.

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