Fabulous – exclamation point!
That was the first word that came to mind after seeing Two Sides of Love at the Golden Door Film Festival. When you see something original and fresh, it stays with you.
When I write about something, I don’t write about just anything. I genuinely need to like something about it. It needs to speak to me in some way that inspires me to go, do, see… Because I know you, want the same thing - to be inspired in some way by what you read here.
When I first spoke to the writer/producer/director, Tom Baldinger, of 624 Productions, about his film screening at the Golden Door Film Festival in Jersey City, his enthusiasm, drive, and excitement captivated me. His film, Two Sides of Love, just coming off of winning awards at the Garden State Film Festival, the Action on Film International Film Festival, and the Jersey Shore Shorts Film Fest, was something that I needed to see. Why? Because when someone puts that much passion into their dream and their work, it’s worth watching what happens.
It’s quite an accomplishment when all of the actors, production staff, and everyone involved in a short film, convey a story, which captivates the attention of the audience, and relates to something in each of our lives, and at the same time touches us, in only twenty minutes. It’s an amazing achievement. And – to take it a step further, where a short film (which in this case I like to think of the screening of Two Sides of Love as a super-extended trailer) – makes viewers desperately want to find out what happens next, because the characters portrayed are relatable, and the dialogue and performances cause you to laugh out loud, is a coup de triomphe!
The stage was set at the casual, yet trendy Brightside Tavern in Jersey City as the screening venue for Two Sides of Love at the Golden Door Film Fest. The setting seamlessly complemented the vibe of the Friends feel of the film, which was inspired by the Matchbox 20 song “Suffer Me” [lyrics]. Actress Jill Christy Reiss, who plays Dr. Victoria Curkowski in the film, joined Producer and Director Tom Baldinger, his wife Kelly, Director of Photography, Jeff Seesselberg, and I, in a bar packed full of onlookers as they anticipated viewing a much-talked-about film.
Two Sides of Love introduces you to two characters, Henry (Ronnie Marmo, General Hospital, West of Brooklyn) and Nicole (Emily West), who like all of us at one point in time or another, have been given a kick in the pants when we’ve opened our hearts and taken a leap of faith to fall in love. Sometimes we don’t even set out with the intention of letting loose with our emotions and allowing ourselves to become vulnerable in a relationship. After all, vulnerability means we can get hurt. But the flip side, is that once we let our guard down, when we take that risk and allow ourselves to open our heart to someone special, there is no better feeling of elation and pure joy that results.
Henry is a serious lawyer that is primarily business-focused until he meets Sheila (Jen Jacob, HBO series Girls (Larraby Delayne), Begin Again (in theaters now), Top Five (by Chris Rock)) on a blind date. He finds happiness and allows himself to fall in love with her, until Sheila decides that she needs to fly off to Florida on her own, pre-empting Henry’s plan of a future together. Nicole is taken advantage of by her boyfriend, Jason, (Patrick Albanesius) and follows her sister to New York in search of a new start. Is it destiny that brings Nicole and Henry together on a subway one day? Is either one of them willing to risk more than a shared smile on a subway after experiencing heartbreak? Two Sides of Love leaves you begging to find out what happens next. Check out the trailer, and be sure to catch the short film airing once again by popular demand, on Saturday, October 4th at 7pm at the Brightside Tavern in Jersey City, NJ. The screening is part of a comedy fundraiser for the 2015 Jersey Shore Short Film Festival. (details below)
The dialogue between the characters Henry (Marmo) and his roommate/colleague Jim (Kevin C. Carr, The Polar Express) is executed brilliantly with wit, humor, and is guaranteed to get a true chuckle out of you. It’s a typical guy scenario [think a 21st century version of Friends] giving us a peek into their lives as they attempt to understand women and navigate the dating world, layering on a male perspective that rings so true you can’t help but nod your head and laugh at the same time. When the movie ended, I found myself wanting to see more of that guy-guy smart-ass dynamic; I wanted to laugh more at the execution of the flip dialogue between the roommates Henry and Jim, as they crack open beers and share their uncensored thoughts, while you feel like you’re a fly on a guys’ locker room wall, especially as a woman, going “Mmm hmm… so that’s what guys say when we’re not around about us!”
“My favorite work with Ronnie had to be any of the scenes where we were in our apartment together. While every great little or big film always begins with the script, and in this case, this couldn't be more true than with Tom's script, the relationship between any of the actors, whether strong or uninhibited, should drive forward a sense of urgency and truth. When Ronnie and I worked together, the truth always came from the scenes where we were the most comfortable; that being when we were riffing and bickering like brothers, or in this case, like roommates who'd started off on opposite sides of the spectrum. The story has its roots in that type of familial rivalry. Ronnie knew it and so did I,” shared Carr explaining how the chemistry between actors can really translate to the screen.
Carr won the Best Actor award at Jersey Shore Short Film Festival for his on-the-spot portrayal of sarcastic Jim in Two Sides of Love. Marmo was also nominated for Best Actor in a Short Film at the AOF Film Festival for his role as Henry. After you see this short film, where Jim and Henry take you on the ride with their quick quips and spot-on jabs, whirling around office mate Rob (Armando Merlo) in several scenes, you will also understand why Two Sides of Love brought in a nomination for Best Dialogue at the AOF Film Festival, too.
“[This] short film is a prequel to the feature film,” explains Tom Baldinger, Artistic Director of the New Jersey-based 624 Productions. Tom is the writer, director, and executive producer of the film. This is Baldinger’s first film, but he has already walked away with awards for Best Home Grown Short Film at the Garden State Film Festival, Best Art Direction at the AOF International Film Festival, and Best Director at the Jersey Shore Short Film Festival, including Carr’s win for Best Actor. He got out of the gates blazing, and the momentum is going strong to see what this filmmaker will do next.
“We shot that at the MTA Museum. The rest is a trade secret,” said Baldinger with a sly smile, when audience members asked about how a subway can “move” without really moving, and authenticate realistic background sound.
The combination of a clever technical team with exceptional acting talent also explains why Two Sides of Love had a nomination for Best Short Film at the Jersey Shore Short Film Fest.
[Second spoiler alert!]
When I learned that this was just the opening act, if you will, and then I watched the twenty minute teaser, my mind started wondering, “What’s going to happen next?” Will Henry return Nicole’s purse to her that she left on the subway? If he does, what will happen? Have either of them reached the point where they are too love-scarred to take the chance to fall for someone else again. Did their simultaneous smiles on a subway set the stage?
Well, this is the prequel to the sequel, or feature film that is highly anticipated.
I share the opinion of actor Ronnie Marmo:
“I loved the traditional old-school love story,” shared Marmo, about the project.
Marmo, famously known for his role as Detective Ronnie Dimestico on General Hospital and his character Sebi in West of Brooklyn, (a movie he wrote, directed, and produced with a star-studded cast) continued, “I love the idea of two people struggling to figure things out in perfect timing. Is it fate? Is it coincidence?”
Whether you call it fate or coincidence, you have to admit that sometimes life serves you up a plate of unbelievable events that makes you think twice and turn your head, making you ask yourself, “Did that really just happen? What are the chances?” Those are the moments in life that are worth paying attention to. Those are the experiences that affect our lives in ways that we can only dream of.
“I’m happy to share in Tom’s first experiences as a filmmaker,” says Marmo.
Two Sides of Love was performed as a play before it became the short film prequel that it is now. When it was originally performed, actor Patrick Albanesius played Henry; now, in the film he had the chance to be the bad boyfriend, Jason, to Nicole.
“My favorite part was getting to play another character in the backstory. Having been another role for the stage version, it was great fun interacting with the same characters I had been used to, but seeing them from a totally different perspective,” says Albanesius. “Plus learning how to get punched in the face is helpful,” he added with a smile. His character certainly knows how to take a “punch” line when it is served – you have to see the short film!
Actress Jen Jacob loved the collaborative nature of the project. “Tom has an amazing group work aesthetic - open to really working with the actors' interpretation of his writing, and using that to produce the direction of the actors and the crew. He's open. Which gives the actors a lot of room to breathe life into their characters.”
I see a few different directions that the feature film can take with this storyline, and couldn’t help but wonder if Sheila would make an attempt to get Henry back in her life.
Jacob feels, “I don't think Sheila would attempt that. I think leaving right before a wedding is grounds for not messing with Henry's heart again. That's a final, ultimatum kind of move. She knows the cards she's dealing.”
West speculates on her character, Nicole’s future, “Does Nicole believe in fate?... I'm not really sure. She probably did at one point, and I'm sure there is a part of her that still believes. But one thing about Nicole that I've always held onto, is that she is ever the optimist. Me, Kevin, and Debbie Glick (plays Karen, Nicole’s sister) have a bit of a unique perspective, since we were doing the play version (actually, what happens after the film) for about 2 years, so I have a very intimate feel for Nicole.”
That’s why I like Nicole’s character so much… continuous optimism despite setbacks is how I am personally programmed.
But who really knows which side of love will surface... We will have to wait for Baldinger’s Two Sides of Love full feature film to find out! With accolades from its audience, and recognition in terms of awards on the film festival circuit, there’s no doubt 624 Productions is about to cause quite a commotion in the filmmaking industry with feature films to come!
The Brightside Tavern
141 Bright St.
Jersey City, NJ
@7pm, Saturday, October 4th
$10 at the door
FUNDRAISER for the 2015 Jersey Shore Short Film Festival
A night of comedy – Comedians Robert Smegburg, Camille Theobald, Mike Cara, Caliph Scott, and Naomi Karavam will be performing; including screening some of the top comedy short films from the 2014 festival