Friday, May 28, 2010

Acting in a Film: It Could Happen to You

NY Times
Published: May 27, 2010

They were ambitious young New Yorkers — waitresses, students, musicians, bartenders-to-be, chefs-in-training. Several were friends from high school, but most of the dozen or so hardly knew one another. The last place they expected to find themselves was in a movie — directed by a New Yorker, produced by New Yorkers, with original music by a New Yorker.

“The whole thing was the most surreal experience,” recalled Soomin Lee, 23, a cook at Boqueria, a Spanish restaurant in SoHo.

An often frenetic sequence of events brought the nonactors together for recording sessions and a 13-day shoot two summers ago that culminated in “Don’t Go Into the Woods,” a new film by the actor Vincent D’Onofrio that will be screened at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on Friday night at 11.

Auditions and cast calls are traditionally filled with touching stories of hungry actors waiting in line, glossy photos, tapes of performances and the occasional favor of a studio executive.

Mr. D’Onofrio, who made the movie for $100,000, said he was more interested in finding young talent whose “rawness, flatness and bad timing” as actors would “work in a kind of odd way” for what has been described as a slasher musical.

In the film, young city musicians, later joined by female friends, go into the woods for a weekend recording session that turns sinister with a twist.

All of the music was written by Sam Bisbee and recorded by the actors in the studio basement of Mr. Bisbee’s West 21st Street brownstone, which was in the middle of renovations. “A war zone,” Mr. Bisbee said of the frequent visits by the cast, which unsettled some neighbors.

Alyssa Jang and Janet Kim were baristas at a downtown coffee shop around the corner from Mr. D’Onofrio’s house before they wound up working on the film, Ms. Jang as an actor and Ms. Kim as the art director.

Cassandra Walker was waiting on tables full time at a Times Square restaurant and was a “glorified extra” on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” she said, when she overheard Mr. D’Onofrio, a star of the show, talk about “this crazy idea I have for a film” that would be shot near his summer house in Kingston, N.Y.

“We had something in common because I grew up in Kingston, and went to school for theater at SUNY New Paltz,” said Ms. Walker, 25, who moved to the city in 2006 and is still working as a waitress at the Aspen Social Club in Times Square.

Kate O’Malley, who is studying at the New School’s Eugene Lang College for what she hopes will be a career in international law, “always wanted to do music but never had the courage to pursue it on a daily basis.” A friend told her about the film.

Naïve and nervous at the prospect of an audition, Ms. O’Malley showed up at Mr. D’Onofrio’s house “shellshocked” with “nothing to sing.” He suggested “Amazing Grace,” Ms. O’Malley Googled the lyrics and thought she had botched the tryout when all she got was head nodding and “We’ll be in touch.”

Matt Sbeglia, Brooklyn-born like Mr. D’Onofrio, was working at the Landmark restaurant in TriBeCa and playing in a band, the Dirty Dirty, with Mr. Lee and another high school friend, Nick Thorp, when they were contacted by Mr. D’Onofrio’s nephew, Hakan D’Onofrio, who is known as Hawk.

“We were just thrown into the situation,” Mr. Sbeglia said, of the audition in Mr. D’Onofrio’s living room. “We had no place but to be ourselves.”

That was all right with Mr. D’Onofrio: “I said to them straight out: ‘Look, you don’t have to worry about acting, don’t think about it, don’t worry about it. If you start to worry about it, you’re going to get fired.’ ”

“You have these ideas about how movies are shot,” said Mr. Thorp, 23, a student at Hunter College who plays a blind musician in the film. “This was a lot less arty, and these guys were very real. They didn’t mind taking us to school.”

The screening on Friday will be a cast reunion of sorts, to be followed by a concert by the actors.

The film played to enthusiastic audiences at the Sarasota Film Festival last month, has been screened on several college campuses and is set for Internet exposure and a theatrical release later this year.

While cast members relish their experience and have kept up the bonds they formed during the filming, most are not leaving their city roots for Hollywood.

“I have a dog, a girlfriend and a job,” said Mr. Sbeglia, 23, who works as a bartender at the Landmark. “And I’m still playing music. I would act again, but I don’t see myself going on auditions.”


Thanks Judy!

**"Don't Go In The Woods" screens at Joe's Pub tonight.


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List of films in production.

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]
An activist gets caught up in the labor movement for farm workers in California during the 1930s. Vincent....Al Anderson


A story about the early life of Tennessee Williams

Directed by James Franco
Vincent D'Onofrio, Jacob Loeb

"American Falls" - [TBA]

In a rural town in Southern Idaho, the Suzukis, a Japanese American family, run a small motel. One night they get a strange visitor who sports ‘city’ clothes who turns out to be the first African-American man that Toru Suzuki’s children have ever seen. Yoshiko takes it upon herself to solve the mystery about this man, especially when 2 police officers come knocking on their door.

Short film produced by Erika Hampson.
Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Foster.

'Purgatory' [TBA]

'Purgatory' [TBA]
Tagline: In the Wild West a lot of blood was spilled... but it didn't go to waste. Vincent....Dallas Stoudenmire

"A Fall From Grace" [TBA]

Detective Michael Tabb knows the city of St. Louis inside and out. He has felt its true heart, as much as its dark underbelly: but he does not know who, in both the dark and light - is taking the lives of young girls.

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Producer/Writer ...Eric Wilkinson

Vincent D'Onofrio ....George Lawson (GRACE's father)
Tim Roth.......Detective Tabb

Filming in St Louis - TBA

"Supreme Ruler" [TBA]

A man campaigns to become the leader of the Buffalo lodge.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Hank Dory
Ron Livingston as Steve
Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy

"The Monster Next Door" [TBA]

"The Monster Next Door" - Comedy Horror

Executive Produced by Dennis Johnson, Melanie Mohlman Produced by Eric Wilkinson, David Michaels
Written by Jim Robbins
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Bill Pullman, French Stewart, Bill Moseley

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
Vincent......Harvey Weinstein

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