Jefe's House

Film/TV

Terri Schiavo Redux

by on Jan.27, 2014, under Film/TV, NYC, Politics, Theatre

Terri Schiavo

Back when the infamous Terri Schiavo case was running at full throttle with Jeb and George Bush and a lot of other men sticking their  paws into her dead brain and playing politics with her corpse I wrote a short, satirical play about it called Lady in a Box which was performed at Chashama in Times Square and featured downtown performance artist Michael Weiner. After that I kept getting requests from people wanting to produce it in evenings of short works, including from my friends at Eastcheap Rep Theatre Ensemble.  I then adapted it into an award-winning short screenplay, then a short film in 2006 which I directed starring Mississippi Masala‘s Sarita Choudhury (currently Mira Berenson on Homeland), John Lordan, Luke Rosen and Sean Hayden and which aired around the world.

Marlise Munoz

Here we go again and again in 2014, this time with Mrs. Marlise Munoz in Texas and a 13-year-old girl in California who I won’t name here.  May they rest in peace.

As the vultures, mostly men, pick and peck over their corpses — over ownership of these women and  girls who can’t speak for themselves  — I’m reminded of what inspired me to write Lady in a Box in the first place and make a little movie of it eight years ago. Enjoy the trailer–

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The full 15-minute short is available here.

[photos via Dallas Morning News and wikipedia]

 

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It’s Lady in a Box, old boy

by on Feb.04, 2013, under Film/TV, NYC

For all of you who enjoy paying for things with pounds (or have to) please enjoy a really inexpensive download of my award-winning 2006 short Lady in a Box in one more new location online. It features the likes of Luke Rosen and John Lordan along with Indian star Sarita Choudhury and featuring the ambient trance hit “Sweet Lassi Dub.” Check it out at MiShorts.

 

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Michael Moore at Quig’s on 6/30/12

by on Jun.10, 2012, under Film/TV, The Press, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

And don’t forget…

Still SiCKO After All These Years
 

June 30th, 2012 @ 7 PM
$40 Minimum Donation.  
First Come, First Served. 
Michael Moore’s documentary SiCKO was released in 2007 to widespread acclaim. A straight-from-the-heart portrait of the crazy and sometimes cruel U.S. healthcare system, SiCKO is told from the vantage point of everyday people faced with extraordinary and bizarre challenges in their quest for basic health coverage.
Join filmmaker Michael Moore, Health Insurance Industry whistleblower and Deadly Spin author Wendell Potter, and American SiCKO’s real-life cast for a Q&A about the film’s impact and their lives five years after its release.
See Michael Moore and Wendell Potter on the same stage face-to-face for the first time since Wendell spied on the film’s release back in 2007 while working for Cigna. Celebrate how SiCKO changed the conversation on healthcare reform in America, and hear the latest on the movement for healthcare justice from leaders around the country.
Proceeds to benefit Vermont Public Assets Institute (publicassets.org
and Healthcare-NOW! (healthcare-now.org).

Plays and Players Theatre
1714 Delancey Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

 

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Patriots Fight Tomorrow

by on May.17, 2012, under Film/TV, NYC

Thrilled to have been voted the winner of the IFP pitch presentation today by the panelists at the Internet Week Cross-Media seminar (my pitch, PATRIOTS FIGHT TOMORROW,  included a screenplay with videogame tie-in).  Panelists included acclaimed indie producer Jason Kliot, MyDamnChannel’s Director of Content Jesse Cowell, New York Television Festival head Terence Gray and The Gersh Agency’s Mira Young. The panel was moderated by ShootingPeople’s Editor-in-Chief Ingrid Kopp and introduced by IFP Deputy Director Amy Dotson.

Great fun, nice prizes bestowed upon me as the winner, I got sound advice on how to improve my pitch in the future, and made a few new friends. All around a terrific experience.

 

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He pauses for the windup. AND…

by on May.14, 2012, under Film/TV, NYC

Come hear me pitch a new screenplay & videogame in NYC this Thursday 5/17 at 1pm at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. I was just chosen as 1 of 5 IFP members who get to pitch to an industry panel at the Cross-Media Mixer, a networking event for professionals from the television, advertising, new media, and independent film worlds.  Presented in collaboration with the New York Television Festival, and NY Internet Week.  Come cheer me to victory or ply me with drinks if I crash and burn.

Wish I could tell you the logline but that would be spoiling it. Come find out.

Panelists include producer Jason Kliot, Rob Barnett (founder and CEO of mydamnchannel.com), Terence Gray (New York Television Festival), Ingrid Kopp (Shooting  People), and Mira Young (The Gersh Agency).

Full info and tickets here.

[image via yourkillinmesmalls.files.wordpress.com]

 

 

 

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AN IDEAL HUSBAND Monday 5/14 @7pm

by on May.07, 2012, under Film/TV, Politics, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Sylvia Kauders

Dear Friends,

It’s my pleasure as a Plays & Players board member to invite you to the 3rd and final 100th anniversary reading and fundraiser next Monday 5/14 at 7pm.  All year long we’ve been presenting readings of plays that were performed at Plays & Players 100 years ago during its first season in 1911-12.

Blondell Reynolds Brown

This final reading is the most star-studded of them all.  The play is An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, directed by Daniel Student, and features  features Sylvia Kauders (Witness, American Splendor, The Wrestler, Sex and the City, The Sopranos); Fox 29′s Good Day co-anchor Karen Hepp, City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson, restaurateur Jack Roe, Barrymore Award winning actors Madi Distefano and Amanda Schoonover; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone‘s Kash Goins and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens creator Isaiah Zagar among others.

Karen Hepp

This final reading and fundraiser kicks off our Next 100 Years campaign to renovate and restore our beautiful old building which is a National Historic Landmark. For the past six months the acclaimed nonprofit Community Design Collaborative has been working with Plays & Players to create a 10-Year Master Plan with recommendations on sustainability and accessibility under the direction of Philadelphia’s leading architectural firm Studio Agoos Lovera.  The May 14 reading will feature raffle drawings, a silent auction, and a chance to hear about the Master Plan.

Tickets: 
$50 VIP – Reading and Meet the Cast post-show reception from 9-10pm at Quig’s Pub

$25 – Reading

$10 – Reading artist/industry ticket

PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE NOW

Thanks so much, and I hope to see you there.

Jeff
[photos via wearysloth.com, philasun.com and ovi.com]

 

 

 

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Bringing Death to Life

by on Apr.12, 2012, under Film/TV, NYC, The Press, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Philadelphia’s arbiter of good taste, the South Philly Review, sez don’t miss the 2012 Philadelphia Playwright Showcase April 25-28 @7pm.   Buy your tickets here.

Plays & Players Resident Plots Future

A New York transplant, now residing in East Passyunk Crossing, presents his work to Philly crowds

by Jess Fuerst

On March 27, Jeffrey Stanley workshopped his play “UFOs Over Brooklyn,” which has been in development since 2001.

“The intention is a little more of a showcase, for who in Philly might be interested in producing it,” Stanley said.

Stanley is a resident at Plays & Players Theater, along with Jeremy Gable and Brian Grace-Duff, until September. As such, the writer has access to stages and actors, as well as exposure within the local community.

“Promotion is also part of their agenda. They are not necessarily going to produce all plays residents write,” Stanley said. “It’s an introduction to other professionals in the Philly theater world, so there is a publicity component involved when they showcase us and Plays & Players gets to showcase itself.”

A New York transplant Stanley has spent the past year diving head first into the local community. His debut was a one-man show he wrote and starred in for last year’s Fringe Festival, entitled “Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead.”

“Why I did the Fringe was to announce my presence. It worked.  Well, it made them more aware. The decision makers … put me on the radar. They all came and saw,” the 44-year-old said. “It’s a dark comedy and autobiographical. A close relative of mine died of acute alcoholism, drank himself to death, and it’s about my year spent dealing with that.”

The show, which Stanley performed in a basement in West Philly, involved monologue pieces, as well as audience participation. Stanley asked for viewers to help him reach out to his dead relative through the use of a Ouija board, the result of which is the show’s grand finale.

“It culminates with starting them in another room, trying to make contact with the spirit world on my CONT’D at southphillyreview.com>>

 

 

 


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RIP Kathy Rich

by on Apr.07, 2012, under Film/TV, NYC, The Press, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Katherine Russell Rich was already an acclaimed author for her cancer survival memoir The Red Devil when she  was my playwriting student for a semester at NYU in ’08. She was toying with writing a one woman show based on her new memoir Dreaming in Hindi which hadn’t been released yet. My fiancee (now wife)  is Indian-American and we wound up getting married in India, so Kathy and I had some amusing cross-cultural stories to swap.

She was also kind enough to introduce me around at the Moth, and I wrote a screen treatment for Dreaming in Hindi but we never could get the ending right…All of these were terrific experiences.

I’ve now more or less relocated to her old stomping grounds in and around Philadelphia so I think of her often. She passed away this week. She once told me she had prayed to Ram for me. Rest in Peace and perhaps we’ll cross paths again next time around.

 

 

 


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Stop, Thief! Playwrights Once Again Laughing Watching Hollywood Chase its Tail

by on Jan.21, 2012, under Film/TV, Theatre

Producer Lindsay Doran proving what all playwrights know: Hollywood is full of self-aggrandizing idiots.

No shit, dingus.  Pardon my French, but in Carrie Rickey’s 1/15/12 New York Times article “Perfectly Happy, Even Without Happy Endings,” Hollywood once again shows its complete ignorance of its own origins.  Still a rebellious teenager, the US film industry would rather pretend theatre doesn’t exist and that Hollywood sprang forth from itself, rather than admit that it actually inherited plenty of brains and good looks from its nerdy parents.

Louis B. Mayer once supposedly said, “Theatre is a flea up an elephant’s ass,” the elephant of course being Hollywood. More accurately — and what I tell my screenwriting students every semester — is that theatre is a 3000-year-long dog and motion pictures are a hundred-year-long hair on that dog’s tail; that maybe one day film will evolve to the point that it bears no resemblance to theatre but that day is still a long way off, and that budding filmmakers and screenwriters would do well to spend a little of their time in school studying  theatre.  Unfortunately film schools around the country, including the esteemed institution where I teach and of which I’m a graduate, seem intent on doing everything they can to shield their students from the power of live performance, ignoring theatre as inferior, obsolete, old-fashioned, insisting that the only legitimate form of narrative storytelling is film, all the while stealing from theatre on a regular basis.

In Rickey’s article we meet the latest example of a smug Hollywood cannibal: highly successful Hollywood producer Lindsay Doran, who discusses all the time, energy and resources she spent trying to figure out what makes the  great Hollywood films so memorable and emotionally potent.  She analyzed a lot of movies, consulted with market researchers  and pop psychologists and concluded that, gasp, positive movies do not necessarily have happy endings (Casablanca, To Kill a Mockingbird, Titanic, et al). Indeed, the most powerful films of all time, she concludes, mingle accomplishment with great loss. In other words, “the accomplishment the audience values most is resilience.”

So far, so good, except that all of this has been stolen from theatre (Casablanca in fact was based  on an unproduced stage play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s) and it’s embarrassing that Ms. Doran doesn’t even realize it.  She’s now running around Hollywood getting paid to give  self-help seminars to  producers as though she’s solved a great mystery; as though no one had thought of any of this before her; as though the poignant plots and character arcs of these great movies happened by accident.  It’s bad enough that so many in the film industry still prefer to think the 3-act plot structure was invented by Hollywood during the 1940s studio era rather than being lifted directly from opera and traceable all the way back to ancient Greece.  Now we’ve got Doran,  casting herself as a great thinker and voice in the wilderness, realizing in her Hollywood vacuum that the best narratives are those in which people don’t necessarily get what they want but learn to survive anyway.  Shocking.  She could have saved herself a lot of time and energy by asking the nearest playwright.

Friederich Nietzsche

A playwright might have advised her to simply spend an afternoon reading The Birth of Tragedy by Friederich Nietzsche (coincidentally mentioned in the same NYT issue in Alexander Star’s review of Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s book American Nietzsche, A History of an Icon and His Ideas) and Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet, or skipping both books and going straight to the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita or the writings of the Buddha.

David Mamet

You see, Ms. Doran, the primary purpose of drama has always been to show unhappy people going through suffering to try and stop their unhappiness, experiencing complete and utter despair along the way, and learning that they’ll never be happy (even if they do accomplish their main goal in the plot) but that life is worth living anyway.  Why? Because like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, total happiness is impossible to achieve.  Hollywood stole its narrow definition of “happiness” from 19th century stage melodramas which said all anyone needed to be happy was a good spouse, a good job, and entry into the middle class.  In other words, achieving the American Dream will make one happy.  As you have discovered through your own convoluted and costly means, movies (and plays) that endorse this belief are fun but forgettable.

The memorable and positive protagonist is one who comes out the other end of her or his desperate journey loving life and wanting to go on anyway despite confronting loss, regret and learning that they’ll never get everything they want. This is called gaining wisdom.  As I hinted at above, this unfortunate fact of human existence is also summed up by every major religion: to live is to suffer.

Any good playwright can tell you that audiences tend to feel healed and redeemed by watching someone else go through this tough journey to wisdom because it makes viewers vicariously wiser and prepares them for their own journeys.  This powerful approach to narrative storytelling is nearly universal in Western culture going back to ancient Greece.  Next time you’re stumped by a great cinematic question please start by ignoring Hollywood market researchers and your favorite pop psychologists, and asking the nearest playwright.  You’ll likely get your answers there.

“So where does Ms. Doran go from here?” Rickey’s article asks you in its conclusion. Hopefully to see a few plays.

By the way, Ms. Doran,  I can show you some killer spec screenplays that I promise you’re going to love.  Seriously. Have your people call my people.

[images via nytimes.com]

 

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