October 31, 2021
EXCLUSIVE interviews, FEATURED
Exclusive Interview with Producer, Writer and Star Of The Independent Film ‘The Reunion’
The Reunion, a new independent film written and produced by Dave Rosenberg, took the top awards of Best Feature Film and Best Director at the 9th Annual Nyack Film Festival of 2021.
Held August 16th-19th at Hotel Nyack in Nyack, NY, the festival featured 40 films from around the country and the globe that were presented in the hotel’s 150-seat ballroom.
Rosenberg, who wrote, produced and starred in the film, says about nabbing two of the top honors at the NFF, “We are honored to receive these awards from the Nyack Film Festival. The Festival’s Director, Richard Quinn, was very gracious and complimentary of the film. The screening was a great event and the audience seemed to enjoy it. We look forward to bringing The Reunion to as many audience members as possible.”
The film stars Dave Rosenberg, Andrea Modica, Dinh James Doan and Cara Ronzetti, with special appearances by Drama Desk Award-winning actor Austin Pendleton and Actor/Comedian Jim Norton.
The Reunion is based on the real-life traumatic childhood experience of Dave Rosenberg, the film’s writer and producer who also stars as the protagonist, Ricky Reilly. Ricky, a former actor who is seeking spiritual fulfilment, suddenly has his life turned upside down when he runs into his childhood bully. Seeing his old nemesis reawakens memories and emotions that compel Ricky to finally face his greatest fear in order to discover a new definition of manhood.
The Reunion is a passion project created over two decades by Rosenberg and his friends and colleagues, Andrea Modica and Dinh Doan. The film follows in the footsteps of similar films born by brotherhood, such as Swingers, Good Will Hunting and Blindspotting. The Reunion illuminates New York City in the way movies like Annie Hall, Manhattan and Taxi Driver did in the 1970s.
The film is the product of nearly 100 dedicated filmmakers, collaborating on the East Coast and West Coast, on a very low budget, with all the creativity, talent, grit and determination of a Scorsese film.
To be announced: The Reunion has been officially selected for presentation at the 2021 SOHO Film Festival on November 4, 2021. More details to come!
Who were some of your filmmaking influencers?
There were many! The first movie that I remember watching every night was Reality Bites, directed by Ben Stiller. That was followed by Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, both directed by Cameron Crowe. The movie that really blew me away and inspired me to want to make my own film was Good Will Hunting, written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and directed by Gus Van Zant. I must have seen it twelve times in the theater! There was something about the simplicity of a story about friendship, love, mentorship and finding one’s own path that really spoke to me. I wanted to make a movie that would speak to young people the way that movie spoke to me.
Do you think being a director requires a lot of patience?
To be clear, I did not direct The Reunion. But as the writer, lead actor and producer I can say absolutely yes! It was one of the most challenging aspects of getting The Reunion made. There were many opportunities to react impulsively and self-sabotage. And sometimes, mostly early on in the process, I fell victim to reactivity and caused more drama than was probably necessary. But over time, I’ve been more able to respond, rather than react. My responsibility has improved!
So tell me about your movie The Reunion. What’s it about and what inspired you to write it?
The Reunion is about a failed actor on a spiritual journey in Union Square NYC with his Buddhist mentor who runs into his childhood nemesis and is challenged by his best friend, a NYC cop, to confront his nemesis at their high school reunion. It was inspired by my own traumatic experience of being bullied in middle school and later running into my nemesis in Union Square. When I told my two friends (Andrea Modica and Dinh Doan, who co-star in the movie), Dinh said, “You have to write about this!” and Andrea said, “You have to confront this guy!” So I set about doing both. I confronted my nemesis at a bar in Downtown Manhattan and he (anticlimactically) apologized. And the three of us set about creating The Reunion.
Why was it important for you to share your story?
Confronting my nemesis was a rite of passage for me. A true Hero’s Journey. I wasn’t able to stand up for myself in middle school. I was frozen in fear and overwhelmed. Getting a second chance to right a wrong was too tempting to pass up. My friends, Andrea and Dinh, were there to support me. I faced my greatest fear and came out the other side. And we made a movie, which was a whole other rite of passage. It’s important for me to share it so that others will hopefully be inspired to confront their fears. One of my goals is to help other filmmakers make their films. I actually teach Film to middle school kids. And about five of my friends are trying to make their own movies, and I get to be a support and a cheerleader for them!
To star in the movie as well as writing and producing it, how difficult is it juggling all those roles at the same time?
Difficult! It was all difficult, but also thrilling. The writing took the longest. Two decades to be exact (off and on). I really think of myself as an actor who writes, not a writer who acts. And many of the scenes were improvised with actor friends and transcribed. I had a lot of help. The acting was the easiest. Once I was able to get back into my 20-something skin (I’m in my 40’s now), I fell into a groove. And I had a director who really challenged me to go deeper as an actor than I’ve ever gone before. Producing was a Herculean task, but again, I had help. My partners, Andrea and Dinh, were also producers on the film, as was our amazing producer, Susan Gorrell, without whom this movie probably wouldn’t have gotten made. Early on, Andrea and I created three large poster boards with about 150 steps that we needed to take to complete the movie and we just started checking the items off the list. Three years later, we have a movie!
How do you go about choosing a cast for your film, what do you look for?
The director and I cast the film in New York. It was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. I had always been on the other end of the table as an actor. And I learned a lot about the casting process. It’s really a skill and an art. We had a terrific casting director named Kimberly Graham. She really was a pro and knew what she was doing. We cast a few actors from their tapes, as it was just obvious! And some we cast in person. I read with all of the actors, which was great, because I got a feel for the chemistry. Casting the lead actress was the hardest. But we made the right choice in Cara Ronzetti, she’s fantastic in the film. We also cast many of my actor friends, including Austin Pendleton and Jim Norton, who we were so grateful to have in the film. What I learned was that you’re either right for the part or you’re not. There’s a line in the film, “You just fit the suit.” And there’s no use in taking it personally, ‘cause it’s not.
What were some challenges you faced during filming?
Oh my goodness, how many words are we allowed? First of all, we were shooting a low budget, independent film in the middle of New York City. And it was not one set with three actors–there were multiple locations around the city. Union Square, Washington Square, the streets of the Lower East Side, Brooklyn Bridge Park, etc. Our team, including producers Shannon Hamm and Susan Gorrell, did an amazing job securing locations and permits. And we found a goldmine when we landed a studio at the Union Square Loft, where we shot six or seven of our indoor locations. Our production designers did an incredible job rearranging the sets so that each scene looked vastly different from the other. We shot 4-6 scenes per day, had 12-16 hour days, for a total of 16 days. This was guerilla filmmaking. There was no waiting in trailers, we were constantly on the go. It was intense and thrilling. Lastly, I was making this movie with a bunch of friends. Everyone was passionate about the film. Everyone gave 110%. But there was also a lot of conflict. Friendships were fractured, and some didn’t last. That was probably the hardest part.
You nabbed two awards at the Nyack Film Festival, how did that feel to have one of your movies win awards?
That felt great! Grateful to Executive Producer of Nyack, Richard Quinn for accepting us and then recognizing the film as Best Picture and Best Director. It was extra special because my dad lives in Nyack and he got to come and see the film down the block from his house. My dad actually has a cameo in the film as the Tai Chi guy in Union Square!
What aspect of film do you enjoy the most and why?
I love when movies take me on an emotional roller coaster ride. I can forget my worries for 90 to 120 minutes. I can laugh, cry, or think. And I can do it with a community of people in a theater. There’s a catharsis that happens when a movie really hits. I remember watching Birdman in a theater on 42nd street. I was so blown away by what I was watching, my mouth was agape. And the man sitting next to me was so into it that he wouldn’t stop making these loud, annoying sounds. At some point, I had to ask him to stop doing that. And then he left the theater. I felt kind of bad about that!
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