Scene and Heard

It’s an a-MAY-zing month for the film industry – actually an amazing time in general for the local film world, especially indie film. There’s so much going on that I have to take a deep breath and really think about what I want to tell you first. The process of talking with people, visiting sets and interacting with these visionaries is exhilarating (and exhausting!). Rhode Island is a hotbed of activity of right now.  Never thought that about Little Rhody? Well think again – we’ve got everything from soup to nuts here – and what an inimitable smorgasbord in between.

Soup, nuts … and apples? Remember the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Good, because you’re about to get a serving of those sweet, delicious fruits  in a documentary designed to educate you about their origins in RI,  from sunny orchards to  right there in your retro lunch box. For the past several years, Americans have been turning away from highly processed foods in favor of fresh whole foods picked when they are ripe, tasty and at peak nutritional value. Informed consumers are buying produce from farmers markets and local produce stands, and availing themselves of seasonal pick-your-own opportunities.

Vanishing Orchards: Apple Growing in Rhode Island tells the story of how Rhode Island farmers continue to succeed in a business that is inherently risky and fraught with economic uncertainty. Growers have to balance the traditional approaches that were handed down to them from their parents and grandparents with the realities of today’s business climate. The film follows apple growers over a 10-year period to show how this historically significant way of life in Rhode Island, which seemed on the brink of extinction, has managed to survive. Watch as Rhode Island farmers respond to changing technology and markets with resourceful adaptation. Get your sneak peek of the story about the apple in Rhode Island at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, Rhode Island, on May 23, 2013. See the trailer here: Doors open at 6:30 pm, the film is at 7:30 pm, and there is a Q&A after the film. Contact producer, Alex Caserta, at or 401-943-5228, or the director, Rocco Michaluk at For more information, visit their website at


Hmm … apples and now baseball? Is this an Americana edition of Scene and Heard? Nope, it’s RI’s documentary about that lovable pastime we call baseball. The Balls to Prove It is a documentary film about a baseball fanatic who catches piles of foul balls. Eric Sutcliffe’s deep and unquenchable life-long love of baseball and his uncanny ability to predict where a foul ball will be hit garnered him a haul of 224 balls last year while attending a mere 32 games at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. You do the math! This is a rare treat for anyone passionate about our national pastime, and even baseball haters will enjoy this film about a real guy with an simple passion taken to a level of analysis and fandom unseen before! The film is scheduled to premier after a game at McCoy Stadium this summer, and we’ll let you know exactly when to go see it. Meanwhile catch the trailer here: The film was produced by Muriel Productions, LLC, Dan Becker and Murray Scott, and stars Eric Sutcliffe.  The music in the film is provided by Torn Shorts, that awesome band that just won the WBRU 2013 Rock Hunt!! Congrats guys, you deserve it.

Clamcakes, chowder and film? YES! Well, I for one can’t think of a better combo than that. Films, food and fun is to be had at Rhode Island’s first South County Film Festival. Films from all over the world in all genres will be served up by founders of the festival, Ann Mulhall,  Skip Shea and William Smyth. Mulhall is a well-known casting director and owner of LDI, and has been casting both principal and background performers for feature films, independent films, television, corporate video and commercials for the past 11 years.  Shea is an award-winning, well-known talented filmmaker, writer, director, artist and actor from Uxbridge, MA, and has just taken first place for Microcinema in the Jersey Gore Film Festival, Best New England Film at the Mass Indie Film Festival for Choices, and Audience Award for best Regional Short for Children of the Asylum. Smyth is also a seven-time Emmy award-winning filmmaker and photographer, with over 15 years of experience in television production. His work has appeared on Discovery Health, The Hallmark Channel, MTV and TV Nation. He also shot the critically acclaimed horror-short Microcinema for director Skip Shea.

FILMMAKERS – deadline for entry is June 15, 2013. Join the filmmakers and the film aficionados after the last screenings for a traditional RI style clambake. Yum! Can’t think of a better way to spend the evening. All info is available here for both filmmakers and attendees: Hope to see you there!

Okay people – you all know the 48 Hour Film Projects are all over the universe right now. Boston just had theirs (saw some hilarious RIers/Bostonians in those) and now it’s Providence’s turn. I’ve done it with Peppered Productions, and last year it was a blast. This year, the 48 runs from July 12 through 14. For those of you who don’t know what a 48 is, beware. Participants receive their genre, tag line, and prop on one evening, and then commence to write, cast, shoot, edit, score and hand in their films all in 48 hours. The films are then shown at a local theater venue complete with Q&As with the filmmakers and awards. If you have never joined a 48 team, I suggest you’ve got to ride that roller coaster at least once and experience the thrill! Check out the website for the Providence 48 here and view the teams. Join up either as cast or crew – it’s a hoot!

Box(ing) office draw – famed director Martin Scorsese has reportedly agreed to help produce a movie about the life of Rhode Island boxer Vinny Paz. Scorsese will be an executive producer on the project, which is being spearheaded by East Greenwich native Chad Verdi of Woodhaven Films. Verdi bought the rights in 2009 to make the movie about Paz, the boxing champion who overcame a broken neck suffered in a car accident, to again fight for a world title in 2002. Scorsese directed the acclaimed 1980 boxing film Raging Bull, about the life of former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta. Verdi says the working title of his movie, which is scheduled for release in 2016, is Bleed for This: The Vinny Paz Story. The film is slated to be shot in RI and possibly will star a RI a-lister. We’ll let you know more as the story develops.

RIers winning awards all over the place! A native Rhode Islander who studied creative writing and film at the University of Rhode Island won a film festival contest for screenplays focusing on the state. Rachel Smith’s Fix You Up is the winner of the Rhode Island International Film Festival’s ‘‘Spotlight on Rhode Island’’ competition.

Her screenplay tells the story of a workaholic transplant surgeon who cares more about the organs she operates on than the people they belong to. When an injury sidelines her from work, she meets a musician who prompts her to question aspects of her life.

Smith was raised in Scituate. She developed the screenplay while at The London Film School.

This was the second year screenwriters were invited to submit works that feature Rhode Island’s geography and demography as main characters. Congratulations to Rachel, and we look forward to the production of Fix You Up.

Enter Michael Reed all the way from LA – to appear on the set of Normal – the amazingly creative script by Lenny Schwartz and directed by Richard Marr-Griffin of Scorpio Film Releasing. Former RI A-lister, Reed is definitely someone who has the chops and looks of someone who could be a future favorite genre actor, as you can see in his earlier films, such as The Disco Exorcist, Nun of That and The Dark Feed. The film just wrapped last week, and I wanted to chat with Michael, who appears in the lead role in the film. The character Reed plays in Normal is “Jim” a darkly depressing chap who appears normal, but is anything but. This is Reed’s sixth feature film with Scorpio Film Releasing and director Griffin, but it’s the first time they had to fly him out from Los Angeles to work on a film. He relocated to the west coast about a year and a half ago with his wife Sarah Nicklin (also a co-star in Normal), and subsequently missed several of Richard’s films. Reed was thrilled to come back and work with familiar peers on cast and crew, but also some new faces as well, such as Ben Royer, Patrick Keefe and Elyssa Baldassari. He knew for a few years that Normal was written with him in mind.

”I was so happy that the script got green-lit and I was able to reconnect with so many great people and work on an amazingly creative script by Lenny Schwartz,” Reed said.  He added, “Shooting a feature film in 10 days has it challenges. Typically when one hears that you’ll be shooting a feature in a short amount of time, it’s a slightly scary feeling – especially when you’re in almost every scene. A lot of work and preparation goes into shooting a feature, and we were lucky to be working the majority of scenes on a sound stage where we built our own apartment building set. This allows for a lot of material to be shot in one day without lugging a ton of gear and people around from location to location. Another daunting task was the amount of dialog I had in this picture. Extensive dialog doesn’t typically frighten me, but this was the first time I had to keep a laser focus on what I was doing at all times. Also, I’m not the type of actor who reads the script a thousand times and rehearses extensively. I like to keep things fresh and not kill the character with over-rehearsal or script memorization. Because of the professionalism of the cast and crew, their incredible readiness and most importantly, being backed by a wonderful director who knows exactly what he wants, I was able to remain focused and relaxed during the entire shoot.”

Thanks, Michael, for sharing your experience with us at Motif Magazine! We wish Michael and Sarah safe travels back to LA and we look forward to the release date of Normal for its RI premier. We will keep you updated on that event as well. You can also learn more about Michael and his work at

This past week also featured student screenings at all levels. The annual GiveMe5 event, a teen filmmaker showcase produced by the State Film & Television Office in cooperation with numerous local film and educational institutions (see for details). The teen work was, overall, refreshing and interesting. Work from schools all over the state was screening, including Portsmouth, Westerly, Woonsocket and Providence. Highlights included fun time-lapse work by Portsmouth HS, an intriguing film that explored what you would do if you could stop time, comic ruminations on the perfect way to dispose of a dead body, one woman’s jump into Parkour, and a striking silhouetted dance performance. Kudos to all the talented teens around RI who made that happen!

RISD also showcased the work of its intrepid seniors. RISD’s FAV (Film, Animation, Video) showcases are reliably stunning when it comes to animation, and this one did not disappoint. Whimsical and striking images were presented and brought to life. These ranged from explorations of intimate moments to musings on quantum theory and its ramifications for the universe. But when it came to storytelling, the live action pieces took the night, with a few gentle musings about choosing your future (Pussyfooting by Jess Paek, Santulna by Namrata Desai), creepy horror (13akers dozen by Paul Bertolino), and a rousing homage to canibalism (Donner Party: The Musical by Andrew Migliori). Congrats to the FAV graduates on their hard work and mesmerizing results.

By the way, don’t forget to catch me with Nick Iandolo, who usually disagrees with me, in our film review show for MoTiV. We will review Star Trek Into Darkness this week on Take Two.

That’s a wrap.


Additional reporting by Mike Ryan