What MAKES Sammy Run? – MAKING A MOVIE IS AN EMOTIONALLY , PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY DRAINING EXPERIENCE … AND IT’S PRICELESS!
Above: Actress Samantha Tuffarelli (R in yellow dress) poses during filming of "A PLACE FOR HEROES," in Clutier, Iowa. The film, in which Tuffarelli plays "Nola," the best friend of the young lead, is the eighth film produced by ForTalent consultant and member, Sam Borowski.
Sorry, I’ve been away for a bit, but as the good folks here at ForTalent can attest to, I’ve been producing a feature film – “A PLACE FOR HEROES” – inIowafor the past month or so.
And that is no easy feat to accomplish.
You see, making a movie – as the headline reads – is an emotionally, physically and mentally draining experience. Fun shoot, stressful shoot, positive shoot, it doesn’t matter – they are all hard shoots.
But, they are all worth their weight in gold … they are priceless.
Because only a handful of people in this world, get to write, produce and direct movies. And get to act in them. To quote Willie Wonka (Actually, Gene Wilder’s Wonka is quoting Arthur O'Shaughnessy, British poet of Irish descent), “We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams …”
We get to tell stories; stories that touch others – stories that make a difference in this world. We get to enable the art of escapism. That’s right the beauty of going into a theater for two hours or so and forgetting all our problems. That’s one of the many wonderful things movies can do for us. They make us laugh … they makes us cry. They entertain us, and even educate us. A good documentary can make social statements that can make a difference in the world. A movie franchise like “HARRY POTTER” … and even “NIGEL READ” - ;) – can get kids reading again.
Film is a very special medium – even in its digital form.
And, every time I complete a new movie, I reflect on two things:
- How blessed I am to do this for a livng.
- Why I became a filmmaker in the first place.
Hey, it’s hard not to reflect on that. Making a movie is such an accomplishment, it makes you think. I still remember after I went out to L.A. to complete filming on “CREATURE FEATURE: 50 YEARS OF THE GILL-MAN,” filming with Oscar-Winner Benicio Del Toro. And, then how he went downstairs from filming at Maison 140 into the “Bar Noir” and had a drink afterward.
I remember how it felt to see the movie play in the Annapolis Film Festival, and later in its theatrical release. I remember sitting in a packed audience opening-night at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in Manhattan, and celebrating afterward with a decent crowd over a few slices at the Two Boots Pizzeria. Or how many people still come up to me at monster/movie conventions and film festivals, because of that one film that started it all fo me.
Or how it felt to wrap “REX,” the first film I worked on with Robert Pralgo. Since then, we have worked twice more – it would have been three, however scheduling for “THE VAMPIRE DIARIES” prevented him from being in “NIGHT CLUB.”
But, how we had a wrap party in Georgia and they served drinks in these small glass jars that were famous for “moonshine.” And, how the entire cast and crew presented me with a special commerative State of Georgia plate that was signed by everyone. I still have it to this day.
How the last night of shooting seemed to go forever, or my celebratory breakfast at the Waffle House across the street from our hotel with one other actress at dawn afterward. I don’t think waffles ever tasted so good.
Or how Daniel Roebuck, who has been in every movie of mine save for one, at a script meeting the night before he began shooting, asked the cook at the Waffle House if he could eat the leftover waffle batter grizzle, because it looked so good. He did – put some butter and syrup on the leftover grizzle and ate it. (This was just cooked waffle batter – so don’t be grossed out).
Funny the things you remember.
How we showed up in style at the “REX” premiere at the SIFF in a limousine.
Or how hard it was to make “THE MANDALA MAKER,” a short film I wrote, directed and produced that qualified for the Academy Award in the Live-Action Short category. We lost an investor at the last hour … and an actor … and an actress. Enter Courtney Hogan, who I will always respect for the way she learned that part and became the character in a single day.
Won my first two Accolades for that movie – for Short Film and Direction – and the film itself won three. That’s right the aforementioned Hogan took home An Award of Excellence for Best Actress.
After “NIGHT CLUB” we had won four more – Awards of Excellence for Best Director, Actor, Supporting Actress and the coveted Best in Show Award for Feature Film. In all, “NIGHT CLUB” has taken home 16 awards over 8 film festivals, and we are in the throngs of obtaining distribution.
There was such a good feeling at the “NIGHT CLUB” wrap. I remember how excited and happy the seniors at the California Villa were to have us there. How we played a positive role in their lives. It touched me to say the least. Not to mention what my mother was going through at the time, battling Alzheimer’s. I will never forget what they movie meant – and still means – to me. I dedicated it to her for a reason. And, there isn't enough I can write about what a thrill it was to work with Oscar-Winner Ernie Borgnine, who was a dear friend of mine. And who I grew up watching over the years. Suffice to say, a memory I will never forget.
But, then again, it's about the memories, and it goes beyond the awards. All of them.
I can’t explain how touching it was to me that so many women came up to me – and even some men – and told me what “THE MANDALA MAKER,” meant to them. Worth its weight in gold. The trust these people put in me, as they told me some of the most heinous things to happen to them in their lives. And, how my little movie, my artsy short film, touched them in some way.
That’s why I tell stories.
You see, I am far from a perfect person. I make many mistakes in my life – though I do my best to learn from them. And, as I always say, I may not always do the right thing, but I do my best to do the right thing. It can get confusing.
But, making “THE MANDALA MAKER,” was the right thing. It touched many, and God rewarded me with an even greater career, as a result. Just qualifying in the Oscar process, making the cut, was amazing to me. I would highly recommend it to any filmmaker wanting to test their talent and cut their teeth.
Similarly, we are looking to qualify, “POLLINATION *” next year. We had the good fortune to play in the HollyShorts Film Festival at the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater. We are going to play in the wonderful GOLDEN DOOR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF JERSEY CITY, to boot. And many more.
And, for that film, it was such a pleasure to work with the uber-talented Federico Castelluccio, who took the film and the work, so seriously. And to watch him, and fellow actor, Maria Rusolo playing with my niece Emily. Maria was wonderful, as was my fellow producer, Bill Sorvino, who showed me something in that film. Or Mary Dimino, who played Gina Palma in “NIGHT CLUB,” returning for an amazingly funny and disturbing cameo in “POLLINATION * .”
That brings me back to “A PLACE FOR HEROES.” Since we wrapped just a little over a week ago, I have had some time to reflect, both in doing my wrap-up work in Iowa, and in the few days since I’ve been home. An amazing experience, that was anything but easy. But, I am sure that with all of the hard work, stress and long hours that I put in, we have a winner on our hands.
I am proud of the work that we all did. This was just the second time – and the first on a major feature film – that I got to work with Samantha Tuffarelli, who gave it everything she had. By the end of the shoot, she was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. She got to work her first film as an Associate Producer and she did a very fine job at it. Not sure what I would have done without her early in the shoot.
Unfortunately, I lost her in that aspect when it came time for her to act in the role of “Nola,” the best friend of the young lead. She turned in one of the guttiest performances I’ve ever seen. Much like Eli Manning in both of his Super Bowl wins, she did what she had to do. She took a pounding both mentally and physically in that her portion of the film were all night shoots. So her body had to adapt, after previously having all day shoots. She did what she had to do.
I was not easy on her, not one bit. You see, when I believe in an actor – in their talent, ability and work-ethic – and when I care about them, I want the absolute best for them. I have way too much respect for that young woman to baby her. You have read many wonderful things I have said about her in this BLOG< but none more than this: She gutted her way through the film. She made mistakes – as have I along the way. However, when you watch her performance, you will see that she is an actor. She was born to do this, and I hope and pray she reaches her full potential.
Because if she does, her future is limitless.
There were other tough memories along the way, such as when I walked into the aforementioned Roebuck’s room – the door was open – and realized something was terribly wrong. Within the hour, he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. And, he was still in the hospital in Marshalltown when I left Iowa. However, he is out of the hospital now, comfortably resting at the Meskwaki Casino Hotel, where he will stay another day or so until he is cleared to fly home.
Craziest and Most Surreal ending to a movie, I’ve ever had. But the chance to work with Roebuck for the seventh time? I’ve lost count. J Or Pralgo and Bill Sorvino for the third. I watched Bill really show his range in this role. He transformed into a very unlikable person – the opposite end of the spectrum of his personality in real life. He grew as an actor, and as my brother, I am so happy for him. He has worked hard to get to that moment. He is a chip off his Uncle Paul’s block.
And, yes, it goes without saying that his Uncle – the legendary Paul Sorvino – was amazing in this movie. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I still remember watching a smaller scene on the monitor and turning towards Tuffarelli, saying, “Even in this little scene, look at the greatness of Paul Sorvino. That’s what he brings to your movie!” Needless to say he will bring down the house in the climactic scene in the film, though I won’t share it with you now. You will have to plunk your $11 down to go see it in a theater. ;)
My dear friend, Sally Kellerman? Brilliant and kind. Can’t tell you what it meant to me to see Sally’s face smiling on the set every morning, or how seriously, she takes her character, everything from their motivation to their style of dress. To how they wear their hair. Or how kind she was to Tuffarelli, giving her advice and tips, showing her so much kindness, knowing she was a special person to me … and a special actor.
I won’t even go into Pralgo’s performance, because it must be viewed for itself. He will have you weeping at any moment, and will move you to ask the question, “What is a hero, anyway?” His portrayal of Charlie is going to open doors that will even surprise him. It is one of the all-time best acting performances I have ever been associated with. And, that, is no overstatement, whatsoever.
To see people, I respect and care about achieving their potential means so much to me. You see, I’ve said two things from the start:
- That I take my credits very seriously
- And, that for me, this business, has been about the relationships I’ve formed.
To think that someone like Tuffarelli has not even reached her full potential … not even close. She has so much range and talent. That is just speaking professionally.
Of that someone like Pralgo can turn into Tommy Lee Jones at any moment – the man who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in THE FUGITIVE, alongside my good buddy, Roebuck. Or how much fun I had in the car with those two and Tuffarelli, as we drove to the special double-feature screening of “POLLINATION *” and “NIGHT CLUB,” at the Traer Theater in Iowa on one of our days off. And how we had even more fun on the ride home debating the merits of which MIKE AND IKE was better, tropical or regular.
Or the ridiculous fun I had at the “Fairway” supermarket with Tuffarelli and Ellen Dolan and even with Paul Sorvino, as we bought necessities for our hotel room – our home for close to three weeks. Or the very first shot in the film at the Casey’s Mini-Mart and Gas Station and how Director Scott Thompson gave us crazy directions to the next set: “Turn right at that light , go straight, then take a right at the sign for Clutier, wait until you see a water tower, take a left and drive straight into town until you see an old dance hall … but NOT the one we are shootoing at.” When Tuffarelli asked him for an address for the GPS, he said, “You can’t get lost in Clutier – it’s one road basically. If you’ve gone to the bank, you’ve gone too far.”
Guess, what, strange as it may seem, he was right. Those directions got us there.
Funny the things you remember.
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Film / Theater / TV, Writing
- What MAKES Sammy Run? – PAINT YOUR NEXT FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE GOLDEN!
- What MAKES Sammy Run? – MAKING A MOVIE IS AN EMOTIONALLY , PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY DRAINING EXPERIENCE … AND IT’S PRICELESS!
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