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December 13, 2016

A SPECIAL PREVIEW: The STRAND Theater 94th Gala December 14th AND My Day at The STRAND by Calvin Schwartz December 2016

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A SPECIAL PREVIEW:  The STRAND Theater 94th Gala December 14th AND My Day at The STRAND  by Calvin Schwartz   December 2016

 

Strand

Strand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strand

with Jesse Warren & Chris Everett in a regal empty art deco theater

 

This article becomes one of those combination platter journalistic efforts, previewing the upcoming 94th  Gala and delving into the inner workings and people behind the scenes at The Strand as well as reporting on my day exploring the sacred depths and heights of the theater, built in 1922.  I’ve said often, over the past five years, how much I love this theater, replete with that unique, rare, precious art deco ambiance. It was designed to be a Broadway theater because Lakewood back in the 1920’s and 30’s was a vacation destination and the thinking was to bring Broadway shows here, akin to previewing them. I’ve been to many shows and events at The Strand. The acoustics are magical; you can sit anywhere and it’s as if you’re sitting right up front.

Although I’ve been at The Strand often, as a reporter, I’ve never really sat down with the people that bring it to life nor have I gone to those depths in the pit below the orchestra where the music emanates from nor have I attempted to climb the multi-story ladder backstage to change ceiling light bulbs seemingly close to the clouds. Somebody in real life has to do it. I arrived at high noon on Tuesday November 22nd

 

Strand

the lighting where someone descends into from the ceiling

 

 

It was an old fashioned entry. I rang the street bell and was ushered in by Lori Davis, part of the team of programming energy, creativity and daily mechanics which brings life to the theater. Moments later, I was greeted by Fran Whitney, who’s also on that life line team. One of these days, I’ll write an article called “Women of The Strand” and include Dina Warren who also is part of the theater’s resurgence. Jesse Warren, account manager, walked with me up the front grand stair case. I could hear Annie singing at the top of the stairs. On December 2nd and 3rd, they’re staging ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’  So my hero, George Bailey might also be waiting for me at the top.

Jesse and I sat in a second floor office, overlooking Lakewood’s main street. He’s always this young enthusiastic persona.  We talked 94th Gala, and the amazing musical line-up for that night and other matters of greasepaint and roars. He thanked theater management, Scott MacFadden, Glen Harrison and Ray Coles for all their support.  Next, he phoned home, actually downstairs, to Chris Everett (absolutely not related to the former tennis player), and summoned him into the interview. Chris is the tech head, Jack of All Trades, the guy who makes people fly and who puts scenery and imagination into production. “This place would not be what it is. He brings this place to life,” Jesse added.

 

Strand

back stage view into the clouds of the theater.

Strand

the dressing room . my favorite place of lights and make up believe

 

 

Chris told me, “We make shows happen. Caitlyn Nelson is our assistant. Emily Lovell is our house lighting designer. She puts on a harness, climbs to the ceiling, drops down and hooks to a cage. That’s how lights focus in every show.” Later they showed me the ladder at the rear of the balcony which leads into the ceiling and how she crawls into position. Did I want to climb up and be a good journalist and take some pictures?  “I’m always a good journalist, but a safe one with my two feet anchored firmly at ground level,” I softly responded.

Chris continued, “Tom Frayley does House Audio and Gianni Scalise is the flyman and rigger and positive vibe technician. He climbs a five story ladder and hangs out on a steel catwalk.”  Chris explained how this crew does the work of ten people. Adding to Chris’ all around versatility is the fact that in the production of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ he played a part.

 

Strand

a “lighter” moment with Chris Everett, Caitlyn Rose & Gianni Scalise

 

Strand

 

My education of theater 101 behind the scenes continued. The crew has to learn everything before a production. Lighting and sound cues. They have five days to learn it all. That means 22-hour work days. “When it’s a musical production, we live for a week and a half here,” Chris proudly stated. He also reminded me that the technical director(himself) is also the house carpenter. His company is called Sound Foundation Productions.com.

Next was the inner sanctum walking tour to the basement level. Of course I flicked on the lights of the dressing rooms with all those light bulbs watching you put on make up. Imagination was quick to help me with my ‘Frankenstein’ make-up. Yes, I auditioned once when Reagan was President for that part.  An obscure doorway led to the orchestra pit and another small one led underneath the theater itself. It was a crawl space and I don’t crawl anymore. Gianni filled my sensibilities with lore of the theater; stories and legends of its rich history. Early on a drug store occupied the area where the gallery is located now.   And we’ll leave it at that.  Back upstairs, Emily and Caitlyn were figuring out how to get the box of fluorescent light bulbs up to the clouds above to change the dim bulbs to new bright ones. When I stared up, I had to hold on to the wall for support.

 

Strand

with tech wizard Chris Everett

 

 

It was time for Jesse to share info about the 94th Gala which he’s been diligently working on. Big Road Productions would be responsible for the best musical line-up they’ve ever had including The Big Road All Star Band. This would be my third Gala attended. And as I do often at the conclusion of my emotional pieces, I exhort readers to get off their sedentary sofa and come on down to The Strand on December 14th for a very special night. It really is.  Come for the Holiday Music and even the Dinner. Your choice. Here now the specifics of the night.

 

Wednesday December 14th Join BIG RoaD at The Strand Theater for “A VERY BIG RoaD Christmas” GALA NIGHT AT The Strand Theater!

The Strand Theater is proud to HONOR:

Thomas Jannarone, Owner Bar Anticipation/Attorney

Franke Previte, Academy Award Winning Composer (“Dirty Dancing”)

Steven Levine, Owner, WindMill Restuarants

Michael D’Elia, Committeemen, Lakewood Township

 

PERFORMING ARE : Bobby Bandiera, Lisa Sherman, Franke Previte, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa, Jobonanno, Joe Ferraro, Jt Bowen, Tommy Byrne

Band is: Ralph Notaro, Vinny Daniele, Joe Bellia, Arne Wendt, Tony Perruso, Bob Ferrel, Tommy Labella

Get your tickets now “A VERY BIG RoaD Christmas” GALA NIGHT AT The Strand Theater!

The Strand Theater

400 Clifton Ave

Lakewood, New Jersey

Tel: (732) 367-7789

Web: http://www.strand.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/StrandNJ

Produced and Presented by:

Terry Camp and Jesse James Warren for BIG RoaD

 

If you have any questions please feel free to call Jesse Warren at 732-367-7789, ext.204 or by email at jesse@strand.org.

 

FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/105488179931786/

 

 

“A VERY BIG RoaD CHRISTMAS” GALA NIGHT AT THE STRAND THEATER!

 

The Strand Theater presents its 94th Anniversary Gala with “A Very BIG RoaD Christmas!” on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – A night to celebrate this historic venue and enjoy lively holiday tunes with The BIG RoaD All-Star (Big) Band.

 

Tickets are $25.00 and doors open at 7:00 p.m. for the 8:00 p.m. show. Guests are also welcome for The Strand’s Gala Dinner and Cocktail Party at 6:00 p.m. – for which tickets are $100.00 (which includes an orchestra seat ticket).

The BIG RoaD All-Star Band is Mark Leimbach, Ralph Notaro, Joe Bellia, Vinny Daniele, Arne Wendt, Tony Perruso, Tommy Labella, and Bobby Ferrel. Vocals by Bobby Bandiera, JT Bowen, Franke Previte, Lisa Sherman, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa,Jo Boanno, Killer Joe and more!

 

The historic STRAND THEATER, a non-profit 501(c)3, is Ocean County’s premier entertainment venue. THE STRAND opened its doors in 1922 and it shines as brightly today as it did then. Located in historic downtown Lakewood, THE STRAND is easily accessible and offers a wide variety of live entertainment including concerts, dance, musicals, & theater, comic performances, and arts education.

 

Strand Gala Information- The Board of Directors of the Strand Center for the Arts are pleased to announce the celebration of the theater’s 94th Anniversary. We cordially invite you to join us for our Gala and Holiday Celebration on Wednesday, December 14, 2016. The Gala will begin in the Strand Gallery at 6pm followed by a live performance on our main stage at 8pm. Several area restaurants will be serving their signature dishes and cocktails will also be served.

 

 

August 10, 2016

NJ HOMELESSNESS: A FILM REVIEW AND COMMENTARY OF “THE NEW DESTINY’S BRIDGE 2016’ by JACK BALLO PREMIERE AUGUST 17th Asbury Park. By Calvin Schwartz 8-10-16

NJ HOMELESSNESS: A FILM REVIEW AND COMMENTARY OF “THE NEW DESTINY’S BRIDGE 2016’ by JACK BALLO PREMIERE AUGUST 17th Asbury Park. By Calvin Schwartz 8-10-16

 

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with NJ Discover's Tara-Jean Vitale on our 1st visit to Tent City

with NJ Discover’s Tara-Jean Vitale on our 1st visit to Tent City

with the eloquent and accomplished musician Michael B.

with the eloquent and accomplished musician Michael B.

 

I’ve just finished watching film maker Jack Ballo’s ‘The New Destiny’s Bridge 2016’ for the second time in as many days. I had to; it’s above and beyond being a journalist, but being more a humanist. I reckon it would’ve been just as easy to take my review of the first version a couple of years ago, dress it up a bit with some Roget’s Thesaurus substitute words and present it to you. Who’d know? Better to take that review as it was, and maybe re-issue it down this paper a spell. Because much is the same. It is Jack’s enduring commitment, devotion to the homeless people of Tent City and to humanity’s unending scourge of homelessness that is so evident in this beautifully crafted story. It’s a candle that burns beyond its oil. There is no beauty in homelessness, but in the soul of people who see it, and try to solve it.

There’s a wooden horse outside my window. I’ve just ceremoniously put on my western hat and ran outside to jump on. I’m galloping into the sunset of introspection and homelessness. We are a funny species. I’m not laughing. I think we’ve been in the Garden of Eden all this time; we just don’t know it. There have been fellow humans talking about homelessness, poverty and hunger for a little over 2000 years. It doesn’t go away it just gets worse, on a grander scale. I don’t know anymore. I never did. We need the Jack Ballos’ to keep fighting, sharing, and moving us emotionally and spiritually.

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I worry about a recent study by a couple of government scientists that give the good old human species about 30 more years. They came up with some formulas taking into account food, water, climate change, energy, and the most important, social unrest. How is it the top 88 richest people in the world have their combined wealth exceed the poorest 3 ½ billion fellow humans. This creates social unrest all around the world.

 

 

 

a familiar scene with Minister Steve

a familiar scene with Minister Steve

Angelo keeping warm in his tent. It still was so very cold.

Angelo keeping warm in his tent. It still was so very cold.

Homelessness is part of the formula. Basic human rights of food, shelter and medical care from a very rich world. My story of enlightenment begins four years ago when I never understood homelessness. It was abstract, distant and the subject of a two minute NYC TV segment a week before Christmas. It was very cold and someone living in a cardboard box died from exposure. I felt bad.  I do know that every human starts out life the same way.

Four years ago, my new friend Sherry Rubel took Tara-Jean Vitale and me as NJ Discover reporters to visit Tent City in Lakewood. It was another cold snowy day. We met Minister Steve and eventually Jack and many residents. Tara-Jean and I debated homelessness in the car going home that day. Tent City was 22 miles from our comfortable insulated suburban worlds.  I’ve never been the same since.

 

 

with accomplished visionary film maker JACK BALLO

with accomplished visionary film maker JACK BALLO

one of my 'favorite tents'

one of my ‘favorite tents’

 

I needed to feel, be involved and understand and to be more human and less suburban. I entered a brave new world of social conscience. That’s why I marvel at Jack Ballo’s work. It’s all fitting and proper that I reviewed the first film a few years ago. I love the institution of movie making and its illumination of our world with the ability to teach, educate, and bring our world closer together. Hey everybody, go see this movie and set yourself up to feel what it’s like to be homeless and be filled with despair.

Jack painstakingly took a different approach to storytelling of Tent City from the first version. He looks more into the lives, souls, hopes of the residents. They’re just like me and you; no difference except circumstances of privilege and perhaps luck. There is a theme more easily recognized in the new version; the desire of people to have basic shelter, self-respect and dignity. President Lincoln lived in a log cabin and he was fine with that. In essence, it was a tiny house and the film exposes us to the promise of tiny houses; the concept growing in practicality every day. And our friend Sherry Rubel very much involved in the state wide quest to build tiny house communities.

 

with photographer and Tiny Houses activist Sherry Rubel at an exhibition of her Tent City photography.

with photographer and Tiny Houses activist Sherry Rubel at an exhibition of her Tent City photography.

with Minister Steve Brigham; an appropriate backdrop

with Minister Steve Brigham; an appropriate backdrop

 

The movie themes carefully the importance of making people feel they are part of society with its concomitant feeling of self -esteem. Jack Ballo strives to teach us that. Inherent in Jack’s film, is the message to be promulgated; we all need to see this; to feel the pain of homelessness. One of the most moving scenes for me (Jack was brilliant in documenting this) was the lit Christmas tree at night, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ playing gently. The scene could’ve been anywhere. A simple beautiful Christmas scene. But it was a homeless tent in obscure corner of Tent City.  Riveting for me. It should be riveting for you. Homelessness hurts us all.

I liked the slow seasonal transition from the warmth of summer to the desolation and futility of cold winter. It was a passage for me. When I let my guard down and drifted into the lives of these precious people, Jack reminded us that the courts were constantly after Minister Steve and the residents. There are many scenes when cops in traditional uniforms or shirts and ties are there to arrest and act on the wishes of the town. Eventually the township and the county won out. I remember going to court with them at Ocean County Court House and hearing the judge’s decision.

 

after the first Destiny's Bridge Premier with Rosemary Conte and Minister Steve. It was Rosemary's Easter Sunday Concert 5 years ago that first made me aware of homelessness close to home.

after the first Destiny’s Bridge Premier with Rosemary Conte and Minister Steve. It was Rosemary’s Easter Sunday Concert 5 years ago that first made me aware of homelessness close to home.

 

Jack’s ending is powerful and destructive and I’ll leave it at that. He craftily infuses wonderful music to accelerate our emotions.  I was riveted by his story telling and sensitivity. Actually I want more. I need to know about these fellow humans. One more comment that had me thinking and delving deep into the strains of my cellular honesty. The film tells the story of Lakewood, NJ, but in reality, it’s the story of any town in New Jersey or America. I’m reminded of a quote from ‘Casablanca,’ my favorite movie of all time. Humphrey Bogart is Rick, and Ilsa comes into his bar in Casablanca. He drinks almost to oblivion and says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Of all the towns in New Jersey, they walk into Lakewood and set up Tent City. I was honest with myself. If Tent City appeared a mile from my house how would I feel? How would you feel? Is there any suburban town that would welcome them? I am upset with myself. I’m not perfect. Jack’s film continually makes me think and feel. It will do that to you and carpet you through many human emotions. So go see it and celebrate humanity’s hope and promise as well as the harsh realities of our existence. Jack leaves many uncovered, undraped soulful mirrors for us. Thanks Jack.   I just got off my wooden horse. My hat is gone. I brushed the suburban dust off.

 

INFORMATION ON THE PREMIERE OF “THE NEW DESTINYS BRIDGE”

Facebook LINK: https://www.facebook.com/events/291612337843030/permalink/307555146248749/

Wednesday, August 17 at 7 PM – 9 PM

House of Independents

572 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712

 

May 24, 2016

A Night on the Red Carpet: Premiere of “Who’s Jenna…?” film in Asbury Park NJ bY Calvin Schwartz May 24th 2016

A Night on the Red Carpet: Premiere of “Who’s Jenna…?” in Asbury Park NJ bY Calvin Schwartz May 24th 2016

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This article is comprised of three distinct sections. Firstly, my experience on the Red Carpet last Friday May 20th evening in Asbury Park at the House of Independents; noting one of my pastimes is absorption of extant energy fields at special events. I take a couple of deep inhalations, pinch myself, and whisper, “look at where I am, Mah.” I was thrilled to have been invited as a journalist. Secondly, although I am just short of a light year away from Siskel and Ebert, I will construct my review of the film. “Who’s Jenna….?” in my own inimitable style. Thirdly, I will reprise my article which appeared on NJ Discover last summer after I spent a morning on the Somerville, New Jersey set of the film.

 

 

 

 

Tara-Jean Vitale & Calvin Schwartz on Red Carpet

Tara-Jean Vitale & Calvin Schwartz on Red Carpet

The cast & director Thomas Baldinger

The cast & director Thomas Baldinger

 

SECTION ONE

It’s a funny thing how fast you can become an energy barometer at certain events. As soon as Tara-Jean Vitale, co-reporter and TV host with me at NJ Discover LIVE, arrived on Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue House of Independents, a lengthy Red Carpet and backdrop secured along the façade, we both knew it was an electric night at the Jersey shore. We observed the early guests, splendidly dressed, were intermingling, smiling, hugging and posing. Yes, there was a certain air. The more guests arrived, more scenes of joy and hugs.  There were no ‘airs’ in the air around the theater. People were really glad to be there.  Bert Baron, (recent NJ Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame Inductee) program director and morning drive show host from WCTC (1450 AM) was formally interviewing, freeing me to photo, absorb and mingle. Tara-Jean and I chatted with the film publicist and Lady in Red, Laura Madsen. She did good creating a sold-out event. By 7 PM, there was a flow through and around the Red Carpet of hundreds of people.

 

Laura Madsen & Bert Baron interviewing Tracey Birdsall

Laura Madsen & Bert Baron interviewing Tracey Birdsall

actors Bill Sorvino & Edwin Guerrero with Tara-Jean Vitale

actors Bill Sorvino & Edwin Guerrero with Tara-Jean Vitale

 

The cast arrived, euphoric and accessible. What I noticed when I spent time on the set and when some cast and young director Tom Baldinger appeared on NJ Discover LIVE TV SHOW and right in front of me on the streets of Asbury Park was that the cast and crew really liked each other; it was a real warmth, affection and respect.  I love hugs. I loved watching the cast at their premiere. I sensed the chemistry I was watching would translate to the film soon to be seen.

Suddenly a gust of wind blew a guest’s skirt over her head in a scene remindful of the iconic Marilyn Monroe picture. I actually caught it on camera (with proper permission). I sensed a true Hollywood evening. Cars on Cookman slowed down to check all the excitement. Slowly, the hundreds of guests, hugely anticipatory, made their way into the theater.

 

Kevin Cieri, Long Branch Cable Commission, portrait photographer Kathy Facciponti and actor Garry Pastore

Kevin Cieri, Long Branch Cable Commission, portrait photographer Kathy Facciponti and actor Garry Pastore

the Q & A with cast, crew & director

the Q & A with cast, crew & director

 

 

I’m jumping now to after the film. Cast and crew sat on stage graciously sharing and answering questions and always broadly smiling. The audience loved this. Then the iconic band, Slim Chance (Mario Casella) and The Gamblers, who did some of the original music in the film, performed at the after party. I’ve loved this band for years. They are simply electric just like the entire night had been. I moved to the front row while I had the chance. People started dancing. The cast were still hugging and posing. Then Slim Chance and The Gamblers performed “The Power.” One of my favorites. I pinched myself again.

 

 

at after party with Mario Casella, JT Bowen & Terry Camp

at after party with Mario Casella, JT Bowen & Terry Camp

Slim Chance & The Gamblers rocking the after party

Slim Chance & The Gamblers rocking the after party

SECTION TWO: A Review of “Who’s Jenna….?’

I’ve got a long history of movie watching and appreciation. It’s quirky and obsessive. Ten years ago, I was watching ‘Casablanca’ for the 44th time and at the last scene, when Bogart shoots Major Strasser, Claude Rains picks up a bottle of Vichy Water, 1942’s version of our bottled water. Rains throws the bottle into the garbage. I let out a scream. There was a novel in my head in that one second. Five years later, ‘Vichy Water,’ my first novel was published. I tell this story here to dramatize my affection with movies and how powerful an influence in my life. Over the years, I’ve developed my personal movie rating system. It’s simple enough and it works. I judge a movie by whether I would see it again; simple. I’ve seen ‘The Godfather’ again and again(embarrassed how many times). ‘Casablanca’ those 44 times. Sometimes I’ll see a movie again just for a particular scene.

Yes, I’d see ‘Who’s Jenna……?’ again. This was a delightfully funny film with adult film references, a little blackmail, frenetic dialogue (and well delivered) and romance. Without giving too much away, Bill Sorvino’s character, Jonathan has a girlfriend. His best friend, Andy, is obsessively, therefore comically convinced she looks like an adult film star and that leads to comedic romps. The plot thickens with a ‘familial’ twist.

 

Mario Casella & Lisa Sherman on stage

Mario Casella & Lisa Sherman on stage at after party

 

I appreciate sharp dialogue in preciously funny situations. Tom Baldinger, writer, director, delivers that.  Some of the scenes were priceless like the old credit card commercial. That’s why I’ll see it again. The acting ensemble is quite accomplished which translates (for me) to a healthy infusion of their improvisational/ad libing skills in the filming. You can sense they’re having fun together filming and embellishing. Tom, I get the feeling openly welcomed their ‘addition’ skills.

I’m a facial expression guy. I pay attention to faces in situations. Their acting gives me my facial expression fix. It’s there. Props to this special cast including Tracey Birdsall, Bill Sorvino, Joseph D’Onofrio, Garry Pastore (who just makes me laugh throughout film), Edwin Guerrero, Lenny Venito, Vic Dibitetto, Michael Tota, Jill Christy Reiss and cameos including The Sopranos Vincent Pastore.   I’m a Jersey guy since birth. I love the fact it’s a Jersey film; familiar sights and sounds.

 

 

SECTION THREE: SPOTLIGHT: ON THE NEW JERSEY SET OF FILMING “WHO’S JENNA…..?”   And A CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR TOM BALDINGER   bY Calvin Schwartz    September 9th 2015

 

with film public relations & the Lady in Red blogger Laura Madsen on the set of 'Who's Jenna....?' last summer.

with film public relations & the Lady in Red blogger Laura Madsen on the set of ‘Who’s Jenna….?’ last summer.

 

Hooray for social media, networking and circles of commonality. For the last several years, Laura Madsen, publicist and innovative writer/blogger at http://www.theladyinredblog.com/ and I have travelled in similar circles of commonality (as I call it). Our energies and passions emanate from Jersey life and the arts. If you’ve read my musings over the past few years, I’ve postulated that Jersey has become the pop culture capital of America and Laura is always at the epicenter. For verification of the postulate, just look at ‘The Soprano’s’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, “Jersey Boy’s’, ‘Jersey Shore’, ‘Jersey Housewives’, ‘Garden State’, and ‘Jersey Girl’.  Laura and I never had the opportunity for the sharing of notes and synchronicities; we never met formally.

A few weeks ago, Laura contacted me via Facebook and asked if I’d like to cover the filming of a feature film, “Who’s Jenna…..?” which is a comedy  written by award winning producer, director Tom Baldinger from 624 Productions, LLC, a New Jersey based company. Laura hinted that the film title had something to do with an adult film star but that’s all she said. My response to her was immediate and decisive; “I’d love to hang around the set and do some absorbing and interviewing for NJ Discover.”

The next decision for me was where to surface for the best absorption opportunity. The filming was taking place at the Lakewood Country Club for an on-location golf scene or the following day at Verve Restaurant in Somerville.  I surmised that it’s best not to hang around a hot golf course as Jersey was in heat wave, so I opted for the cool basement confines of Verve for the shooting of a dinner scene. And I’d get a chance to hang a bit with actor Garry Pastore; I’ve been a fan for years.

Time constraints of being on set and getting a few minutes to chat (at the break) with director Tom Baldinger made me formulate a direction I wanted to take with this coverage. I’m quick to admit that my experience of being on sets is somewhat limited although I was on set back in the 90’s with Meryl Streep, William Hurt and Renee Zellweger and wound up in the Christmas scene in ‘One True Thing.’ My focus for “Who’s Jenna….?”  was the art of detail and precision in the film making process.

 

filming a very funny scene. and that's all I can say about that

filming a very funny scene. and look at those serious faces

Laura’s phone messaging last Wednesday morning got me to Verve’s rear parking lot (on foot), through a rear kitchen door, down a steep stairway, through a narrow hallway to a basement dining room, filled with tables and patrons (all actors).  I never asked if this was an active part of the restaurant or just the basement set for a very funny scene. Seated at a large table, with cameras aimed, were actors Garry Pastore, Lenny Venito, Vic Dibitetto (also a very funny comedian whom I saw recently at Count Basie Theater at a Frank Sinatra Birthday Party), and Bill Sorvino, playing the lead role of Jonathan Burke. Next, Laura introduced me to the film director, Tom Baldinger; first and lasting impressions were that of an affable, intense, creative, focused force in the universe. It’s funny how fast you can “size” people. Waiters started bringing steaming plates of pasta, meat balls, chicken and foot long sausage in front of the seated actors; it was 10 AM.  Someone yelled, “Get the Dunkin Donuts coffee cup off the table.” Actor Michael Tota introduced himself. He and I have been part of central Jersey concentric circles; we never met live, but knew of each other.

Readers can go to the film website for more plot/story information. http://www.624-productions.com/#!whos-jenna/c6h0n

The basement area was relatively small; an additional eight tables or so had ‘diners’ (actors) to make for a perfectly realistic restaurant set; the table next had a woman and her young daughter. The small room size and 90-degree outdoor heat made the set challenging.  I watched the crew fill the four actors’ wine glasses half-way with grape juice.  The wine glasses would be an interesting focus for me; the exact level of the juice in the glass was maintained for the next 94 minutes (multiple takes) that I watched from the rear side behind the cameras where Laura and I were positioned. As they were ready to shoot the scene, I heard “Quiet on the set.”  I smiled. This was real.

 

more from on the set & that funny scene.

more from on the set & that funny scene.

 

I won’t give much away but the scene was hysterically funny as the four actors ate (pretended to eat as the sausage maintained its great length throughout), drank, conversed and laughed. I love watching eyes of the actors moving from person to person; just that small detail embraced me. Watching my friend Garry Pastore talk/act/move his eyes/laugh and then greet Michael Tota’s character when he walked over was perfectly real. There was a poignant albeit funny story going on.  Director Tom Baldinger meticulously instructed Michael Tota how to grab himself while talking and then look at Vic Dibetto’s character. It had to be the same grab in every take. The repartee with Lenny, Bill and Garry was priceless. I’d love to use their words the next time I go to my primary care physician and see how it’s received. I savored every minute of absorption.

Something else I noticed; about the crew; a special esprit de corps. They were a well-oiled machine, anticipating, performing, and functioning like the offensive backfield of a local college football team. They loved what they were doing and with whom; their director. I like to observe those elements. The body heat generated in the basement’s close quarters moved me to Main Street in Somerville for an hour until I caught up with director Tom Baldinger just before lunch.

I mentioned to Tom that I have a relatively undiscerning eye when it comes to matters of film making but I’m a HUGE movie fan going to back to 1939 vintage. Tom was engaging and thrilled to be chatting. Once I flipped on my reporter’s recorder, he started. “For me it’s very important that what’s said-dialogue is not just dialogue-there’s a purpose to why people say certain things. That’s why when I write my scripts, I try to be very careful with the words that are said. I try to make sure that the voices are separate from each other-that the characters are separate.  There is a voice in each one of them. When you are on set, everything has to have a place because I’ve seen tons of movies-big budget films; sometimes the detail is not there. For me there are a lot of people watching movies who will not like a movie because there is something wrong-a missing detail-or if dialogue doesn’t match up correctly-or characters not really synching together. That’s very important to me.”

Interviewing director Thomas Baldinger

Interviewing director Thomas Baldinger

I mentioned, “Translates down to your crew. I was watching them measure grape juice in a glass to make sure it was exact level.”  “It’s all about continuity. How many times have you seen a movie where the glass is half-full and in the next shot- it’s the same conversation- the glass is either empty or not there. I was watching a movie last night-‘Mission Impossible 3’ and saw where all the extras were and I have to give a lot of credit to J.J. Abrams. A lot of time you’ll see movies with extras. They are in the shot then they are not there. My crew; I have to be honest with you. The meticulous and tight atmosphere really comes from them because I think they see me as a visionary. I’ve built this and I’m not trying to sound egotistical but I’ve built this company and in some ways they look at me as their leader and so they are on the ride. They want-they feel this is going to be successful. They want to be on the same boat. I’ve always set goals and reached my goals. I think that’s why everybody on this crew wants to do everything perfectly because they want to take this next step into this industry.”

Taking it further I added, “I’ve watched a melding of you all there.” Tom said, “Yes.” “I was so impressed with the detail. When Michael comes over to Garry at the table, you tell him exactly what to grab and do.”  Tom added, “Yes, when we shoot the reverse, we need to see him grab himself and that action-when we’re in post, you see Vic’s reaction. It makes my editor’s job so much easier. And when you are sitting around the post, you are not saying we forgot that or look at that.”

The night before I heard interesting news about Apple and the film business; “Your work as an Indie film maker has an interesting future. Apple announced yesterday it may give money to Indies.” “I hope so. I heard a little about that. I work on Wall Street and I’ve been out of work mode for the last week or two. My father who actually works for Bloomberg said you have to check this out. When I get a moment, I’ll read about it; very interesting.”

 

director Thomas Baldinger and Calvin Schwartz calling it a wrap.

director Thomas Baldinger and Calvin Schwartz calling it a wrap.

 

 

I thought Apple wants to do what Netflix is doing. Tom was quick to comment. “That is where the market seems to be going; where the industry is going and I’m going to quote a famous actor hearing him talk about Indie films. Alec Baldwin was on Howard Stern show a few weeks ago. He was talking about how film has changed over past 20 or 30 years; that now big budget movies are all technical, special effects, CGI. Not that the big budget films don’t get into the story or content but they are more Marvel and super heroes. I love those movies and I’m there with the popcorn, but the Indie industry-that’s where you get down into characters, stories and dialogues and really get into it. What the Indie film industry has done-it has born the writer-director and sometimes that’s good-sometimes bad because studios say we only have $250,000 to spend. We can’t spend another $100,000 for a director, so let’s make the writer the director. That’s a bad choice but when you have a good script and a good writer who can be a director, studios need to take that into consideration. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime-all that stuff; it’s really starting to blow up. Quite frankly, ‘House of Cards;’ I said to my wife last year that they don’t have to win an Emmy; just be being nominated, Netflix was doing cartwheels down the hallway because they knew all of a sudden they got something and now everybody else is trying to do it.”

I asked Tom about quality. “Quality is better. I mean we’re shooting with a red camera where some of those shows you see with bigger name people are shooting with the same equipment. We’re trying to bring high quality products with lower budgets and eventually, hopefully somebody like Apple will say I like your product and I want to put more money into it and give us an opportunity to do even more.”

Tom smiled, took a deep inhalation and was ready to go on talking. It was I who suggested that he eat lunch but that down the road a spell, he should come on NJ Discover Live Radio/TV show with the cast and Laura Madsen and continue our chat. After a firm hand-shake cementing the deal and a photo-op of course, I was on the road again, heading to Yurcak Field on Rutgers campus with NJ Discover broadcasting the television coverage of the Skye Blue FC Professional Women’s Soccer match against Kansas City. A bunch of questions suddenly popped into consciousness on Route 287 to ask Tom and the cast. It would wait until October 5th for NJ Discover’s Live Show with them. We move fast here in Central Jersey.

 

IMDB “Who’s Jenna…..”  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4317858/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

Jersey Shore Retro Blog Kevin Cieri:  https://jerseyshoreretro.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/nj-discover/

624 Productions:  http://www.624-productions.com/

Laura Madsen Blog:   http://www.theladyinredblog.com/

Calvin Schwartz   www.vichywater.net

 

April 13, 2016

A VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX: SUPREME COURT JUSTICE HONORABLE SONIA SOTOMAYOR VISITS RUTGERS EAGLETON INSTITUTE bY Calvin Schwartz April 13, 2016

A VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX: SUPREME COURT JUSTICE HONORABLE SONIA SOTOMAYOR VISITS RUTGERS EAGLETON INSTITUTE   bY  Calvin Schwartz    April 13, 2016

 

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Dr. Barchi, Rutgers President greeting Justice Sotomayor and Ruth Mandel

Dr. Barchi, Rutgers President greeting Justice Sotomayor and Ruth Mandel

 

Over the years I’ve discovered the mind expansive joys of Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics. After one lecture, I told Watergate-famed John Dean, Nixon’s counsel, that he contributed to the break-up of my first marriage because I spent three weeks as a newlywed watching his testimony and nothing else. He laughed and asked if I re-married. I remember lectures with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Governors Whitman and Codey, Michael Beschloss, David Gergen.  Senator Corey Booker was at Eagleton a few weeks ago. Actually Senator Booker called on me for the last question; it was my omnipresent Rutgers hat and “over-abundance of hair” which garnered his attention. When it was announced that Justice Sotomayor was coming on April 11th and registration was at 9AM on line, I set the alarm for 8 AM. I filled out the form at 9AM sharp. Seconds later, it was closed out and so was I. The demand to see the Supreme Court Justice was beyond.

 

 

Justice Sotomayor & Ruth Mandel entering the RAC

Justice Sotomayor & Ruth Mandel entering the RAC

on stage with questions from Ruth Mandel

on stage with questions from Ruth Mandel

Eagleton reacted and moved the venue to the Rutgers Athletic Center(RAC) to accommodate.  I remembered I’m a journalist here at NJ Discover and got press credentials for the event. Arrival was two hours early to set up in the press box yet even that early you could feel a special air of excitement and still hear echoes in the empty RAC. I walked around absorbing. The doors opened for the spectators; such a diverse and smiling demographic. I knew it wasn’t basketball season or Kansas. This was a special day.

Dr. Barchi, Rutgers President spoke briefly and acknowledged some past Jersey officials. Ruth Mandel, head of Eagleton and Justice Sotomayor walked across the gym floor to the stage and two comfortable chairs. A very skilled eloquent Ruth Mandel began to ask questions.

 

 

with John Dean, President Nixon's counsel after an Eagleton lecture a few years ago

with John Dean, President Nixon’s counsel after an Eagleton lecture a few years ago

Recently with Senator Cory Booker after Eagleton lecture.

Recently with Senator Cory Booker after Eagleton lecture.

 

Justice Sotomayor remarked, “Who I am is an amalgam of experiences.” Mandel asked, “What did you hold onto from early days?”  “I have a Puerto Rican heart….my culture is who I am….my values that I was taught…. love of family, community, country….”  Once I heard her words, I knew she was a very special exceedingly humanistic Justice; a rare precious and beautiful person. This audience was in the presence of greatness. Isn’t it funny how fast you can tell qualities. She was born in the Bronx, went to Princeton and Yale Law.

“Has the court affected people close to you?” She missed that first Christmas; couldn’t leave the court. “Sure it changes you.”  She went on to say, “I studied and studied…. never cut corners with education…. I worry students who are involved in everything…. involved with too much…. should concentrate on passions…. Don’t do any work that you’re not passionate about.” Yes, she was on a college campus with many students listening.

 

On the second level

On the second level

On the big scoreboard screen

On the big scoreboard screen

I  loved this next segment. Justice Sotomayor mentioned that she doesn’t like sitting for long periods of time and walks slowly but she’d walk into the stands all the way up to the rafters answering questions. “I was called “hot pepper” by my mother. I can’t sit still.”  How wondrously real. She shook hands with some of the appreciative audience. I was in the second level press box; she was three feet away. Yes, thrilling.

“Every night before I go to sleep, I ask what did I learn new today. How did I extend an act of kindness? If I can’t answer, I don’t go to bed…. I go on the internet.” I turned to Dan, Editor of the Rutgers Targum, sitting next and whispered, “A very special person. Wow.”

Fittingly she spoke about more diversity on the Supreme Court can help to better understand the cases but wouldn’t necessarily change outcomes. “In every case we’re announcing a winner. One side comes away vindicated…. One loses…. It makes this job hard.”  I liked the air in the gym; no questioning on prevailing winds of politics and the court. There is a time and place. I just wanted to hear her humanity and personal expressions.  Back on the gym floor, after students asked questions and a photo-op, Ruth Mandel and Justice Sotomayor were quickly gone. I think she had to catch a train.

March 24, 2016

LINDA CHORNEY: Music, Passion and her film, ‘The Opening Act’ A Review bY Calvin Schwartz 3-24-16 | Grammy

Filed under: November 2009 — Tags: , , , , — earthood @ 11:04 am

LINDA CHORNEY: Music, Passion and her film, ‘The Opening Act’  A Review  bY Calvin Schwartz  3-24-16

 

 

1

Linda Chorney

Linda Chorney

 

The refreshing documentary, The Opening Act, shoots from the hip. There is never a lull or lapse.  Linda asked me in a Sally Field childlike enthusiasm and innocence, “You really liked it?”  Chorney, although secure with her musical ability, was not so sure if she had any business being in the film business. After viewing The Opening Act, she does.  I answered, “Yes, it was a purist form of frenetic Linda.” “What’s frenetic?” she asked. “Frenetic Linda means frenzied but in a good way. You are non-stop energy and spontaneity.” She creates a special microscope of a film dedicated to creative people like herself. Her energy coming to life in the film is purposefully, obviously for the armies of future musicians coming up; they should all see this film. She explains, “This is about independent musicians. You are not alone. It’s to show the ‘non-musician’ world how much time, money, pulling favors and groveling goes into the process and hopefully acts as a cheap therapy session for musicians.”

 

 

Linda on an Asian tour

Linda on an Asian tour

Variety & Linda & the Grammy's

Variety & Linda & the Grammy‘s

 

Since I watched the film a day before we talked, I was replete with emotional recall. I told Linda, “The film gives the audience a great picture of what life is like in the music business. It isn’t all Adele. It’s not really just about you.”

She dug my description, and continued, “Yeah, a lot of people were expecting this film to be about my story – ya know, the Grammy thing. That’s coming later, in a feature film with a bigger budget. But I thought this message was important and timely, as the music business has drastically shifted, causing musicians to be paid fractions of pennies, rather than dollars for their recordings.”

 

 

with Linda Chorney after an interview a few years ago

with Linda Chorney after an interview a few years ago

on the set of Opening Act

on the set of Opening Act

 

Linda Chorney is a muse of sorts; a force inspiring thought and creativity.  I know firsthand.

It seemed like old times; sitting down and chatting with her for this interview. It seems like only yesterday when Scott Fadynich, her husband, invited me to hear her sing at Olde Freehold Day. That was August, 2011. Scott saw my posts on Facebook and thought I was a quirky writer/blogger, so he reached out. He is always promoting Linda. It was also my second month as a journalist. A few months later, I did my very first journalistic interview with Linda in Sea Bright, overlooking a river with Jersey seagulls flying overhead. Perhaps the birds were harbingers. Linda’s interview that day helped to launch my new career. And now, five years later, there’s a full circle here.  And no treatise or interview with Linda should proceed without mentioning the fact she made history for being the first Independent artist to be nominated for Best Americana Album Grammy; after playing in bars for 30 years.

I told Linda right from the start of our interview that I wanted not only to share my adjectives about ‘The Opening Act,’ but it was quintessential to my thought process to highlight the unexpurgated Linda with my readers. Yes, I suppose a bit out of the ‘Private Parts’ school; people always want to hear what she has to say. I’d gladly go down the quirky question brick road. But taking a page from her book; I’m going to digress, egress, progress and jump into her movie and glittering, unique personality that radiates from Arizona to Jersey.

 

Linda at book release party

Linda at book release party

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Singer Linda Chorney arrives at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 12: Singer Linda Chorney arrives at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

 

The film moved basically frenetically. (There’s that word again) Honesty was mirrored in a roller coaster of her emotions; you felt her depression worrying about weight gain or the long hard road for the film’s financial success. The fact she wore no make-up in many shots was a special effect in itself. She wanted it to be natural and real as possible. “I did everything including the editing. I had to cut out 37 minutes.  It was a challenge. I didn’t want it to be boring. I shot most of it myself, asides to the camera, “selfie-style”. I hoped there was a certain charm to that.”

There was. The film is charming; a perfect adjective to describe Linda’s labor of love. She also did the sound, color correction; and, of course, the music. She actually calls herself “Jackass of all Trades.”

I asked about the title of the film, The Opening Act. “The original title was actually ‘Why Bother?’  In this new millennium of streaming, hardly anyone buys albums anymore. Musicians are losing money recording these days, hence, at some point they have to ask themselves, well, at least I do, over and over again while bashing my head against the wall – why bother?” She reached out to her cousin Robin Russin, a successful screenplay writer and filmmaker in Hollywood, who also helped edit her book, “Who the F**K is Linda Chorney”, and asked him to screen the film before she released it. Expecting him to “rip her a new ahole”, she was pleasantly surprised when he called her with a rave review. There was just one thing; the title. “It has a negative connotation, and I found the film to quite frankly be inspiring. How about calling it “The Opening Act?”

 

 

 

 

after reviewing a music gig along the Jersey shore

after reviewing a music gig along the Jersey shore

at Sea Bright Pizza

at Sea Bright Pizza

While watching the film, you feel like you are right there in the passenger seat, as she recruits friends, family, and strangers to do a new wacky music video. In typical Linda panache, this wonderful song (full of messages, but in diversionary Chorney style) is called ‘The Cantina’ which describes inane Arizona laws where you can carry a gun but can’t drink a beer in public risking arrest. Her ‘embraceable you’ personality and spontaneity invites a local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca, to partake in the insanity. They are very entertaining.

You will come to appreciate her fortitude by working in 102-degree heat and many sleepless nights, as she creates. She is a perfectionist. And although you will laugh through her winging it style and journey, you may also shed a tear.

I am a movie snob; totally appreciate the art of making a movie. Movies helped change my life. I’ve walked out of movies that didn’t meet my expectations or wasted my time. So in critiquing movies, I must call it as I see it no matter what. There is my need of walking away from a film with knowledge and intestinal lining feelings; emotion. I remember the scene of her waiting to hear if she’d be opening for the Beach Boys. It was weeks. She was down and said, “People have important things to do and you’re not one of them, so get over it.” This sustained her. For me a riveting quote. Linda Chorney made a good film.

 

 

from the film, local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca

from the film, local mariachi band, Mariachi Sol Azteca

on the set of Opening Act

on the set of Opening Act

 

Not to give away the plot, but she did open for the Beach Boys. I asked how it felt.  She chuckled first, “It was awesome although I don’t know if Mike Love knew he was standing on top of my Mom’s ashes.” Her mother’s death was that recent. A typical Linda thing to do. “My mother was a HUGE influence on my music. Everybody’s parents; all they want for their kids is happiness and success. I’m sure parents of musicians, who supporting their kids learning an instrument, or any of the arts, will relate to the film.”

I told her it was quirky question time. “Be Linda.”  Q1 – What makes you cry? “Mostly tears of joy for beautiful things. Nature. When I see real family love. Friggin’ strangers in an airport greeting each other with hugs – like grandparents hugging their grandchildren. Waterworks. Then there are the sad ones; sometimes when I drove home from my gigs in smoky bars. I’d think why am I here?  When am I going to get my break? Then I did or so I thought. The backlash from the Grammy nomination made me shed a tear. Then I look at problems in the world. I make fun of myself. “Oh, poor Linda got nominated for a Grammy, wah wah. Shut the fuck up! Your life is good.”

 

 

Linda's Book

Linda’s Book

 

 

Q2 – Is there a philosophy by which you live? She was quick to answer, “Keep it real.”  Q3 – Is there a best time in your life? “When I am creating.” Q4 – Is there a worst time? “When I am standing still, not creating.” Linda is often awake at night. “Everything keeps me up. My brain.” Q5 – Strongest childhood memory?  “Piano Lessons, listening to great music and dancing with my family, lots of Beatles, being bribed through quiet contests in the car, and rewarded with Chinese food every Sunday…I always lost.” Q6 – I wondered if there was a big misconception about her. “My honesty is misconstrued for being blunt or rude.” Q7 – fill in the blank. “Before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I _____________.” Also a quick response, “Make the movie about my book.” (She is currently working on the screenplay, and might do a little shooting while on the Jersey Shore in April.)

Of course I asked about her fondest memory of the Jersey Shore. I knew her answer. I’ve been there with her and Scott a few times. “Sea Bright Pizza!” She continues, “And that will be the first thing I eat when I get back for the film fest. Wanna meet us for a slice of eggplant?”

There are interviews and interviews. I’ve done my share. Musically speaking of course, my time spent with Linda Chorney for this interview was rare, precious and beautiful. I can’t wait for Saturday, April 9th for the premiere of “The Opening Act” at the Asbury Park Music in Film Festival at the Salt Theater at noon.  She will do a little talk, a little singing and Q&A. Yes, it seems like old times having her and Scott back by the Atlantic Ocean making music and sharing passions.

Film, Festival Tickets are available at http://apmff.com/schedule-tickets/

 

“Opening Act” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZypajZ6_sA

 

Linda Chorney website:  http://www.lindachorney.com

 

Calvin Schwartz  website:  vichywater.net

Facebook:  Cal Schwartz    and  Calvin Schwartz-Cerebral Writer

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