Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Have you been anxiously awaiting the new sound stages and studio, SUNCENTER or are you just now hearing about it? I remember, maybe about a decade ago, talk of a Hollywoodesque, state-of-the-art sound stage for big budget movie making in Philadelphia, but I didn’t keep up on the progress. Well, this premiere film & TV production facility is here now, (final completion by the beginning of the year) and it’s located only 10-15 min south of the airport, perfect for ushering in & out LA celebs.
The Greater Philadelphia Film Office (GPFO) threw a spectacular 25th Anniversary party
in one of the sound stages on Sunday night (11.14.2010). Feastivities catered the event and obviously these people understand movie magic. The decor, the accent touches, the menu choices, the service and layout and design of the space – all created an atmosphere of fun, elegance and panache!
FOOD NOTE: Plenty of lovely eats. My choice for best butlered was the Smoked Chicken Bruchetta (like a pate). Instead of stations of food, Feastivities set up large, rectangular linen covered bars with stools, servers took your order off a menu. The portions are rightfully small, no limitations - order all choices or more than one of a favorite: Smoked Brisket Slider w/sweet potatoe fries and chipotle aioli, / Pangasius Fish served in a misoshitake broth w/wasabi mashed / Chicken Caesar Salad served in an Asiago crisp cup w/edible flower garnish / Butternut Squash Soup with Broccoli Rabe and Provolone Panini / Orechiette Martini - pasta shells and alfredo sauce with tomatoes / Mini grilled pressed Cuban Sandwich with homemade plantain chips. Desserts: Smore's, chocolate covered baked cheesecake, pies on sticks.
I created a facebook photo page – click HERE with more shots of the party, the celebrities, the pitchers and screenwriter finalists (sorry, I couldn’t fit everyone into this post) And I would expect GPFO website will soon link to pictures, as there were no shortage of professional photographers in attendance.
The VIP party was preceded by a series of GPFO events in the Suncenter Studio Offices. Notice the cozy background of the conference room. Pictured are the actors (Annette Kaplafka, Christopher Mann, Peter Patrikios, Karen Vicks) that read from the 5 scripts chosen as finalists in the
“Shoot In Philadelphia” Screenwriting Competition:
Mintz Meats, written by Steve Alten, The 3rd Best Thing, written by Katie Hennicke, Third Ball Kill, written by Steve Hochman, Experimentally Yours, written by Tom Turner, Sweet Jane, written by Tom Turner
About 20 pages or so were read from each screenplay, just enough to get a sense of plot and tone.
I’d like to offer Congratulations to all the writers for getting this far with their works, particularly the Grand Prize winner – Tom Turner (Sweet Jane) (pictured). Long time associate of GPFO, Brian Wade was once again instrumental in the execution of the day’s events.
Next was PhillyPitch 2010 - Pre-selected screenwriters/filmmakers pitch their project to a panel of high-powered industry players for feedback and critiques.
Panel Members:(click names for bios) Derek Dressler, Mark Earlbaum, Andrew Greenblatt, Joe Gangemi, Mark Rosenthal, Ernie Vecchione, Patricia Weiser, Dawn Wolfrom.
These guys pitched an animated Sopranos like series call The Unwise Guys. The main comments from the panel were, tell me what it is about this series that demands it be told in animation, rather than live action, as animation is so expensive to produce? The pitchers really couldn’t come up with an answer other than it’s more comedic than The Sopranos. They’d launch into funny tidbits about the series, but nothing that couldn’t be done with real people.
The pitch behind Life with Alicia is that the pitcher, Tatiana, would like to play Alicia. The panel was divided on whether or not you should lead with that in a pitch. It was not a deal breaker for Tatiana, who like anyone else, just wants backing and to get her work out there. Part of the story behind the series Life with Alicia is the struggle of being a working mom who often doesn’t have child care; and as life imitates art, Tatiana’s very adorable daughter was in attendance. I caught these two pitchers together but they had separate pitches. Denise pitched The Heart Sees No Color a story about an inter-racial couple meeting and falling in love. The conflict coming from their respective families disapproval; and a back story of their kids trying to organize a charity race in Philadelphia. The main comment from the panel was, is this enough conflict for a whole movie, in today’s society where mixed couples are seen everyday? Basically, they felt it would ultimately depend on how well the script read.
Tom pitched a film titled The Romero Effect, taken from horror film director, George Romero. After the pitch, panel member Derek Dressler felt an apt description of the movie would be Dawn of the Dead meets The Office. But Joe Ganemi disagreed with him, saying he felt Tom was not pitching a comedic or satirical screenplay, but more of a realistic, dramatic horror film. He was correct, the problem being as soon as the average person hears Zombie, you laugh.
Walter and Rachel pitched a half hour puppet sitcom called Off The Leash (by the way, Rachel is a puppet maker) The basis of the plot has the puppets working as animators on a weekly series, so it’s like art inside art. For some reason, although we’ve all loved The Muppet Show for decades, the panel was stumped and just couldn’t get their minds wrapped around the concept. Which to me means these two will probably be the next big thing and then everyone will be producing puppet sitcoms.
Liz was amazing, not only did she have the most compelling screenplay by the sound of it, but she was a master pitcher! She used this excited little girl voice and was able to tell her whole story, super quick, throwing in very funny asides without missing a beat. The screenplay is called Red Coats about a group of guys who are obsessed with portraying Revolutionary War reenactments. The protagonist is having a midlife crisis and his psychiatrist recommends he change things up by leading his men to victory during the next reenactment, even though he’s the general for the British side. They’re a lot more layers, but you get the gist. One of the panel members saw Paul Rudd as the lead, but I think it would be a perfect vehicle for Kelsey Grammer.
In addition, about an hour after the pitch, I saw this woman in the ladies room, she was on the phone so I didn’t interrupt her, but I swear this is the same woman, Liz, in total party transformation. She didn’t have the little girl voice on the phone, so I think that was feigned for the pitch. If anyone can confirm or deny, I’d love to know. (answered as of 11/22 see comments)
Next they brought out the big guns for the TV Script to Screen panel discussion.
Panel: (click for bios, although most are well known) Jeff Erb, Leslie Greif, Jules Lictman, Rebecca Creskoff, Danny DeVito, Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson and Tony Danza.
The idea behind this panel was to give advice to aspiring artists on getting behind the scene, in the industry of television; whether your interest be as a writer, director, producer or actor.
(pictured rt with Tony Danza, writer Dan Reilly, Parisi Award winner)
I've been to a number of these types of panel discussions; famous people sitting across from you telling you how they got started, it creates a lot of energy and excitement! But the bottom line is always the same - hard work, determination, luck and relationships. There is no secret, nor are there ever any industry biggies coming out to cast, interview or read scripts in hopes of discovering some raw talent.
So, I’ll be the talent scout. I met two actors and a new filmmaker at the party, all three of which had a lot of charisma!
(lft to rt ) Actor/Producer, Bryan Payerl and Director (EPIC Productions) Jim Cocoliato. They are currently doing the festival circuit with their mini-feature entitled Out of Focus.
Sonia Vitullo, who has already gotten a break doing Forensic Files playing a strung out junkie. I haven’t seen it, but if this delightful and funny girl can play sullen and desperate, that’s good acting!
(pictured:Sharon Pinkenson, Joan Bressler & GP Resident winner, Katie Hennicke)
Proper adulation must go out to Executive Director, Sharon Pinkenson and Filmmaker Program Director, Joan Bressler, both women have been at the GPFO helm for 18 of the 25 years; committed to the mission of economic development and growth of the regional film production industry in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Read Carrie Rickey Inquirer article on the big business of making film in Philadelphia since the establishment of the GPFO.