It may only be the third year for the Soho International Film Festival,but it’s grown into a formidable event, with a week straight of great shorts and features, plus a cool party every night, thanks to sponsoring partner Brock Ganeles of www.NiteTables.com who arranged for all the venues from Sat. through Thurs. and Greenhouse/WIP who sponsored the opening party on Friday 4/13, and the party for awards night,on Friday 4/20, as they have done for the past two years.
It even had to move to a larger venue this year and was held at the Sunshine Cinema Theatre on East Houston Street, right next to Yonah Schimmel’s knish shop, the oldest knish shop in the country! Very fitting, the oldest knishes and the newest films! (LOL)
I must give props to the founder of the festival, Jorge Ballos for bringing in Exec. Director Sibyl Santiago, who worked tirelessly the last 2 years to make this happen, and to Carlos Santiago and his team of screeners for choosing films that people want to see. I also made sure to get what turned out to be an insightful video interview with Sibyl, as I not only like to talk to the celebs, but I like to talk to the people who make the events happen.
Soho also gets great celebrity support, with red carpet guests like Kevin Jonas, Mike Starr, Octavia Spencer, Rudolph Martin, and Danny Aiello just to name a few, and Danny doesn’t do these type of things very often at all. He told me he did it to support Sybil and John Gallagher.
I also ran into director John Gallagher’s talented writing partner Nick Brooks, who just happens to be the son of Mel Brooks! Watch out for their project “Sam” which they are currently in the process of making into a play. And it was great to see mega-movie producer Mark Lipsky who produced many of Eddie Murphy’s films, and will hopefully like my film “Men of Violence” that John Gallagher is committed to directing!
Opening night, I got to meet and interview Mike Starr, who’s been in so many TV shows and films including Goodfellas, Dumb and Dumber, Radio Days, and Ed Wood. He was also the star of John Gallagher’s film “The Deli” which was shown on closing night as part of a celebration for it’s 15th anniversary.
That night I got to see a fantastic documentary film called “Genius On Hold”, the story of Walter L. Shaw, an inventor, and genius, working for AT&T who invented things like speaker phones, call waiting, call forwarding, and conference calling, all of which were taken from him, and he was not given one cent in royalties. He died homeless and penniless. In his quest to make a living and support his family, he worked for the only people who would pay him, the mob.
He invented something called “the black box” that the mob used to evade police detection when taking bets, and he wound up going to prison for four years on charges of stealing 4 phone calls from AT&T without paying for the service. His son, Walter, who made this film, and told me it was 22 years in the making, turned to a life of crime out of bitterness, and wound up doing 12 years in prison himself. It’s a story that needs to be told and a movie that needs to be seen to be believed.
The after-party at Greenhouse that night, was off the proverbial chain, and people really let loose and had fun!
A couple of days later I had the pleasure of seeing a film called “Forgetting The Girl” directed by Nate Taylor who had an amazing Mohawk hairdo, and starring an actor named Christopher Denham. I got a great video interview with both of them which will be posted shortly.
I also got a great video interview with Kevin Jonas, of The Jonas Brothers, who was there with his wife Danielle DeLeasa. Her brother Brian Gonsar was one of the producers of the film, which answered my question to him, ” How does one get even one of the Jonas Brothers to support your film?” (LOL)
The short that night was a drama called “Enamour” with Ryan O’Callaghan, who I have seen in a few films already, and directed by Justin Ho, and was also very good.
The after-party that night was at Sutra on First Avenue. Besides choosing great films, they also chose great venues for the parties which included Affaire, Le Souk, Hotel Chantelle, and Tammany Hall!
The next night was another treat as I got to see a film called “From The Head” written and directed by George Griffith, currently living in LA. Not only did he write and direct the film, he starred in it as well. A masterful move!
Anyone who knows my comedy knows I always talk about owning a Men’s Room, and what I don’t like about it is that I hate when guys come in and ask if they can use my restaurant! I’m like, ” Look pal, I’m running a Men’s Room here. You can’t just come in to use the restaurant!”
Well George shot almost his entire film in a Men’s Room. He was the Men’s Room attendant for three years in a strip club in NYC, and he told a brilliant story about life as a Men’s Room attendant. They called him “Shoes” for the two-toned wingtips he wore on a nightly basis, and everyone there wondered why such an intelligent guy would be working in a Men’s Room for such a long time.
I was glad I got to meet George, because I needed to tell him how talented I thought he was. I knew that scene very well, ( not the Men’s Room, the strip club! LOL) and he portrayed it perfectly. I understand he had to actually build a Men’s Room in order to be able to get the camera in there and get the shots he needed. I’m sure it was a difficult job, because there’s lots of mirrors in Men’s Rooms and you have to be careful that the camera doesn’t show in the shot!
I also liked the choices he made as an actor. He didn’t play the character as a typical loser. He played him as a guy in control who made a conscious choice to do what he was doing. If you get a chance to see this film, definitely go and see it, and check out the site at www.fromthehead.com
The after-party that night was in Le Souk, a place I really like on LaGuardia Street that has cool “hookahs.” (Not hookers! LOL)
I was not able to attend every night even though I wanted to, because of my schedule. I don’t know how Sibyl and Carlos did it, but they did it with grace, and neither of them even looked tired. I guess when you do something you love, it gives you energy! (LOL)
Closing night was very exciting as it began with an event honoring Danny Aiello, one of the greatest film stars, and one of the greatest, and humblest gentlemen in the business. Danny has been in 90 films, and starred in 30 of them. They showed a retrospective of his films, some of which were Spike Lee’s ” Do The Right Thing” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, Norman Jewison’s “Moonstruck” in which he starred with Cher, Luc Besson’s “The Professional”, Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon A Time In America”, and Francis Ford Coppola’s classic “The Godfather.”
This moving retrospective of his films was followed by a Q&A, and Danny could not have been more open and more generous. The only time he was more open and generous was in the interview he gave to me before the evening started. I had gotten there early, with my DP Rob Krieg, and we were all set to shoot Danny on the red carpet. As luck would have it, he got there early and I was in the right place at the right time, and as I went up to say “Hello”, Sibyl went to introduce me, and Danny said, ” I know Jeffrey for a very long time”, and we embraced and went onto the red carpet by ourselves to do an interview.
Well we weren’t by ourselves for very long, as people started to come in and gathered around to watch and listen. I wanted people to know about Danny’s connection to comedy since many people only know him from his film roles and from TV, where he usually plays a tough guy or a cop. (Is that redundant? LOL)
Danny got his start as a bouncer at the original Improv Comedy Club on West 44th Street, which Budd Friedman first opened back in 1963. Danny worked his way up to be an MC, and he was supporting three children at the time, and always appreciated what Budd did for him. He also worked for Greyhound Bus Co. where he started as a bus driver, calling out the stops all the way from NYC to Buffalo, which he still remembers and did for me in the interview, worked his way up to head the union, and then got into acting late in life.
In recent years he even had a comedy club called “Danny’s Upstairs” in Hoboken, above a fantastic Italian restaurant, (where else???), and I remember being at the opening. All the comics from NYC wanted to work at Danny’s. I wasn’t performing yet in those days or else I would have asked for a spot too!
Danny and I reminisced about the days we used to hang out in Columbus Cafe back in the mid 80’s, and he shared a great story with me about a night when Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and other stars of that magnitude were there, which was common for Columbus. That’s when Danny and I first met, since I was a regular there as well.
I recall one night, I was downstairs near the rest rooms, talking to Robin Givens, and Mike Tyson came over, grabbed her, literally threw her over his shoulder and carried her out of the restaurant. I think it was the first time they met! Needless to say, I didn’t start a fight over it! (LOL)
Danny also shared with me the story of how he lost his son Danny, back in 2010 to pancreatic cancer, and how he was concerned that if he did a PSA,to help raise awareness and money to fight pancreatic cancer, it might look to people that he was looking to get attention for himself. That is the sign of a truly humble man to even worry about such a thing. He spent about 25 minutes with me on that red carpet and it was a moment I will cherish. I can’t wait to edit the video and show you all!
The best part was when I was able to ask Danny to play the lead in a film I wrote called “Men of Violence” that John Gallagher loves and wants to direct, and he asked me to send him the script. He’d be absolutely perfect for the lead.
After the Danny Aiello Q&A, they showed two of John Gallagher’s films. One was a short that I and my “muse” Sylvia Ogonaga are in called “I Love You”.
The other was his iconic film “The Deli” which I think had more stars than almost any movie I’ve ever seen. It was the 15th anniversary and in the film were Gretchen Mol, Ice-T, Heavy D, Michael Imperioli, Frank Vincent, Heather Matarazzo, Burt Young, Chris Noth, David Johansen, Iman, Frank Vincent, Tony Sirico, Vincent Pastore, Mike Starr, Debi Mazar, and even Jerry Stiller. There were even more, like comic Joey Kola who it took me a moment to recognize! And he was funny even then!
Anyway, I can’t wait to see what Sibyl and Carlos come up with for next year. All I know is I’ll be there, so save me a place on the red carpet guys!