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New Review…Around

February 24, 2009

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I  am always hesitant when someone e-mails me asking to screen their movie so it is with a skeptical eye that I began …Around. However, I quickly embraced this clever albeit somewhat flawed gem after only a few moments.

Sure, this has some low budget minor issues, but for being made on a handful of credit cards, first-time writer/director David Spaltro has captured the essence of finding out who you are by daring to live your dreams. The movie is also a great example of what it means to make an “indie” movie in today’s economic climate. There is a lot of talk out there about new models of distribution and the death of independent film, and while yes, there are a lot of struggles out there, I think with folks like David Spaltro, who dream big and fight to chase down those dreams, indie film can’t ever really go away. Not to mention, thanks to the folks at Cinetic, others may have the chance to see this one. (more on this later). Ok, enough schmaltzy stuff and on to the movie.

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The synopsis basically calls the film a love-letter to the city of New York. The main character Doyle Simms flees his toxic family, and I would add specifically his mentally-off mother, to attend a film program in the city. After a difficult first year trying to fit in, Simms finds himself without financial aid and living on the streets. We follow Simms from year one to graduation and along the way meet a colorful cast of characters that help him discover a little bit about living life.

Yeah, well would you go to the theater if you read that synopsis? I don’t know if it would draw you in, but I was intrigued by the idea of the film school. Unfortunately, Spaltro skims over that experience to focus on the city, in fact by year two we hardly ever see anything related to school or moviemaking. For this, I was disappointed.

However, the film is your typical indie, a good soundtrack, talented actors playing rich (albeit poverty stricken financially) characters and a lot of heart. Despite my initial disappointment, the charming Robert W. Evans and Molly Ryman kept me around.

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Robert W. Evans plays main character Doyle Simms. Watch this guy, he is talented. He’s been the lead in almost a dozen small movies and has done theater work. He is a southern boy, born in Mobile, Alabama and educated at Sewanee. As Doyle he becomes a lighthearted young man that goes from not taking life seriously to suffering the consequences while still fighting to become his own man. He is cocky, a little oblivious and yet he is a character that charms you into rooting for him.

Molly Ryman plays Simms love interest, Allyson Lodeir. She has a few past roles but recently completed the upcoming New York Lately. When Ryman and Evans are on screen together, there is an undeniable chemistry. Although why Allyson doesn’t slap the crap out of Doyle about ten times during the movie, I have no idea. Must be part of his insufferable good luck that happens along right when he is at the end of his wits.

And while yes, we have a resolution in the arc of the love story, Simms never really grows as a character, rather, he just keeps rolling with the punches. And that is what I like, he survives what life throws at him and keeps going. It captures a slice of real life and the discovery of people we meet that give us a little shift in perspective.

Overall, the film has that classic indie spirit and Spaltro definitely showed he has what it takes to pour everything into a movie. While watching the movie I became curious about the production and luckily, Spaltro patiently answered my numerous questions. See below for more:

david-spaltro-real-doyle-dec-2004David Spaltro

A Chat with the Filmmaker:

In February 2006 Spaltro returned from a month of traveling to determine his next step after film school. He had little direction but a friend’s gentle nudge jogged his memory of the countless NYC stories he had told while traveling.

Spaltro moved to Asia to teach English where he began early drafts on the script. That winter he began casting and by spring 2007 discovered that the looming writer’s strike was making funding a difficult task for filmmakers.

Armed with 40 credit cards he set out to make the movie, shooting around New York in September 2007. He finished the film in January 2008.

What was the final cost of the film? I saw somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000? I believe the initial shooting budget was about 165k, but the money paid on credit card interest, a second round of post production, pressing DVD’s and packets, film festival submissions and a screening at Tribeca and securing music rights for distribution out of pocket–I’d say the full total is in the 200k range. What can I say, I’m a baller.

It took 2 years and has played three New York fests, where else are you submitting? Has it played others?
We’ve recently submitted to a host of festivals stateside and aboard and are currently awaiting selection for the 2009 circuit.

Tell me more about the deal with Cinetic?
Cinetic Media has a division headed up by Matt Dentler, formerly of SXSW, called Cinetic Rights Management(CRM) who are currently acquiring and negotiating deals for the digital rights of films both old and new.

What have been some of the biggest lessons after getting your movie made? What did you expect to have happen when finished?
I didn’t really have expectations. The film was part test of myself and also part kamikaze mission. Something I had to do for me and me alone, but along the way all these people go involved and bled for it and believed in it. It took on this great new life that made me step it up a notch and want to take it as far as it could go. I also wanted a calling card I didn’t feel I was able to do with any work from film school, including my thesis. Something that showed my voice and range, promise and skills.

What has been pleasant about the journey?
I can’t possibly describe the happiness and feeling of home, being on the “…Around” set. The people I got to meet and work with, be inspired by and fight for, are people I’d consider family. Really talented, hard-working and passionate people. You couldn’t try to create or recreate the atmosphere we had on that set. It carried me through the hard times of the last year saving and finishing the film. I didn’t want to let any of them down.

Tell me a little bit about the experience of filming on the streets of New York.

We were shooting the penultimate scene between Doyle(Rob Evans) and Allyson(Molly Ryman) in the middle of Union Square around 9pm on a Friday night. People in NYC see filing all the time and rarely stop, even for stars especially on a busy Friday night with everyone going out. We did one long master take of the two minute scene where Rob and Molly gave it there all, I called “cut” and my AD called “cut” and suddenly there was this round of applause. I turn around and a group of 80 people had lined up and watched the entire scene and applauded, some even saying “great scene!”. The actors gushed, Molly got mobbed on the subway ride home to Astoria with questions of “aren’t you that girl in the movie?”. It was a magical night and magical moment of several others I’ll never forget and hopefully never will they.

What has been more difficult than you thought? I think how attached I became to the film and it’s ultimate destiny. Like I said when I started it was more of a mission for myself and something I didn’t think I’d care as much about after it was initially finished. I really fell in love with it and fought for it when things looked bleakest. I cared so much for the people involved, whether they know it or not, and wanted their work to be recognized and appreciated. They put so much into the project and into me. I didn’t want it to be for nothing. I don’t think there has been anything like this project in my life that has both so filled my heart and broken it, sometimes at the very same moment.

Where did you find your cinematographer David Barkan?
I’d received a bunch of reels from DP’s in NYC and when we had a bigger budget plan and the possibility of funding I wanted to work with a very talented female DP Valentina Caniglia. But Between her getting busy and not having the proper funds I was able to find Dave, work out a plan with him. He actually introduce me to Lee Gillentine who became our producer and brought everyone else on. It was kind fated I think.

What stories/parts of the film are the closest to you, which are influenced by others and which are just completely made up?
First and foremost the character of Doyle is very close to me. While making it and editing it I saw it really as a snapshot of me but at 18-20 years old. It wasn’t until seeing the film over the last year in sound mixes and with new audiences that I realized just how much of him is still in me. It can be surreal sometimes and I’m sure anyone who wants to know me can learn a lot just from watching the film. The rest of it though is very honest, not just in a word-for-word or scene-for-scene way, but in the heart and emotion. It’s a valentine to several people and places in my life. It’s sometimes bittersweet, but still a love-letter to them and this great city I love and call home.

What are you working on next?

After finishing up the last bits of work on “…Around” I’m writing a few scripts to shop around, but mostly one project “Things I Don’t Understand” I’d like to make my next feature. It’s, in some ways oddly enough a more personal film than “…Around”, though not at all as semi-autobiographical. I’ve been writing it for and would like to bring back Molly Ryman, Marcel Torres, and Ali Tobia from “…Around”. I’d personally love to get it together and shoot it next winter if I can raise the funds and get interest. I’m also in talks about putting together a possible spin-off pilot for a show based on “…Around” to delve more into the characters and the four years of Doyle Simms in NYC.


Where did the line embrace the fall come from? What inspired it?
I believe I originated it barring any unconscious remembering it from some other place. Someone once asked me what I’d do if everything was falling apart, going wrong, and I knew that in the end I’d lose. And I thought, you know, at those points in your life you can be defeated or you can just let go and embrace the fight, the fall, the moment and let it be. Then you pick yourself up and try again. Try harder. Win.

** July 2009 update: The film is now available on demand at Amazon. **

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