Tag Archives: film

Jackson Heights filmmaker turns to Kickstarter for new flick


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Alex Webb

Actor Alex Webb has gone behind the camera to write, direct and produce award-winning films. Now, he is turning to Kickstarter to get his new film rolling.

The Jackson Heights resident has worked with actors such Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Ben Affleck and has appeared in the Netflix series “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

Aside from acting, Webb began working on film production with his first picture “The Girl in 2C,” which received a silver medal at WorldFest, an international indie film festival in Houston. His most recent short film “Hove (The Wind)” received the Panavision New Filmmaker Award and was selected for several international film festivals.

“The interesting thing I didn’t realize is that all along I had writing and directing right in my pocket,” Webb said. “I was much happier when those times came to be creative and start creating your own work.”

Webb decided the next step in his production career would be to create a full-length feature and came up with his newest thriller and dark comedy flick called “To The Flame.”

“[I wanted to] try to make a story that is super intriguing, weird and surprising and — on the production end — simple,” Webb said. “Make [a film] that would really lend itself to a micro-budget.”

On May 7, Webb created a 30-day Kickstarter project to help raise $25,000 in funds to make his feature film a reality. The money raised would go toward production equipment and hiring the remaining cast and crew members, as well as helping to keep location and travel needs to a minimum.

“The great thing about Kickstarter is you are raising awareness about your project before even starting it,” Webb said. “You get these people already hooked on the project and you’re getting an audience before it even starts.”

The film, which already has Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis and actor Bob Balaban slotted for cameos, was inspired by the works of directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. It follows two college students, Kyle and Penny, and their interaction with two neighbors, played by Webb and his wife Shirleyann Kaladjian, for a school assignment. The project then takes the students into the couple’s “dark and twisted world,” Webb said.

Shooting for the film is expected to begin in early July, with some scenes possibly shot in Queens, and a release date is slated for late this year or early 2015.

To watch a teaser for “To The Flame” and donate to the Kickstarter, which ends June 6, click here.

 

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Local movie maker brings piece of Jackson Heights to Queens World Film Festival


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy Walk Up Productions

One Jackson Heights filmmaker is keeping a promise and taking it to the big screen.

Producer and Jackson Heights resident Michael Lieber met screenwriter Joseph P. Vasquez in California during the mid-1990s and started to work on a screenplay called “The House That Jack Built,” written by Vasquez.

But before the project was complete, Vasquez, 32, died. Lieber vowed that he would finish the film.

Two years ago, Lieber kept his promise and decided to begin making the film with director Henry Barrial and additional producers Sam Kitt and Hitesh R. Patel.

“It just shows that the most important thing was starting with a good script,” Lieber said. “Unfortunately, the writer died many years ago and he was not able to see the fruition of this film. This is why it took so many years to make, because I wasn’t just going to get it filmed like that.”

Vasquez’s film, which is almost 90 minutes long, follows the life of a young Hispanic man named Jack Maldonado who tries to build a relationship with his family by buying an apartment building and moving them all there. The story then becomes a combination of escalating conflicts with family members and also “turf battles” as Jack deals with competing marijuana dealers.

“When I look back, I’m kind of amazed we were able to achieve this,” he said, referring to the film’s budget, which was less than $150,000.

One third of the movie was filmed in Jackson Heights and the rest was finished in the Bronx.

“The House That Jack Built” has been picked as one of the 127 films showing at the Queens World Film Festival, which began Tuesday. It has also been nominated for Best Narrative Feature in the festival.

“This festival is very different; this is a film lovers’ festival,” Lieber said. “It’s a warm festival. It’s very New York and yet it has an international scope.”

“The House That Jack Built” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 7, at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights.

“If you want the feel of New York City, Queens is the borough these days,” he said.

To purchase tickets, visit here. For more info on the film, visit here .

 

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Kaufman Astoria Studios extends lease by 99 years


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

Keep the reels rolling!

Senator Charles Schumer and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney announced the approval of Kaufman Astoria Studios’ 99 year lease term extension under the Historic Surplus Property Program by the National Park Service (NPS). Early this month, Schumer and Maloney requested that NPS approve this application, stating the extension would allow business expansion in the studio by providing long-term investments and make it easier to access the capital Kaufman needs to grow and expand.

“This lease term extension will give Kaufman Astoria Studios the security and predictability it needs to grow, create more jobs and expand its business in Queens,” said Schumer. “This studio is full of history and with New York City’s growing film industry, I am pleased that the National Park Service has said ‘lights, camera, action’ for this new extended lease.”

The legendary studio opened in 1920 and became the home to Paramount Pictures. Stars like Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep and Al Pacino have worked on productions at Kaufman Astoria Studios. Sesame Street is also filmed at the renowned studio. Kaufman Astoria Studios was designated as a National Historic District in 1978.

Its extended lease will end in 2099.

In Spider-Man’s hometown, Queens residents flock to theater


| brennison@queenscourier.com

DSC_0021w

“The Amazing Spider-Man” swung into theaters at midnight and Queens moviegoers flocked to the film in the character’s hometown.

Lines formed outside the Midway movie theater in Forest Hills — where Spider-Man hails from — to be among the first to see the superhero flick.
“In all the Spidey movies, [Spider-Man] cried too much. This will be different. It looks like ‘The Dark Knight’ in a kind of way,” said Andrew Arevalo, 21, of Corona, as he waited for a 3:40 p.m. showing.

Fans leaving the theater thought the reboot outdid the original.

“It was great, it was the best one,” said Joe Lazauskas, 66.

Forest Hills resident, Daniel L., 30, agreed.

“It was the best ‘Spider-Man.’ [Andrew Garfield] was good and fit the role better than Tobey [Maguire].”

The Hollywood Reporter estimated an opening of at least $125m, which would place it second behind “The Avengers” in 2012.

Overseas, the Marc Webb-directed film is already breaking records overseas, according to reports.

The other Spider-Man films all earned at least $750 million at the box office, with the third installment, which hit theaters just five years ago, earning nearly $900 million.

 -Additional reporting by Philip Hertling & Greg Giaconelli

NYC’s Filming Boom


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Silvercup sign

Bollywood produces the most movies in the world. Hollywood is known as the planet’s entertainment capital. But there is a sleeping giant in the entertainment industry — New York City.

Being the biggest city in the world, New York was the setting of a multitude of shows, but not their home: Seinfeld, Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond all shot 3,000 miles away from where they were located. Even now How I Met Your Mother, Mad Men and CSI: New York film in California.

But within the last decade, there has been a New York renaissance in production not seen in a century.

The television boom over the past 10 years has seen the number of series filmed here more than triple. Twenty-three series filmed in New York City throughout the 2011-12 television season, including, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife and Law & Order: SVU.

Besides the shows that film in NYC exclusively, more than 100 television shows and movies have used the beautiful backdrop of New York City over the past year and the city revels in a entertainment production revival.

“With our beautiful city, talented workforce and the assistance offered by our ‘Made in NY’ program, New York City has surpassed all previous records for film and television production,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

New York is now becoming a first choice when deciding where to film, according to insiders, and at the center of the record boom is western Queens’ Silvercup Studios and

Kaufman Astoria Studios and Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios.

Kaufman originally opened in 1920 as Astoria Studios, and quickly became the mecca of the silent film era. Upon America’s entrance into World War II, the studio was taken over by the U.S. Signal Corps. and became known as the Army Pictorial Center where armed forces training films were shot.

The building eventually fell into disuse and disrepair until 1977’s production of The Wiz featuring Michael Jackson. It was fully renovated and revived in 1980 after the sale of the lot to George S. Kaufman. Since its rebirth, some of the biggest stars have passed through the studios doors. Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Big Bird have called Kaufman Astoria Studio home, while Glengarry Glen Ross, Scent of a Woman and The Cosby Show were filmed there.

Out of a former flour silo rose the next great NYC studio, Silvercup Studios. The Long Island City studio opened in 1983 and quickly established itself as the largest independent, full-service film and television production facility in the Northeast. It has shot such classics as When Harry Met Sally, The Sopranos and City Hall. Currently, the stars of Gossip Girl, 30 Rock and Person of Interest call it home.
The “largest and most sophisticated studio complex outside of Hollywood,” Steiner Studios opened in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2004. It has played host to Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie. The studio’s lot has been used by Sex and the City, American Gangster and Spiderman 3.

The shows may use the studios to shoot much of the show, but filming in the city allows them to use it as a backdrop whenever they see fit. And it’s not just a quick exterior establishing shot of NYC, You no longer have to watch a “New York” show like Seinfeld and see the characters walk down the same fake city street in every episode. Instead, you have Alec Baldwin in Rockefeller Center, or Blake Lively in Central Park, or Zach Galifianakis exploring Manhattan, it gives the show an authenticity that is impossible to reproduce on a set.

Seeing the characters outside a pizzeria that you’ve gone into, brings realism to the show. It’s not Central Perk on Friends, it’s New Roma Pizza on How to Make It in America.
New York isn’t resting on its record breaking laurels, either.

“New York City is a television town, and we’re thrilled that we broke records for television production in 2011,” said Office of Media & Entertainment commissioner Katherine Oliver. “The mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment is committed to working hard to make sure that the industry continues to grow and expand in 2012.”
And it’s not just the sheer number of shows being produced, it’s good television. Last year, city productions earned 110 Emmy nominations, winning 23 awards.
It’s exciting to recognize the locales used during the shows, but even more exciting could be recognizing yourself or one of your friends in the background. In 2011, more than 11,000 extras were hired on the television shows shot in the city.

So, with the productions multiplying exponentially, it may be only a matter of time before you find yourself watching yourself on the screen.