Saturday, June 27, 2009
Right, then. Salt Lake City. Sundance 2000. The story of selling "Two Family House". Anybody still care? Anybody reading this?
The guys from USA films were very enthused about the movie and naturally this alerted the other distributors, who showed en masse to our second screening the following night, this time in Park City. We'd planned a little post screening party at the dreadfully Park City-ish house we were renting, figuring on twenty or so people dropping by. The film played very well but it was hard to judge if we were going to get any more offers.
Until we got back to our house. To our astonishment the party had already started, prior to us even getting there. People were pouring into the place, I imagine having been told that the new 'hot' film at the festival was throwing the evening's 'hot' party. Sundance is one lousy party after another--crowded, loud, filled with bloodsuckers and wannabes--and there we were, purveyors of one of the festivals biggest lousy parties! Only the truth is, ours was quite pleasant. For one thing I only allow jazz to be played at any gathering--and despite what the ignorant and uninformed think of jazz ("too weird", "for smart people", "no beat" etc.) the best jazz--served at a reasonably pleasant place with plenty of booze--makes everyone feel just a little more...civil. Cool. Appropriately charming. (Re: people who don't get jazz: do you know who is scandalously uninformed about jazz and doesn't hide his outright distaste for it? Cameron Crowe. Every one of his movies has some "bad jazz" joke in it. I don't really care if you don't like jazz, but if you're a self-proclaimed music 'expert'--and have taken over the franchise on Billy Wilder as well--you ought to stop bragging about your loathing of America's greatest indiginous art form. Does he brag about not liking to read books?)
Anyway, present at the party was Mark Urman from Lions Gate films, whose very presence seemed to indicate that we had another buyer interested. The next day the producers met with each company and considered the two offers--I absented myself from this process, the better to do press and not be faced with the stress of having people who desire something from you come on strong...always an embarrassing thing to witness, in my opinion. And by the end of the next day, we'd sold the movie--to Lions Gate. The festival was only a few days old but it was, for all intents and purposes, over for me. We'd accomplished what everybody hopes to in the independent film game. Made movie, shown movie at Sundance, sold movie. I disliked the altitude in Park City, didn't want to go to any more parties or screenings, and went home shortly thereafter.
Thus missing out on being there to accept the first award I've ever actually won. Since "Two Family House" wasn't allowed in competition, we were only eligible for the Audience Award. And the movie that seemed to be attracting the heavy buzz that year was the by now all but forgotten "Girlfight" (probably best known now as the movie we have to blame for bringing us the problematic Michelle Rodriguez). It was in competition and seemed a certain bet to sell and win the Jury prize. Since the film was apparently a big crowd pleaser, I figured it would also pick up the Audience Award...and that it would be best for me to take the good news I had and beat a hasty retreat back to New York.
A week later, on the day of the closing night of the festival, my manager Gary Unger called me from Park City. "They're asking if there's any chance you can get on a plane and make it back here before the awards ceremony". The answer was no--I was in New York and the timing would have been perilous if not impossible. But at least I knew that we'd won the Audience Award. Gary and my producer Al Klingenstein accepted on my behalf. The awards show was televised, so me and my wife and two of our friends watched it on TV in the upstairs living room of our apartment on West 4th Street. I never regretted not being there--indeed there was a certain shadowy glamour to my conspicuous absence. A couple of days later, one of the New York dailies ran a piece on the Sundance winners and noted that that year's winning filmmakers all came from New York. Referring to me, the writer commented "De Felitta, who has always marched to his own drummer, skipped the ceremony..." thereby placing me in the august company of the New Yorker who actually PLANS to miss all of his own award ceremony's--Woody Allen.
The below clip--Woody at 31--is worth every one of its ten minutes. Enjoy...
Monday, June 22, 2009
One of these days I will finish the "Two Family House" story and discussion.--if popular demand were a reliable indicator I would have by now happily abandoned it. But in my super-controlled, need-to-tie-everything-up-and-turn-it-into-a-self-aggrandizing-story way, I will pursue it to the end.
On another day, that is.
Today, though, I will take questions from the audience. You, sir, in the yellow hat with the pink hankerchief and the walker by your side. Your question?
What's that? How do I feel about a 'smaller' company like Anchor Bay buying the film instead of a big studio? Good question. The answer is: excellent! Firstly because there really are no more "big studios" buying finished, independent movies--the occasional fluke notwithstanding. The amount of indie films made every year is actually GROWING--unbelievable until you factor in the phenomenon of people shooting movies on their cell phones and cutting them on their Macbooks...and then burning a DVD and sending them into the festivals. I'm not pooh-poohing this development. It's just the way that things are going. Simultaeneously, of course, there are fewer and fewer theatrical distributors for these films. Guess what that means? It doesn't matter if you can make a film on your phone--you still can't get it seen in theaters.
As if that's the point. The fact is, releasing a film in theaters--while a lovely, old-school, proper way to view certain kinds of movies--is becoming as much of an ashtray as the fax machine. Or, for that matter, the land-line. In other words, certain people still need it--are still addicted. But others are satisfied, indeed energized to live with out it. I myself don't use a land-line or a fax machine anymore. But I sure as hell need a theatrical release.
Why? Because the movies I make--for all their slightly off-beat, hard to define, anti-explosive (i.e. nothing explodes in them except tempers) ways are...audience movies! Christ, the only awards I've ever won at the multitude of festivals I've been too are "Audience Awards". (Three--two of them especially important: Sundance 2000 for "Two Family House" and Tribeca this year for "City Island"). This movie--"City Island"--plays wonderfully well in a theater filled with people. It is a communal kind of experience. One of the things we were all surprised by at the Tribeca screenings was that the movie seems to inspire a kind of "shout and call" response--in other words, audiences (and these are the so-called "tough New York crowds") seem to talk back to the screen at certain key moments. This isn't something I had the arrogance to plan. Indeed I'm as surprised as anyone at how visceral the familial situations and complexities seem to be to audiences. Will this make us a hit? I don't know. You can't predict a hit. But I'll mention again--need i bother? yes, I need--that the film played just as well and viscerally in Poland with sub-titles as it did in New York. So....
Let's wrap this up. Small co. V. large co.? Much prefer the small company--especially this one, Anchor Bay--because they have something to prove and are not closed down to what the filmmakers want. I'm thrilled with how much they wanted the film and what the expectations are for it. A bigger company might say they want the film...but a few months later they'll be on to other things (ones involving more money and things that explode) and the passion will have cooled.
You, M'aam. Yes, you, in the leopard skin skirt, with the weird glasses and go-go boots...uh-huh. You were asking about when I would prefer the film released?
Frankly later rather than earlier. I think it belongs to the spring/summer which puts us into 2010. We've talked about end of the year but that's such a train wreck of "prestige" film releases...I love my movie and hate the thought of it being outflanked by a "prestige" movie. Let them all kill each other over the dubious honor of getting a few Oscar noms. Then we'll come out a few months later and put them all to shame.
Irving Lazar: what the hell does any producer do? One of three things. 1) Provide inspiration. 2) Plan the actual making of the film. 3) Raise the money. On this film I (who takes a producer credit) and Andy Garcia did the "inspiration thing". But so did Zachary Matz, who was planning the production along with Ged Dickersen (both credited producers). And so did Lauren Versel do the "inspiration thing" too at the most crucial juncture--when all of our previous inspiration yielded nothing but compliments (and no money): She raised the money. And so all those other producer names you see--the executive producers--are lovely people who believed in the project, believed in me as a filmmaker and Lauren as a producer and wrote us a check. The real "inspiration thing". Anyway, is "Swifty" a name your proud of? Like it inspires confidence?
Money is the truth of a film. The rest is all happenstance.
Oh and Irving: does our communication suggest a posthumous invitation by you and Mary to your by-now posthumous Oscar party? Not that I'll attend of course. But I'd like the invite as a souvenir...
If you think you have troubles...Oy! Imagine being Al Jolsen covering this tune...
Friday, June 19, 2009
Below I've pasted today's Hollywood Reporter piece. My producer Lauren Versel tells me that today last year was the first day of pre-production on the movie. What a cycle...
Anchor Bay sails to 'City Island'
Picks up rights to the dramedy from Raymond De Felitta
By Steven Zeitchik
June 18, 2009, 09:32 PM ET
Anchor Bay is taking a trip to "City Island."
The Overture sister company has picked up all rights in the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand to the Tribeca Film Festival breakout from writer-director Raymond De Felitta.
Paradigm packaged and repped rights to the pic, which stars Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies and Emily Mortimer in a dramedy about a family on the quiet island off the New York coast.
The movie centers on a repressed corrections officer (Garcia) who harbors acting dreams but who gets caught in a series of misunderstandings when he brings home his secret adult son from a previous marriage to live with his family. The film's centerpiece is a riff from Garcia in which he auditions for a role in a Martin Scorsese movie.
Drawing the tag of a New York "Little Miss Sunshine" from media at Tribeca, "Island" was a crowd-pleaser at the festival, scoring its audience award.
De Felitta and Garcia also produced the movie, while the actor's real-life daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorido starred as his onscreen progeny. Lucky Monkey Pictures' Lauren Versel and FilmSmith's Zachary Matz also produced, while Paradigm's Andrew Ruf negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.
Anchor Bay plans on a platform release in late '09 or early '10, with a wider rollout to follow.
"We're definitely going to take risks with it, start small and grow it wide," Anchor Bay president Bill Clark said. "Everyone who sees the film loves it, so we think we can capture a broad audience."
Anchor Bay, which is a division of Liberty Media's Starz unit, recently launched a theatrical unit to complement its home video business. The company also has picked up the Ashton Kutcher Sundance drama "Spread," which it plans on releasing in August, and overall aims to release eight to 10 theatrical movies a year.
Thanks fellas. Now dig the ABC color presentation logo, below...
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Click here to find out what promises to be excellent news for those of you who've been following the up/down in/out whirl of activity surrounding our movie.
More later...much more. Meanwhile, dig the "Closet Killer" Paramount Logo, as good a way to celebrate as a shot of methamphetimine.
Monday, June 15, 2009
All right, so I got busy and have only posted intermittently. And what the hell of it? Heres a nice link to a nice review of "Tis Autumn" (available now on Amazon!). And here's another one. And now we'll wrap up this mini-history of "Two Family House" which all began due to the stage musical version of the movie being put on in Connecticut. The show closed last night--which either means that this blog series outlasted the show...or that the show had the good sense to get its work done while I dilly-dallied.
We finished shooting "Two Family House" in the early summer of '99, cut and posted the picture in New York through the fall and sent it off for submission to the Sundance Film Festival. We got a call around Thanksgiving of that year--an oddly apologetic kind of call. It was Rebecca Yeldham, then one of the programmers of the fest. They wanted the film but were asking for it to not be entered into official competition. Rather it would be part of the series known as "American Spectrum"--which I suppose means movies not quite hip enough for the cool competition group. Even at the festival level, the movie business is incredibly high-school-esque. I was never particularly cool in high school and in fact turned my un-coolness into its own form of coolness. (For instance: I didn't bother having a locker. Couldn't be bothered. Also played jazz in the bandroom at lunch. Skipped all social events. Sat in the back of my classes reading film and architecture books and magazines).
Anyway, I adjusted to the news that Sundance wanted the movie but only out of competition with a similar kind of uncool-itude. Great, I told them. I explained that I didn't wish to be in competition as I don't care to give other people the power to declare me a 'winner' or a 'loser'. On that note, we were off to Park City.
I see in the comments section that somebody wondered where you live while at Sundance. The real question is: how do you breathe? The dreadful altitude makes normal walking, talkling and breathing almost impossible. The truth about Park City, Utah is: if you don't ski you're in hell. The town is too small to accomodate the throngs of pesky people who show up, the cell phone service poor, most of the restaurants mediocre, the ski condo's depressingly early 70's (faux-wood paneling, glass doors that don't shut properly)...and the projection facilities are atrocious. I've been to Sundance a half a dozen times over the years and I think I've managed to see maybe three movies in all that time. The tickets, the "packages", the lines, the lousy facilities...enough. It's a highly imperfect place.
But it is our premiere American film festival (or was, anyway...not sure what people think of it anymore). And it's a great place to show your indie film...assuming that everyone likes your film. For the truth is that, while getting into Sundance seems to promise a bright and rosy future for your film, if people don't care for (or about) your movie you have failed on a massive, world-class stage. To be invited to Sundance is a great and promising thing--great reviews and interested distributors can make a career! The converse, of course, is that to leave Sundance with bad reviews and no distributor is, in effect, to have attended your movies funeral. A hundred or so movies a year get screened there. You hear of perhaps four of them. And that's a good year...
We rented a relatively pleasant, large-ish house where we put up actors, producers, me and my wife and assorted others. Our first screening wasn't in Park City Proper but instead in Salt Lake City. (Everyone has to do a Salt Lake screening...it's generally considered the bane of the whole Sundance experience as it's too far away and most industry hot shots don't attend). We dutifully trudged off to our first screening, assuming it would be a basic washout.
And then a strange thing happened. No sooner had the film ended then I was being pulled into the lobby by a guy from the now-defunct USA Films. He was rabid and excited as only people in show-biz can be when they want something. To our surprise he wanted our movie. Suddenly we had gone from "dark-horse, Salt Lake screening, out of competition, not hip enough for school movie", to "grab it while it's hot, take it off the table, we're the guys for you movie".
More to follow. Meanwhile...dig the great Giuseppe Di Stefano (a different flavor of "meatball") singing Schubert's Serenade...in Spanish. This apparently belongs to an unnamed Mexican movie shot in 1953. For those of you Mexican retro-cinema fans, any information would be of help...
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Okay. So I skipped a week. Would you like to know what I've been doing all this time? If only I could remember...
But I digress. And whatnot. When was Columbine? April 20, 1999. Why do I care? Simple. Because that dates when the pre-production phase of "Two Family House" had begun. We'd been in prep for approximately two weeks when the Columbine massacre was suddenly being reported on the news. So that means we started our prep in the first week of April--or close--leading us to mid-May start of priniciple, in turn leading us to wrap before the fourth of July weekend (for some reason movies are always backing themselves into schedules by choosing outside dates that they arbitrarily need to beat...on "City Island" we had to wrap by Labor Day--a fact which drove more business and artistic decisions then a normal person might find healthy...)
Anyway, Columbine was dead-center (pardon) in our prep process and provoked one of my friend/editor David Leonard's, most bleakly memorable ripostes. Upon hearing that the kid/shooters were social outcasts disliked by their peers, he said "Whatever happened to pushing the other kids books off his desk?"
I'm guessing we were shooting by early to mid May. We worked in a triangle of New Jersey and Staten Island--though the film is set on the latter, the exterior of the house was all that was shot there (for the house--we used a few other locations, namely a wonderful bar the name of which escapes me but where they served brilliant Kilbassa). The wonderful crap house we found for Buddy to buy for his wife and dream of turning into a business was perfectly lousy on the outside...but was far too dilapidated to even consider bringing in a big crew to shoot for a few weeks. Instead we found--just across the water in Jersey City-- an enormous old Victorian house in junky but stable condition. Which was good--we wanted the freedom to do what we needed to the interior of the place and its unrestored, uncared for interiors didn't exactly scare the art department away from making a few "alterations". The family that lived there promised to leave when we were ready to shoot but we'd heard from other people they'd rented the house too that they tended to hang around and begin to make problems. The answer, then, was simple. BRIBE them. We did. Four round trip bus tickets to a warmer climate were dutifully procured for them while we hunkered down for a few weeks in their house.
My fine producer Adam Brightman and my fine cinematographer Michael Mayers were truly my co-directors in this venture. It's hard to explain to the outside world how little a director can accomplish if both of these key roles are miscast--believe me I've been in that position (poor producing and camera) and the result is arguably (arguably?) my worst film, though I worked just as hard on it as I have on everything I've done. Adam and I pieced together the logistics of the movie and, given its limited budget, had to come to terms with what we were willing to splurge on (creating fake snow, for instance, for the ending when Buddy leaves the local bar and takes a lonely walk home, having been snubbed by his friends)...and what we could just get by with (I'm not saying...)
Mike Mayers--who has since disappeared into the high-paying world of series television--was/is a DP who had a rare and dissonant combination of talents: he never held you up or made you wait...and at the same he was never satisfied with just "getting it"--he was always tweaking a shot, re-framing, adding or finding a little something extra. I think his work on "Two Family House" is world class--the camera never stops moving and yet is never ostentatiously distracting...the film has a dance to it that is all Mike's doing. The last I heard he was in LA shooting "The West Wing". Oh Mike. Why hast thou forsaken us?
More on the shoot and the aftermath in a minute. Meanwhile, can you get more meatball than the following clip from a late-sixties Dino TV show featuring the very Italianate Tony Bennett?
Friday, June 5, 2009
So it's late 1998 and I've heard from Al Klingenstein and Jim Kohlberg (via Anne Harrison, my producing partner) that they want to make the film. This is the problem with show business. The least likely things happen and the most obvious ones don't. Which leads you to keep putting coins into the proverbial slot, waiting for the payout. In a sense I'm still waiting...though I have the feeling that even those who have hit the jackpot are still putting coins in, waiting for an ever bigger payout...
I told them that the film was makeable for the money they had, although probably not with big stars. They won my heart by telling me that they thought the script was so strong that it didn't need stars--it needed the perfect actors to play the lead roles. (I hope like hell they still believe this unconventional bit of wisdom...) After flirting a bit with Anthony La Paglia and getting turned down by the onerous Vincent D'Onfrio, I saw tape on a character actor who was one of those faces that you recognize from a hundred movies but don't necessarily now his name.
Michael Rispoli was Buddy. I knew it when I saw him on screen and I knew it for certain when he and I sat down and met at Rocco's, a pastry and coffee joint on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Michael exposed his feelings and desires about the part so fearlessly at our meeting that I left knowing not only that I had my Buddy, but that I had a movie. When big casting pieces fall into place, your work as a director is considerably less daunting...indeed I would argue that it practically becomes a non-issue.
Our casting directors, Sheila Jaffe and Georgianne Walken, happened to also be working on an HBO series that hadn't yet aired. They told me that it had an Italian-American theme and that they'd seen plenty of great actors for that show that would be great for my movie. Before I knew it I had cast Vincent Pastore, Matt Servitto and Sharon Angela. Most importantly I found the great Katherine Narducci for Buddy's wife, Estelle. If the above names don't suggest the name of the HBO show that they were putting together then I'll spell it out for you...S-O-P-R-A-N-O-S.
By the time "The Sopranos" aired, of course, my movie was done and it looked to the world like I had somehow raided David Chase's set. Cynics might well have thought (and they might well have been right) that I was trying to capitalize on the Italian-American faddishness that arose from the show. In fact, I was blindly following Sheila and Georgianne's instincts and woke up one morning to find my film tied to the wings of a legend. At the time we made the movie, however, the show had yet to air and the general feeling about it was that everyone liked it, but that HBO would probably pull the plug on it after airing a few episodes.
Most unusual of all, casting wise, was getting Kelly Macdonald to play the young, pregnant Irish lass. I'd seen her in "Trainspotting" and a strange movie called "Cousin Bette" and what I'd noticed about her was that, whatever the size of the role and however little she might have had to do, you couldn't take your eyes off her when she was on screen. This might be the single most important thing a film actor has--that kind of mesmerizing authority while on screen. We were fortunate to have attracted the interest of her English manager (no thanks, by the way, to her then American agents at CAA) who pushed the script on her while she was in mid-shoot on something else in Europe. When she showed up in New York, a week before our shoot, she presented herself at my apartment in the Village and was unbelievably assured, friendly and down to earth. How old was Kelly at this time? Twenty-two? Twenty-three? After we'd hung out and talked for a good long while (and I think gone to lunch...) I offered to get a cab and take her to her hotel uptown, figuring that she didn't know New York too well. With admirable spunk she declined and said, "That's okay, I'm a very self-sufficient girl!", a line that endeared her to me forever...
Below, a little taste of "meatball heaven"--a 1951 Frank Sinatra television show with guest stars Frankie Laine and Perry Como. Can you say "pisano"?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The main character in the film "Two Family House" (and our new musical "Buddy's Tavern") is a kind of mid-century, outerborough everyman named Buddy Visalo. Oddly, ever since I made the film, people have asked me if I "knew the real Buddy"--as if there was something about him and his story that couldn't have just been made up.
And I always answer thusly: yes, I knew Buddy. He was my uncle. His name was Dan (birth name: Donato--meaning Donald, which he apparently didn't like) but always, familiarly, "Buddy". Or, to me, "Uncle Buddy". Buddy was an Italian-American, born in the Bronx and destined for a life of manual labor--my grandfather was a housepainter and early on he hired his second born (age 10? 12?) to be his assistant and helper. Never finishing school, Buddy kept working--doing construction, working in factories, doing woodwork etc. All the while he had an intense need to express himself artistically--in his case it was an ambition to be an actor that simmered within him for many years. (He'd apparently had a taste of acting in theatrical productions that they put on when he was in the Navy during World War 2). Barring the ability to become a paid artist, his secondary ambition was to work for himself--to not work for "some guy with a sign that says 'supervisor' over his desk". (I'm quoting my own dialogue from the movie now--but I must have gotten it from somewhere and I bet it was from my Uncle Buddy).
This led him to attempt on a number of occasions launching his own businesses. And one of them that I heard about--it happened years before I was born--had to do with buying a two-family house with the intention of living in one half of the house and operating a business out of the other. Said business being a bar. The story of what happened when Buddy bought the house was a piece of family folklore I heard over the years; there were tenants. They wouldn't leave. To make it worse (assuming you were Italian in the mid 1950's) they were Irish. They were broke. The wife was pregnant. And when my Uncle and some of his thuggier friends went to physically evict the poor couple, the woman went into labor.
The baby being born slowed everything down. The humane and correct decision was made to wait for the couple to have their child and THEN throw their asses out on the street. Only once the baby was born, another issue arose--one that was truly unforseen and scandalous in a way that is hard to fully comprehend in this day and age: the baby was mulatto, clearly not the result of the Irish couple's union.
This scandal didn't solely reflect upon the Irish lady. In a sense the fact that it occurred at the place that my Uncle was trying to convert into his home and business--into his PLACE--meant that it reflected equally badly on him. The disgrace of the mulatto child's birth seemed to have taken the air out of my Uncle Buddy's business plans. I'm not sure how much longer he owned the place. But it wasn't long before he abandoned his plan and was back at the factory...working for that guy with the sign that reads "supervisor" over the desk...
My Uncle Buddy died in 1988 and I thought of him a great deal over the next few years. He--his life--was enigmatic, an unsolved riddle to me. In a sense his character and his unresolved issues were the perfect example of what a writer looks for when creating a character, unanswered questions and all: who was he...what did he want...what stopped him from getting it...what would it have taken for him to conquer his demons?
These are the questions that I thought about it when thinking about him. And ultimately this led to the idea to dramatize a segment of his life, to tell the tale of the two family house, the unfortunate Irish couple, and the stubborn landlord who had to face the scandal that he'd been unwittingly drawn into. I won't tell you what Buddy does in the movie (and now the stage musical) version of his life. Suffice it to say it's a bit different than what he did in his real life. But my decision as a dramatist was to give him the power, on paper, to make the kind of decisions that in life he wasn't able to.
Or perhaps that's arrogant and misguided of me. Maybe the decisions he made later in life--he married several times and attempted to start his own life over on any number of occasions--were indeed informed by events such as the one I've described. Life isn't nearly as neat as a three act script; but it does, in retrospect, oddly resemble a long novel in the rambling, discursive and oddly coincidental way that our "plots" meander along, making a kind of backwards-looking sense as we stumble along to the ultimate and unavoidable climax we all share...
Here's the theatrical trailer of my movie "Two Family House".
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Onward, blog-ho. Here's how we got here, re: this musical of ours, "Buddy's Tavern", now playing in Norwich, Connecticut. But first, click here for Wikipedia's unexpectedly informative page about my film "Two Family House", on which the musical is based.
"Two Family House" began life as a screenplay which I wrote at the end of 1993. The previous year I had won a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for a screenplay I'd written called "Begin The Beguine"--twenty large was bestowed upon me as a gift for having been one of the best five scripts picked from a few thousand. The deal was, you couldn't just collect your check...it had to used as a STIPEND while you were producing new material. "Two Family House" was the script I chose to write during that stipend period.
Why? Simple. It was the least commercial idea I had in my drawer. Since there was plainly no way in hell such a script would ever get sold, much less made into a movie, I thought it a neat trick to at least collect twenty g's for its inception. (A more clever--and venal--man would have reasoned that the twenty g's would be good support while writing an incredibly commercial, blockbuster script that would then sell for a massive amount of money...making the twenty the small stake at the casino table that lures the large game. For whatever reason, I was born lacking the gene that produces this kind of good, solid reasoning).
Anyway I wrote the script and it instantly attracted no attention whatsoever. But as my father--a professional writer for sixty some years--always said to me about scripts: "every one of those scripts in your drawer is money in the bank!" I never quite believed this--until, six years later, I met a lovely fellow named Alan Klingenstein who, with his partner Jim Kohlberg, wanted to enter the indie movie game. They'd seen my first film, "Cafe Society" (which I'd made just a year and half after writing "Two Family House") and wanted to know what else I had up my sleeve.
I liked Al and Jim a lot upon first meeeting them. They came from investment banking, had no pretensions about their show-biz desires and were looking to spend a fixed amount of money (a couple of mil) on whatever script they fell in love with. By then--it's 1999 now--I'd written a pile more of unproduced screenplays...some commercial, some less so. Perversely, I decided to give Al and Jim my least commercial script to read...you guessed it, "Two Family House". Why? Because I still loved it and knew--in my heart and soul--that it would never, NEVER get made...so why not take it out of the drawer and give it a little air? Sort of like taking an aging, beloved sports car--a Jaguar, say, no longer fit for the highway--out for a spin on the back roads...
A few weeks passed by. And then I got a strange call from my producing partner Anne Harrison. "They loved it", she said. "They want to know if it can be made for the amount of money they want to spend and how soon you'd be available to get started." Oddly, I remember where I was when this phone call happened. At a resort in Arizona (Arizona, for Goddsakes!) where my wife's then company was having some sort of corporate retreat. Before I knew it, the little script that I'd never thought would see the light of day had--as it were--come out of the closet...
Tomorow I'll back up and discuss the plot orgins of the script. Meanwhile, as the movie (and show) are set in Staten Island in the mid-fifties and concern an everyday guy who dreams of becoming a singing star, how about a little mid-fifties singing star stuff? Here's Perry Como on his TV show with the McGuire sisters, circa 1958...