Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gregory Principato of Westfield Directs First Feature Film; Film Stars Brenda Vaccaro and Vincent D’Onofrio

By Savita Iyer

WESTFIELD, NJ - Gregory Principato is remarkably calm for someone who is directing his first feature film -- one, that stars, no less, such big names as Emmy award winning actress Brenda Vaccaro and Law and Order: Criminal Intent’s Vincent D’Onofrio.

He’s calm, he says, because "[the actors] are all pros and they’re deeply committed to the project."

Most importantly, though, they’re all friends – or friends of friends. In the 16 years that Principato – he’s lived in Westfield for over a decade -- has been working behind the camera on the sets of numerous TV shows and movies, he has come into contact with and developed friendships with many actors, and now, a few of them have come together to join him in his maiden venture: "Crackers," a dark comedy about an Italian chef named Gus whose life is turned upside down after a mishap during a Sunday dinner when Jack, his father-in-law, chokes to death on an ossobuco bone, and his insupportable mother-in-law, Bidelia, takes over his home and his life.

The half hour short, which is shooting this week in South Amboy, NJ, also stars Dan Hedaya of "Cheers" fame; comedian Sal Richards; "One Life to Live’s" Beth Ann Bonner; and Anthony Laciura, a former opera singer who stars in HBO’s "Boardwalk Empire" (the most recent show Principato worked on). It is the "culmination of years of hard work," Principato says, who first thought up the story idea 10 years ago after a trip to New Orleans. Since that time, he has had plot and characters floating around in his head, but things only came together last year when he met his co-writer, Tim Reinhardt.

"I sat down with him for two hours, I went through the story and the characters and in six days, he had 60 pages for me," Principato says. "We shaped things from there and all of it just came together very quickly."

"The two of us have a similar sense of humor and it was all there, so everything went fast and it was just a question of making the story sharper," Reinhardt says.

Selling the script to a team of talented actors was no problem either: "They all loved it," Principato says, and this is what gives him the most encouragement for shooting "Crackers."

"When you have a team you can count on, who are all on the same page as you are and who are thrilled with what they’re doing, things just flow all that much more smoothly," Principato says.

A professional photographer, Principato has steadily worked his way up the ranks in the 16 years that he’s been a part of the film and TV world. He’s worked on a mix of shows and features, including "Spin City;" "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" (where he met Vincent D’Onofrio), HBO’s "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee," his latest movie project in which he even has a small cameo. But although he loves being behind the camera, he’s always wanted to direct.

"I have a good rapport with actors and I want to be more creative," he says.

In 2008, Principato both produced and directed the documentary "Mr. Laughs, A Look Behind the Curtain" about the life of comedian Sal Richards (who also stars in "Crackers"), for which he won several awards. "But I wanted to make a different kind of movie in order to prove myself," he says.

While he was able to raise some of the funds for "Crackers," Principato is doing most of the producing himself – a tough call, but one that may well be worth it in the long run, since what he really wants to do is make movies. "I will be able to use ‘Crackers’ as my calling card, in the hopes of getting other projects to direct or at the very least, getting an agent," he says.

He also hopes to enter "Crackers" in several high profile, academy-qualifying film festivals, including Cannes, Sundance and Telluride.


DonnaJo said...

I had no idea that "Crackers" was only a short film. Great....another VDO film that won't be shown in my local movie theater.

Oh well....I'm still looking forward to seeing it. It sounds like a great plot.

val said...

Just as long as we all get to see it!

rindy713 said...

I read the other post with the movie synopsis, and it sounds hilarious. Sure do hope I get an opportunity to see it.

Anonymous said...

And here I was, thinking we were in for 90 minutes of Vincent...oh well, I join everyone else in hoping we at least get to SEE it.

[Browse Amazon]


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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