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Posts Tagged ‘Lou Dembrow’

The Longest Friday of the Year by Jim McDonnell

Ray Valenz and Betty Bloomerz of the Coney Island Sideshow ride the Thunderbolt in this still from Jim McDonnell’s The Longest Friday of the Year

The 15th Annual Coney Island Film Festival kicks off tonight, September 18, with a doc about burlesque duo Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey and an opening night party featuring live sideshow, burlesque and an open bar. This year’s selections include over 100 films in 16 programs, wrapping up on Sunday evening with a roster of Coney-centric films and a Coney Island style awards ceremony at the famed “Bump Your Ass Off” Eldorado Bumper Cars.

Several films screening at the film fest were made by or are about ATZ friends and acquaintances. We asked them to share behind the scenes anecdotes about the making of their films.

Jim McDonnell

Still from Jim McDonnell’s The Longest Friday of the Year

Photographer and videographer Jim McDonnell is following up his 2014 “Made in Coney Island” winning short doc “Thunderbolt” with a documentary feature “The Longest Friday of the Year” (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm). The Friday of the title is June 19, 2015, the first weekend and the first fireworks show of summer and the eve of the Mermaid Parade.

It was my goal to show a day in the life of Coney Island from and give a glimpse into the lives of some of the people that work in the amusement district. There were 11 different people that shot footage for me that I staggered over the course of the day, and that’s not including myself. We shot from 4:30 in the morning until 1:15 the next morning.

Despite only being a one day shoot – it was the largest and most ambitious production I’ve ever done. Some of my cinematographers were Coney greats including Bruce Handy, Eddie Mark, Lloyd Handwerker, Kenny Lombardi and Raymond Adams (just to name a few).

I conducted a total of 22 interviews/conversations but only used 18. Some of the interviewees are DJ Vourderis from the Wonder Wheel; Ray Valenz, Betty Bloomerz and Patrick Wall from Coney Island USA; Louis Beard from Eldorado; and Fernando Velasquez from Luna Park. I really wanted to emphasize the diversity of the community.

This Side of Dreamland by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

Still from This Side of Dreamland, a documentary portrait of banner painter Marie Roberts by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

“This Side of Dreamland” by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm) is about Coney Island artist Marie Roberts, whose sideshow banners have emblazoned Coney Island USA’s building since 1997. Lester A. Roberts, Marie’s uncle, was a talker extraordinaire with the Dreamland Circus Sideshow in the 1920s.

I think they looked at a bit of Coney Island through me. I started a painting on camera (which I cursed myself no end for doing, it was the Kavadlo Brothers painting, and I had to use a photo) and I worked over that thing a lot. Patrick’s eye was sensitive, he got my arm painting, which was really the important thing in the shot.

I think they got me, and the culture of the place, the amusement part anyway, and that they did an incredible job in less than ideal situations. They even got the animals. There is a scene in my yard with the Dreamland animals graves and Hyjinx from CIUSA (all buried there). Momma cat appears, Patrick put some animated cats in which I am not wild about but he is.

As the story goes, Lester came back from his traveling sideshow and left the snake and monkey at the house. My father took care of them. Have photo of him and monkey. She died because the house was drafty and she caught a cold. They are buried in the yard along with Hyjinx and my Floyd and Bessie cats. Graves were not marked but my father pointed them out many times. There are flowering bushes there now.

This Side of Dreamland by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

Still from This Side of Dreamland a documentary portrait of banner painter Marie Roberts by Patrick Reagan and Joshua Glick

In previous years at the Coney Island Film festival, Lou Dembrow has shown short docs about John Dorman of Philips Candy of Coney Island, which moved to Staten Island, and Jimmy Prince, who retired from Mermaid Avenue’s Major Market. In 2012, her film about the Wonder Wheel won Best Documentary Short. This year’s entry is “Deno’s 2007, A Kaleidoscope View” (Program 16, Sunday, 6pm).

A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors that creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection of beads or pebbles, off the mirrors. I used the ‘mirror’ filter in imovie to create the kaleidoscope effect and edited the film in Final Cut,” says Dembrow. These images from the movie demonstrate the kaleidoscope effect.

Deno

Still of Airplane Ride from Deno’s 2007, A Kaleidoscope View by Lou Dembrow

Painter Marc Kehoe, for whom Coney Island has been an inspiration for more than 25 years, is also a film school alum who has two films in Program 2, Saturday, 2pm.

“When” is a film noir set in the near future of a large coastal city- after the climate and environment have radically changed, causing rising waters to engulf the city at unpredictable intervals. Our guide through this disturbingly upended society is the Narrator, an operative who works for The Control an agency or a person that/who maintains order in the city-or what is left of it. The Narrator recalls his own version of what daily existence was before the waters began rising. Love, Art, Freedom & Trust converge during the films climax, in the ruins of what was once the city’s beach resort. It was shot off season in Coney Island, soon after Luna Park was opened. There are shots of the late great AstroTower.

WHEN by Marc Kehoe

WHEN, a film by Marc Kehoe. Program 2, September 19, Coney Island Film Festival

“Ruby’s Last Call,” also by Marc Kehoe, was shot on November 6, 2010. (Luckily, Ruby’s later won a reprieve and a lease.)

“Ruby’s Last Call” records what was touted as the last day of business of Ruby’s Bar and Grill, the venerable Coney institution on the Boardwalk between W 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue. Ruby’s, along with other long-term businesses, was threatened with eviction – at very short notice. The film depicts a celebration/protest featuring Ruby’s daughters Cindy and Melody, patrons and concerned citizens- and music by local bands Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers. The finale features a poetic surprise.

Ruby's Last Call

Michael Sarrel in Ruby’s Last Call, a film by Marc Kehoe

The Plight Of Cecil is the pilot for Carla Rhodes’ upcoming web series starring Cecil Sinclaire and directed by Ed Hellman. Rhodes, who has been a ventriloquist since she was nine, performs monthly at the Slipper Room with her sidekick Cecil in a show featuring burlesque and vaudeville.

“The Plight Of Cecil” is my opus and my attempt to modernize ventriloquism again and break boundaries as an artist. I used such varied inspiration as I Love Lucy, Shari Lewis, The Marx Brothers, Joe Franklin’s Office (for aesthetic purposes) and my head full of geeky ephemera.

I enjoyed adding little touches like casting my actual pet dove, Pearl Friday as Cecil’s secretary. She changes between a real dove and a puppet dove (for action shots) as a throw-back to early TV. I’m such a geek there is even Morse Code in the episode that spells out a hidden message which no one has noticed or deciphered yet. These are little touches that I always loved seeing in TV/film.

The idea behind the series is Cecil Sinclaire is a vaudeville agent in modern times, and I’m his modern assistant. Potential clients come in and audition with the hopes of being added to Cecil’s roster, and each episode is sponsored by a product. Just like early tv!

Related posts on ATZ…

July 14, 2015: ‘Famous Nathan’ Documentary Gets Theatrical Run, VOD and DVD Release

April 22, 2014: ATZ Review: ‘Famous Nathan,’ A Documentary by Lloyd Handwerker

November 15, 2012: ATZ Review: Coney Island Documentary ‘Zipper’ Debuts at DOC NYC

September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

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Jim McDonnell

The Longest Saturday of the Year, Documentary Short by Jim McDonnell. Photo © Jim McDonnell.

We’re always excited to see the selection of Coney Island-themed films at the Coney Island Film Festival. This year, 16 of the 74 selections are categorized as Coney Island films. ATZ selected five –four shorts and one feature– and asked the filmmakers to send a screengrab and tell us how it fit into the film as a whole. The majority of the filmmakers have been working on their films for at least a year with the idea of entering the 12th annual festival, which runs from September 21 through 23 at Coney Island USA. A schedule of film screenings and ticket info is available here.

Jim McDonnell, an amusement park aficionado whose photos and videos of Coney Island appear frequently on ATZ, had this to say about his entry “The Longest Saturday of the Year”: “The film is a 15-minute synopsis of the Saturday of the Mermaid Parade which technically is the longest Saturday of the year as it’s the first Saturday after the Summer Solstice – it covers from dawn to midnight. More than anything it was an exercise/practice attempt at creating a longer piece than I have previously in my goal of creating a true full length piece in the future. While the Mermaid Parade is definitely the centerpiece of the film, I really tried to capture the full day as well as the large cast of characters and places that make Coney Island such a special place to me.”

The Wonder Wheel

The Wonder Wheel, Documentary Short by Lou Dembrow. Photo © Lou Dembrow

In previous years at the film festival, Lou Dembrow has shown documentary shorts about John Dorman of Philips Candy of Coney Island, which moved to Staten Island after 54 years in Stillwell Terminal, and Jimmy Prince, who retired from Mermaid Avenue’s Major Market after 60 years. This year, in addition to “Jimmy’s Rant,” also featuring Prince, Lou is showing the 18-minute short “The Wonder Wheel” about Coney Island’s oldest ride and the Vourderis family’s loving and labor-intensive maintenance of it. “Landmarked in 1989, the Wonder Wheel is a beloved Coney Island icon,” says the filmmaker. “The film takes a behind the scenes look at the efforts to preserve the historical aspects while embracing innovation.”

“The film was shot in 2008 and 2009,” says Lou, who has been working on it for the past year while learning Final Cut Pro. “This is just the first Wonder Wheel movie, an exercise really. There is so much to show about the care of the wheel: that’s this coming year’s project. I’m just beginning, I am still learning, I am a passionate amateur. I’ll try my best!”

Gotta Love Coney Island

Gotta Love Coney Island, Experimental Film by Jay Singer. Photo © Jay Singer

Brooklyn native and Coney Island regular Jay Singer is a big fan of Scream Zone’s Slingshot. He’s the screamer on the right in the screengrab. “I actually went on it 50 times! Several of my trips are in the movie,” he says of his experimental short “Gotta Love Coney Island,” which is also the name of his website. “The film is only 10 minutes long, but it took me over a year to make, 8 months of editing alone! It is 275 separate scenes at various speeds composited into a ‘one reel’ experimental film. The goal was to capture the ‘pulse’ of Coney Island on a busy day, with intercuts of vintage footage filmed by my grandfather alongside contemporary footage of my own.”

The concept for the film came from a discussion about “the amusement pulse” with Scott Fitlin, the operator and DJ extraordinaire of the Eldorado Bumper Cars. “Originally Scott was going to make the film with me, he contributed a lot of ideas for the basic storyboard and was going to do a sound mix,” says Jay. After Scott’s death in 2010, Jay shelved the project until the birthday gift of a flip video camera reignited his enthusiasm. After the film screening on Sunday, the award ceremony will be at the Eldorado Bumper Cars. There’s also a Saturday night party at the Eldorado Arcade with sideshow entertainers and go-go dancers.

The Wheels by Jack Kyser

The Wheels, Short by Jack Kyser. Photo © Jack Kyser.

Last September, Jack Kyser created an IndieGoGo campaign which successfully raised funds to produce “The Wheels.” The filmmaker describes his 10 minute narrative short as “a very personal story about an alcoholic father and his young son, and a study of their strained relationship over the course of a long day at an amusement park.” The film won the Best Student Film award at the 2012 Metropolitan Film Festival of New York City for Kyser, a third-year film student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“It was such an honor to get to shoot at the Wonder Wheel!” said Kyser, who filmed at the park one day last October. In one of the key scenes the father and son ride a swinging car. In another they play a water race game in the park. “Harry (Daniel Hasse) asks his father, John (Tom Corbisiero) to play a water gun game,” says Kyser. “John, an alcoholic, struggles to shoot the water gun straight, and Harry, humiliated, eventually sprays his father with his gun.”

“The Wheels,” along with “The Longest Saturday of the Year,” “The Wonder Wheel,” and “Gotta Love Coney Island” and four other Coney-themed shorts screen on Sunday, September 23rd at 6pm.

Lost in Coney Island

Lost in Coney Island, Feature by Eric Rivas. Photo © Eric Rivas

“Lost in Coney Island,” a parody of “The Warriors,” begins with Spade (Eric Rivas) on location in Coney Island ready to shoot a remake of the 1979 cult classic. An argument with his feisty cinematographer and a long-repressed romantic interlude with his production assistant ensue when the actors are late because of a bus accident en route. Life begins to imitate art in the film within a film when the P.A.’s jealous ex incites a real outlaw biker gang to come after the actors. “They were a little more extreme than we were yet we were willing to confront them,” says Rivas. The screengrab above shows the actors playing the Warriors after a training session on the beach.

Rivas, a Brooklynite of Puerto Rican-Argentine heritage tells ATZ that as a teen growing up in Kensington/Boro Park in the late ’80s and early ’90s, he was a member of a crew called the “East 2nd Posse” who identified very deeply with the Warriors. “You stuck together so if anything happened you had each other,” Rivas said. “We considered ourselves The Warriors. We went up against really tough guys. We survived. That’s what life was like growing up in Brooklyn until I was 22 and went on with life.”

For the past decade, making movies has been Rivas’s passion, starting with a video camera on vacation and trading up to a Canon 7-D. During the film shoot, Rivas and his crew struck up a friendship with some of the actors who were the original Warriors. “We’ve got Cleon (Dorsey Wright) and Snow coming to the opening with us and Apache and Cochese (David Harris) hanging with us on Saturday,” says Rivas. “Lost in Coney Island” screens on Saturday, September 22nd at 4pm on a program with five Coney-themed shorts. The Coney Island Film Festival’s annual screening of “The Warriors” is also on Saturday at 10:30pm.

Lost in Coney Island Eric Rivas

Lost in Coney Island, Feature by Eric Rivas. Photo © Eric Rivas

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Coney Island Floral Tribute to Andy Badalamenti. July 27, 2011. Photo © Lou Dembrow

At the wake for Coney Island ride maestro Andy Badalamenti, our eyes were drawn to this special floral tribute featuring photos of Coney Island’s Cyclone, Wonder Wheel, Parachute Jump and Polar Express. It was sad to say goodbye to Andy, whose casket was adorned with touching photos and mementos from the past. If there’s a midway in heaven, we’re sure he already has “the ex” on the Himalaya. Thanks to photographer Lou Dembrow for this photo and the one below taken on closing day of Jimmy Prince’s Major Meats, Coney Island’s oldest butcher shop, which shuttered after 60 years in 2009.

Andy

Andy Badalamenti with Major Meats sign on closing day at Jimmy Prince's Mermaid Avenue shop. February 28, 2009. Photo © Lou Dembrow

The exquisite floral tributes at the wake also included a rosary with beads made of rosebuds and a horseshoe from Andy’s friends in the NYPD mounted police unit. An honor guard of mounted police kept watch outside the funeral home and an officer stood at attention by the casket. Andy worked for the past 11 years in the stables at Brighton Beach.

Historian and Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson’s moving photographic tribute features many photos with his friend’s beloved horses and cat. Watch for the photo of Andy riding the Steeplechase horse into the clouds as Pavarotti sings the aria “Nessun dorma” from the final act of Puccini’s Turandot.

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July 27, 2011: Coney Island Lost A Good Friend: RIP Andy Badalamenti

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