CITY ISLAND: TRIBUTES ABOUND

“City Island” wrapped at dawn, Thursday morning and immediately gave itself a wrap party that very evening. I hired two excellent jazz musicians–bass and sax–to accompany me (I play piano) and gave the movie’s crew the gift of jazz as background entertainment. Then Andy Garcia brought in a Cuban band to kick things up a notch. The evening ended with me and several members of the crew going to the absolutely stupidest bar I’ve ever been to–a place called the “Beauty Bar” somewhere downtown, where guys sit around with the heads in old hair-dryers. Jesus.

A few tributes. First to my excellent producing partner Lauren Versel, without whom we would not have actually become a movie. Lauren and I go back aways in life and could never have anticipated our relationship evolving into what it’s become–partners in a joint movie venture that significantly has altered both of our lives already. From the beginning of her involvement, she has been nothing but supportive, clear and positive that we would get this done. Now she’s exhausted. We all are. That’s the game.

I would also like to “out” the co-author of this blog over the past six weeks, the person you know as Cecilia Bee. Cecilia is, in fact, my personal asssistant, Amy Basil. Amy is so frigging great at pretty much whatever she puts her mind too that it genuinely shocking to me that she’s leaving town (and my employ) next week…so dependent on her talent and gifts have I grown. She’s also young and English–that accent plus her attitude will take her wherever she wants to go.

My old friend and sound mixer Jan McLaughlin also was a fabulous partner in crime. I can’t describe what makes Jan quite so magnetic and fascinating–she’s both very much more present than most people and also on an entirely different plane of existence than most of us. Jan did my first movie, “Cafe Society” a dozen years ago and this was our reunion movie. She’s got nothing but a brilliant attitude toward the whole mess and made me smile every morning–not an easy task as a shoot progresses. By the way, she’s also a mad genius and a Goddam good Audio capturer.

Best Assistant director: Eric Henriquez. Simple. This is a job that few people understand or appreciate–unless you’re a director you can’t quite grasp how necessary it is to have an excellent first A.D. and how quickly lost you are without one. Eric trained with some great people and is a top-of-the-craft guy. I’ve never had a set as well run and I told Eric at one point that I consider his the hardest job on a movie: because, like a hotel, it CAN NEVER STOP. I can rest, I can think, I can pace around. But the A.D. must literally be in motion and anticipating everything coming up all the time. Nuts. Eric’s first class, no ifs or ands.

I had the the wonderful fortune of having as my Production Designer Frankcie Diago, as talented and honest and forthright an artist as you could ask for. Franckie is a veteran of several other Andy Garcia projects–she worked for many years in the great Dean Tavoularis’s art department which means “Godfather 3” was their first connect–and I met her at Andy’s suggestion. She was the only PD I met who came to the meeting without a pile of materials to look at…which I found wildly refreshing. Instead she spoke to me about the story…so I hired her on the spot. This is very Franckie–she’s “outside” the norm in every possible way and not fearful of anything. She also has truly lived a life–more than just working on movies she’s traveled, built houses, lived in India. etc. You get the picture? Franckie is a life embracer. She also has highly sophisticated reference points–she doesn’t think in terms of movies but of all art, all life, all experience…

Lastly, I had the great good fortune to work with a “rising star” cinematographer, Vanja Cernjul. I’ve yet to see a scene that he hasn’t bathed in lovely, soft light–he has a way of being both realistic and just a little mystical in the way he sees the frame. I interviewed a lot of DP’s for this movie and Vanja was my first choice–and just a week or two after we hired him he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on 30 Rock. Vanja is Croatian–which means he too has a charming accent that comes in handy in stressful situations. Beyond that he has the patience and artistry that a really fine DP must have to keep focused when things threaten to implode. His steady and never wavering attitude saved me on a number of occasions when I was ready to settle for less in the interest of getting things done.

The final tribute goes to you, who is reading this. When I started this blog a year ago I did so in a spirit of what-the-hellness, figuring that I’d soon run out of things to write about and that nobody would read it anyway. Somehow I’ve built an audience–not an easy thing in the blogosphere–and I’m genuinely thankful and moved that you followed the journey of the movie and that so many of you are writing in expressing your thoughts. Blogging is truly like broadcasting–you send it out into the universe and suddenly a response is forthcoming. Crazy! Once I was on a radio show and the host asked for callers questions. One second later–ONE SECOND–I watched as all the phone lines suddenly lit up. It was weirdly thrilling–because it was live. I get the same pleasure from seeing the comments section every day. So stick with me. I’ll keep this blog as interesting as I can make it. And when I make another film you can take that journey with me as well–unless once was enough.

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