The Chronicles of The Long Island Project – Chapter 3

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PART V: Editing & Post-Production

To edit the film I re-formatted my entire computer system from Windows 2000 Professional to Windows XP Home so that I could run a simplified version of Avid Xpress DV. I used this to quickly cut the film together and submit it to a few festivals, which I had been weary of as a result of my experience back in Portland (see earlier blog). At the time I had the intention of re-editing it before any mass-distribution takes place-the cut I made on this system is the cut that exists as of 2006.

Between October and December I finally received our effect shots-Frank and I had hired a professional f/x artist to add some signage to several of our city shots. We had him
replace the MetLife sign on the MetLife Building with the name MOYNIHAN. As well we had him replace the Roslyn Bank sign at the Roslyn Bank in Syosset to the TRAMAIN CREDIT UNION. There were other smaller fixes, like adding digital golf balls in the scene where Moynihan is smacking golf balls off his Manhattan rooftop. So with complete on-location filming, Hollywood level effects, I have, up to this point, achieved the most so far in a movie, on a technical and aesthetic level.


PART VI: The Fallen Premiere

On July 11th, 2006 we were set up to premiere the film at a lower east side establishment called “The ——-.” This was done through a connection with Shareef, our beloved
Brooklyn Borough President. Now, by this time, Frank and Ana have quite literally dropped out of the film, as well as a few others involved. Mostly because of Frank’s college programs and work etc.  But in general, people lost interest in it, very quickly. As well many festivals had been rejecting the film. So I was ecstatic when I learned that The ——- wanted to premiere “The Long Island Project.” Well, the night it was slated to happen I showed up with my DVD of the film and a MiniDV tape. So not only did I have a perfectly written DVD, but I had a wonderful backup.

Well, I arrived several hours early to see if they needed help setting up the showing. Dana (the marketing person for the establishment) proceeded to tell me that there were no
technical people working on the night – and I had to set it up myself. I said that would be fine. So I went upstairs to the projection room – and found the worst system I’ve ever seen.
It was a make-shift projection system, they had strange adapters linking guitar cables to the DVD Player, and there was no power going to the projector. Well, after screwing
around with it for about an hour I decided to take the DVD Player down and see if I could get it working with another outlet. Well, their DVD player is a portable DVD player from a company called INITIAL, a company which I’ve never heard of before.

It failed to play my DVD. So I looked to see if there was a way I could link a camera to the system… there appeared to be a way, except those funny little adapters that were linking
the guitar cables with the DVD player were going to pose a problem. So I ran all the way up to 13th Street between Avenues A and B to ring JT, see if he could help me out with this problem. But I forgot which apartment he lived in! I ended up asking around until I got escorted out of the building. So I ran back down to Delancey Street to find my friend Manuel waiting. I told him the bad news, but said that I had to wait around to tell other
people as well. Within the next fifteen minutes (fifteen minutes from Showtime) only three of my actors showed up, and two of my friends from work. Five people showed up. Most of the cast was missing, my co-director was missing, and my producer was missing.

This was without question the ultimate failure of an independent film. It was humiliating and unnecessary. A film that is original by someone who is passionate, to bomb because it never got seen. From here on in I was far too exhausted to continue pursuing it, as well, I had been completely drained of funds. I blew a lot of my own finances on this, and starved myself for weeks while paying for the post-production and the festival
submissions. So the way my mind was set, no one will see “The Long Island Project.” At least not outside of the circle that made the film.

PART VII: Distribution

There were several cool things that happened during production and post-production. The first was that we put out a trailer for the movie on YouTube, before it was bought by Google. We were one of the most popular videos on YouTube that week and even made the week’s top video list and was featured on the front page. Now that YT is owned by Google, that would never happen. Secondly, the programming director of the Swansea Bay Film Festival reached out to us and said he wanted to program our film, just based on the trailer. I wanted to take him up on it but could not afford to make a PAL encoded DVD at the time.

POST-DIARY UPDATE:

In 2009 I stumbled across Amazon’s indie-film distribution site called CreateSpace. They publish self-produced works, whether it be a film, a book or music – and provides you with
an opportunity to not only publish it, but distribute it on Amazon.com. This ended up being the final delivery method of getting The Long Island Project to the public. A two disc
special edition was created using a professional grade DVD authoring program I had purchased for my relatively new production company (at the time). The DVD was available
May 2009 and copies sent to actors who had managed to keep in touch.

Someone later on asked me why I fought so hard to find a mechanism for getting this out into the world, since few from the cast and crew seemed to not care much about it. I told
them that I still remembered where the project originated from – that little alcove in Virgin’s Customer Service. And there’s a story to that alcove, to that store – a story too big even for these chronicles.

Long Island, New York from the movie “The Long Island Project”.

The Chronicles of The Long Island Project – Chapter Two

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PART IV: Principle Photography


Day One

The first day of Principle Photography was July 13th, 2005. Our first day was scheduled to be one of the busiest and toughest days of the entire shoot. We had three primary
locations we needed to shoot in: Central Park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and Battery Park.

Frank and I arrived to Central Park at 9:00AM. The meeting spot was the 79th Street entrance at Fifth Avenue. Chris Diaz first showed up followed by Jack Moran. We immediately made our way into the park to film at the Bethesda Fountain. This was the only location we could get in the New York Metropolitan area WITH permission, the Central Park Conservancy even went as far as to shut off the fountain for us so that audio would not be an issue.

I filmed the scene with Jack and Chris discussing the political dangers of a “secession project”-it was very much like the scene in JFK when Costner is walking along the National Mall with Sutherland. That was the tone I wanted and got from the first take to the last. After the shooting of each scene I had the actors record the dialog straight into the microphone (in a quiet area.) This way I would also have a clean ADR track to work with. I did this for all of the exterior scenes in the film. Reggie Hines (our PA for the day) also hooked us up with some great ADR for a scene that I would be shooting in August.

LIP filming in Flushing Meadows Corona Park 2005 We proceeded to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens–one of the last stops on the 7 Line. This is the location of the 1964 World’s Fair as well as many other mainstream film locations. It’s a beautiful park and although we had to wait about twenty minutes for it to stop raining, we proceeded towards the interior of the park to shoot a scene between
Jack Moran and Chris Diaz smacking golf balls. This was also Greg Vorob’s first day—his character of “Agent” was to deliver a subpoena to Chris’s character to appear before a
Senate Committee Hearing over the legitimacy of their secession movement. The only
thing about that particular shoot was the airplanes coming and going from nearby LaGuardia Airport! Aside from that we got what we needed and pretty much what
we wanted.

Chris Diaz, Jack Moran, Eric Norcross & Frank Pina Because we were so tired by mid-afternoon we decided to move the Battery Park scene over to Carl-Shurz Park (because it was closer to my house.) We went to my “then” apartment on the Upper East Side and had lunch (Taco Bell), and then proceeded to do a scene with one of my “cameo appearances.” The scene was supposed to be me antagonizing Chris’s character for starting such an absurd secession movement, and it ended with him knocking me to the ground and walking away. It was funny and we filmed it pretty good. Only to find out later that the microphone had been disabled (because the headphones were plugged into the mic-jack and the operator wasn’t monitoring the audio.) So the footage was useless except for one last take of me yelling “The Long Island
Secession Council, what a bunch of fucking morons!” NOTE: This outtake/cut scene appears after the closing credits of the film.

When Frank and I returned to the apartment to set up the next day’s shoot, we received a message that our primary actress had dropped out… immediately I began deleting her
character from the story and re-arranging it so that they wouldn’t need her. The only remaining piece of evidence to clue anyone in on a missing character is the Flushing Meadows scene when Chris Diaz mentions a woman named “Lilly.” Aside from that, we managed to successfully delete “Lilly” from existence.

Day Two

Day two was a bit more stressful at first because we were trying to re-fit the script that day to read well without the lead female character. We were shooting all of the interior scenes of Rasputin’s Apartment that day (location was Frank’s apartment in Woodside, Queens.) Kevin Gall and Chris Diaz who were playing the two male leads were given the extra duty to take what would normally be dialog between three characters and convert the scenes into two character dialog.

Kevin Gall & Chris Diaz This would be done through-out the entire shoot with all characters that ran into the lead female at any point in the script. Our idea was that if we could blow through the material that day without any qualms, then we’d be set for the shoot. It would be a cinch. No problem. The character of Lilly would be nothing but history. At first it wasn’t easy, but as
the day progressed it did get easier… and then easier. By the end of the day we realized that we didn’t need this character to begin with, so it was at this point that we
began to foresee how the film would come out. NOTE: In retrospect I was wrong, this film would have been much stronger with a female character working the story.

July

We filmed “The Long Island Project from July 2005 through September 2005. We filmed it on Tuesdays and Weds every week. The most important days were scheduled around my bi-weekly pay periods at my day job, which was still the Virgin Megastore in Times Square.

Many locations we intended to get, we ended up not getting and had to replace them with more accessible locals.  That has proven to be the true nature of filming in New York City (or any city).  Sacrifice.  The rooftop scene we ended up shooting on a beautiful balcony at
Hunter College West–on the Upper East Side. This was for the scene where “Conrad Moynihan” (played by Jack Moran) is hitting golf balls off the roof of his skyscraper. The
scene was shot using him and Kevin Gall (who plays Johnnie Tramain), because actor Chris Diaz was late for the shoot that day.

Jack Moran preparing to film at Hunter College for The Long Island Project  A major argument between the two actors ensued and Kevin cursed Chris out pretty bad. I understood where Kevin was coming from–I was just as angry, but because I needed
both actors I decided to just try and calm them both down (instead of joining in, which is what I wanted to do.) That same day we also shot the cameo with Ollie (from the DVD
Department at Virgin) and some additional scenes with Dawn Simmonds in the lobby.

Our first shoot day with John Tully (plays Senator Deakins) was at Hunter College West as well. We couldn’t get permission to film inside one of the classrooms, so we snuck into one and set it up as fast as we could. This was the scene for the Senate Caucus Hearing, towards the latter half of the picture. By the time we got to filming, security peeked in and
thought that there was a class going on. It went rather smoothly, considering how nervous I was of getting caught!

August

August was a long month–especially for the production. Endless summer days and nights with nothing but scorching city heat. The sticky kind that made you want to vomit. If any of the readers of this blog has never experienced the amount of heat one is subjected to by spending a summer in New York–well let’s just say, it’s like walking around in the center of the sun but a million times worse.  There is no escape from the heat–at least no immidiate escape that doesn’t require a bucket load of cash.

The day we ventured out to Long Island for our “Long Island shoot day”, it was in the high eighties and low nineties. From what I remember. There was a long moment I was waiting to roll camera at the Stony Brook LIRR platform that I couldn’t even take a breath because the air was so thick. I felt sick–so we filmed the scene as fast as possible and got back into the air-conditioned car and sped back east to film in Syosset and Plainview (near Ana’s residence at the time–a place where we could cool down for a while.)

Addtionally we filmed with Robert Youngren for the first time. He played a character named Monticello Palermo, a gangster that the secession movement needed to secure
“blue collar votes” – more of a joke than a plot point. For this, Robert, John Tully, Greg Vorob and I walked across the George Washington Bridge to Fort Lee, New Jersey – on
the hottest day of the summer and filmed all of Robert’s scenes in a little park that overlooked the Hudson. We even managed to capture some blooper reel gags.


Wrapping Up

Our last official day of filming was in Washington, DC. Frank, JT (Senator Deakins) and I all ventured down to Washington, DC for a day of nothing but improvisational filming. We
took establishing shots of the city, the nation’s monuments, our actor walking around the most famous parts of town and entering and exiting government buildings. As well we
landed ourselves an improvisational cameo from Illinois Congressman Henry J. Hyde. Mr. Hyde was kind enough to run a little “secession” related sketch between himself and JT. It was the highlight of our day-and probably the most memorable aspect of our shoot since Hyde is most famous for going after Clinton for the Lewinsky thing. It’s cool to have your arch enemy on the political front, interacting with the villain in your film. I will never forget this day. Not to mention filming on the Exorcist Steps, in George Town, for a scene that was destined for the blooper reel!

After resting up at Tully Compound we hit the road again, this time I crashed in the
backseat –  and when I woke up the Midtown Skyline was sprawling in front of me-we were on the Jersey Turnpike and just about to head into the Lincoln Tunnel. This is how the shoot of “The Long Island Project” ended. With smiles and the glorious feeling of success.  The skyline of New York City laid out before me and all and all good feelings.

The Chronicles of The Long Island Project – Chapter One

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The Chronicles are a series of production diary entries made after The Long Island Project was shot in the summer of 2005 and posted online before it went into editing that fall.

PART I – The Concept

The Long Island Project began with two names: Conrad Moynihan and Rasputin O’Dwyer. Likewise, The Long Island Project began with two people, Frank Pina and myself. “The Long Island Project” began in the most unlikely of places, the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, New York City. Strike that, the film production began there, the concept began… in Long Island.

Frank and I were both working full time at the ol’ megastore back in the winter of 2005 and we were both very interested in filmmaking. Frank was in the process of enrolling in the film program at Hunter College and I had already graduated from film school and like all of my fellow classmates had found myself without a shred of success in the film industry, due in large part to the fact that I didn’t understand the city’s film resources, how to find collaborators and so forth. I was an storyteller without a means of telling stories. At that point I had been doing a lot of writing, in novel form (and was just completing my first draft of my novel “The Balance of the Seventh Column”.

It was the most common of common circumstances, although my case was slightly different, as I wasn’t entirely interested in being involved with the film industry. All I wanted to do was make films and write and both I wanted to do without some exec or union dictating what I can and cannot do. I wanted to make films without all the complications that would normally go with major Hollywood productions. My position at Virgin during this period was as a Customer Service Rep and because of this I found myself confined to a small room for eight hours a day with little entertainment. One of the little toys I was blessed to carry as part of my job was a two-way radio so that I may communicate with management and the Loss Prevention staff (a.k.a. security.)

CS before renovation.

Aside from eavesdropping on the security channel, I would occasionally send anonymous prank messages across the manager’s frequency, driving them crazy enough
that some admitted to shutting off their radios for long periods of time. Well, this lasted for quite some time and then I began to get bored with it—so at one point I decided that I was no longer going to respond to the name ‘Eric’ whenever I was called over the radio. I wanted to test them to see what they would do if I refused to respond. After all, it was only retail and not my chosen career path. The way I saw it, retail was retail and if I could find a way to make it interesting, why not? After a few unanswered calls to ‘customer service’ I decided to have a little fun, I picked up the radio and sent out a transmission advising everyone that “I no longer will be responding to the name Eric and will only respond to…” I thought a beat and then proceeded to say the first name that popped into my head… “Conrad Moynihan.” Where it came from… who the hell knows.
PART II: Development

The spring of 2005 I found myself venturing out to Long Island for the first time, to meet with a friend, Hasan, in Stony Brook. The concept of doing a film on the secession of Long Island, from the State of New York, came when I was waiting at the LIRR terminus at Penn Station. Looking at the large map of Long Island, I thought of the secession movement of my hometown – also called Long Island. The island seceded from the city of Portland, Maine in 1993 and the idea of throwing out the old politics and replacing them with the new had fascinated me ever since. Hasan and I drove out to Montauk Point State Park and walked about the property around the lighthouse, Camp Hero and downtown Montauk. My main goal was to get enough info to describe Montauk in my book The Balance of the Seventh Column and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was, in a sense, also story-scouting for L.I.P.

The fun picked up over the next week because our Operations Office Manager, (name omitted) got in on all the radio fun and renamed himself Johnnie Tramain. One of our associates from the DVD Department did as well-we all agreed to call him Dunstan “Snowtow” Decanter. Frank came up with the name Rasputin O’Dwyer, although he never called himself by it. Then over the course of the next week we began giving ourselves new biographies. Conrad Moynihan owned a massive media conglomerate that serviced the tri-state area. Rasputin O’Dwyer-well, I don’t remember what his original story was. Johnnie Tramain owned a credit union in Syosset, Long Island. Dunstan “Snowtow” Decanter owned a lucky rabbit foot shop on Northern Boulevard. The stories were as endless as they were absurd.

Frank wanted to make a film out of the characters we had been playing with at work-he thought it would be humorous. So did I. It took me some time before I decided on what to
do and that I’d dedicate myself to developing a project-but when I realised I could integrate my secession plot with these absurd characters I immediately pitched it to Frank who like the idea.

So this is really how LI.P. began…

PART III: Pre-Production

Before the screenplay was even finished we were already scheduling the auditions. I put out a casting call on craigslist.org and we got plenty of responses. People were a little slow to respond at first-but it picked up pretty quickly. I don’t remember the order in which people came in to audition, but I do remember that the majority of the actors Frank and I had cast came in within the same couple of days. I remember Greg Vorob coming in to audition for the one line character of AGENT. He appears through-out the entire story but only had one line. His audition consisted of staring into the camera and saying that one line several times over and that was it. That same day I auditioned several women for the part of LILLY (the main female character.)  One of the actresses that ran lines for the camera was good  -but I did not see her in the role. I e-mailed her as soon as she walked out and told her I wanted her to be the newscaster that we would use to narrate the film. This was Katie Jergens, who I have had the pleasure of making many more movies with since. She was the first talent to get the word that she had been cast and I even expanded her part a bit, drawing up a more in depth narrative of the film. The second woman I cast that day was named Madaleine B. (abbreviated for confidentiality purposes). She was offered the party of Lilly.

The next day I gave away the part of Johnnie Tramain to a young kid from Brooklyn who had an out-going personality and a bit of experience on the commercial and modeling front. As well, Jack Moran came in and I had him audition for the part of Senator Deakins. I had him audition for this part because of that fact that I thought he was going to be the oldest person we could get (he was in his late twenties…) It hadn’t occurred to me that I was in an actor’s town and that the necessity to resort to younger people didn’t have to happen here - this wasn’t Maine. It was New York!  Before leaving the audition, Jack asked if he could read for Conrad Moynihan. He really wanted that particular role as he had talked it over with Frank on the telephone. I  let him audition and gave him the role on the spot. He walked out with all of sides for that character and I never regretted it.

Once the screenplay was finished I went to Maine for a brief vacation to see my family. I kept up correspondence with Frank on what needed to be done prior to photography and
what the next series of events were going to be.

When I returned we finished casting. I remember the day I had cast John Tully-he came in to read for the part of Senator Deakins and one of the things he did on camera (on his
own accord) was an impression of Bill O’Reilly saying “SHUT UP-JUST SHUT UP!” I was in hysterical laughter that the camera was shaking! I cast him on the spot-gave him his
sides and told him I was going to write into the script a “television interview” with the Senator where he’ll tell the news host to “shut up.” That was pretty much our casting
process, in a nutshell.

As for the locations–well–it wasn’t that fun. We needed locations all over the city: Central Park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (location of the World’s Fair), sidewalks, streets,
buildings–I remember we wrote a letter to the Trump Organization at one point, asking permission to film on the roof of the Trump World Tower for the scene where Conrad
Moynihan is whacking off golf balls! I wrote a letter to the management staff of the Metlife Building at 200 Park Avenue–the building I was going to use for the establishing shots of
Conrad’s skyscraper anyway. The New York Film Office was no help at all in providing us with permissions to film on the sidewalks–they refused to even tell me the loop-holes of getting around the city because we weren’t insured. This was before they came out with the Optional Permits for no-budget/no-crew producers. Not even Frank’s school would vouch for us. In the end the only New York location we got permission for was Central Park–because it’s primarily run by the Central Park Conservancy and not the city and although they officially required permits, they never actually asked for them.

The Sony VX-2000E (PAL Edition)

Everything else we did without permission. We did it illegally, except not. We were operating under the laws of the constitution and proceeded in the same manner groups of tourists would go about photographing the city. We got jive once—but every other time no one cared. The one time was rather stupid actually, an uneducated security guard stopped us in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall when he saw me with a hand held camcorder – it was more of a lame duck security guard getting his rocks off than us breaking any kind of law. He went as far as to make me tape over my footage, to avoid getting detained and the equipment taken away.

Author’s Note (June 25, 2012): It is not illegal to film public buildings or film in front of them. If security or police insist you erase footage, fight for your freedom of speech and get their badge numbers. Brooklyn Borough Hall Security, to this day, are constantly shutting down photographers and videographers, tourists and pros alike. Even people with press passes. It is important that these uneducated faux “security professionals” be put in their place.

Days before principle photography began several of our actors called and said that they
had found paying gigs and couldn’t make it to any of our shoot dates. Frank and I were pissed and stressed and we totally felt the dark side of being producers. Lilly was no
more as she called out the day BEFORE the shoot as was the actor from Brooklyn who was set to play Johnnie Tramain. I immediately posted two “emergency casting calls” on the internet stating specifically “we’ll let you know if you have a role on the spot!” The next
day I cast Chris Diaz as Rasputin O’Dwyer and Kevin Gall as Johnnie Tramain.

So with the cast complete-our locations ready to for our film and gun tactics, the principle photography of “The Long Island Project” began…