ROGERS POISED TO "BUST" OUT
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 04/2/06
DUNCAN M. ROGERS ...
...wants you to see his new short film, "Bust," but mum is the word about its specific contents. It's playing today at the Garden State Film Festival in the noon-to-2 p.m. block of screenings at Convention Hall in Asbury Park.
Admission is $8 for the two-hour film block.
Shot entirely in Long Branch in September 2004 on the second floor of the New Jersey Repertory Company's rehearsal room at 179 Broadway, "Bust" is, Rogers said succinctly, "a cop drama."
"Jessica Parks, our production designer, turned the repertory's rehearsal hall into an interrogation room," Rogers said by telephone. "We actually had cops come by — they were providing technical help — and take pictures of the set because it was so accurate." "Bust" stars Dan Lauria, who has numerous off-Broadway and regional stage, film and TV credits. They include portraying Fred Savage's father in "The Wonder Years" and a role in the film "Independence Day."
"Dan is also a huge advocate of new writers, which is part of why he did this film. Lord knows we didn't pay anybody anything, except my thanks," Rogers quipped.
A Massachusetts native and an actor before he became a writer/director/producer/editor/marketer, Rogers also is a member of the New Jersey Repertory group. A Maplewood resident, he is the founder of Freshwater Films; its first production was "The Ables House is Green," which played at festivals including the Dancing Goat Short Film Festival.
"The Reader," a winner of numerous short film festival awards, was next, followed by "Bust." Rogers said "Bust" was a "very grueling three-day shoot" about the investigation into a mob-related murder. It runs 14 minutes.
Rogers' other shorts are "The Reader" (10 minutes) and "The Ables House Is Green" (13 minutes). He said some of his colleagues make shorts "as a calling card (toward) making features, but one of my missions is to never make a long story short or a short story long. I believe in the value of short stories; that's why there are the O Henry awards."
And one of the upsides of making shorts and having them accepted on the festival circuit is getting to travel. Rogers will go to Hawaii to screen "The Reader," and he has shown it in Woods Hole and Williamstown, Mass., festivals. At this point, he pays his own expenses.
Along the way, Rogers has accumulated awards, press coverage, allegiance from prestigious actors such as Lauria and Tony Award-winner Elizabeth Franz ("Death of a Salesman") — she's in "The Reader" — and attention from the money people.
He has been approached with deals for distributing his short films, including an offer from a major Hollywood studio.
"If I had been younger I would have moved to L.A. the next day, that's how complimentary they were," he said.
Instead, Rogers is staying in New Jersey, where he and Middletown native Michael Folie are planning to shoot a feature of the Folie play "Naked by the River." The goal is to make it for less than $200,000.
"Depending on how our fund-raising goes, we will shoot 70 to 80 percent of it in New Jersey with some New York shoots," said Rogers. "We are now starting the business of setting up a company and approaching investors."
The Asbury Park Press Sept 3 2004
While Labor Day weekend is traditionally something of a siesta for most area stages, the actors, directors, playwrights, producers and tech types who make up the quasi-official stock company at New Jersey Repertory have been laboring overtime to preserve some of their very special stuff on the much-maligned (by theater-snob types) medium of celluloid.
A close look at the actor bios in any of the NJ Rep mainstage or script-in-hand productions is enough to show that there's no real 'anti-cellulite' snobbery in effect among these working actors of the tri-state area -- and any longtime NJ Rep subscriber who also happens to follow the NYC-based "Law & Order" franchise on TV has surely been able to place a few familiar faces among the shows' grand parade of suspects, witnesses and victims.
Currently in post-production -- having gone before the lens in mid-July -- the independent short film "Bust" is an ambitious little feature with a marked NJ Rep pedigree. The capsule crime drama was scripted by one of the most familiar faces in the Long Branch-based troupe -- Dana Benningfield, who also co-stars as a Russian prostitute.
The actress -- seen most recently on the stage of NJ Rep's Lumia Theatre as a young mom tempted into an extramarital affair in Mike Folie's sweetly sour comedy "Lemonade" -- has never let her leading-lady good looks interfere with her choices as an accomplished character player ("North Fork") or as a promising new director. She appears in her own tale with a lead actor who undoubtedly rings a few bells with TV watchers: Dan Lauria, the dad from the old "Wonder Years" series -- here in the somewhat uncharacteristic role of a "tough-as-nails detective investigating a mob-related murder."
The cast under the direction of Maplewood native Duncan M. Rogers also features Rep regular Philip Lynch, an actor who's lit up the Lumia with some stellar work in both leads ("The Adjustment") and slightly surreal support ("Spain"). This linchpin of the NJ Rep family co-starred in the company's very first mainstage offering, and appeared alongside director Rogers in the troupe's inaugural script-in-hand reading, to boot. Rogers, meanwhile, has busied himself as an indie filmmaker; having completed a couple of short features -- "The Able's House is Green" and "The Reader," the latter starring Tony winner Elizabeth Franz.
Long Branch residents who get an opportunity to view the finished film (plans are in effect to submit the work to several film festivals, and even to pitch it as a possible TV pilot) might spot yet another familiar face in a cameo -- city police Sergeant Frank Rizzuto, who served the production as a Law Enforcement Consultant. He's joined by several other community businesses and entities -- including the Long Branch Arts Council, Siperstein's, Amy's Omelette House, Casey Jones Restaurant, Wilson's Ice Cream, Island Grille and Attilio's -- who lent a helping hand to the homegrown opus.
Also pitching in on the project were a number of NJ Rep stalwarts -- from production manager Rose Riccardi to craft services coordinator Lina Moccia -- who have been integral members of the extended family headed by company founders Gabor and SuzAnne Barabas. This clannish vibe was perhaps never more apparent than in "My Rifle, My Pony and Me," a three-day festival of short works (all of them built around the theme of the American Cowboy) presented last winter as the first in the troupe's projected series of Theatre Brut productions -- with the Brut-al weather failing to stop this sold-out showcase from assembling a virtual 'Who's Who' of regional creative and performing talent; a homecoming for practically everyone who ever made a contribution to this still-young company's already formidable legacy.
The only thing this observer disliked about "My Rifle" was that all of the playlets were presented exactly one time only, ostensibly never to be seen again -- until now. With the formation of NJ Rep Film Brut Production Company, director Eric Stannard is getting underway with plans to film several of the cowboy-inspired one-acts for posterity. While the segments have yet to be cast or even selected, there's been mention made of two pieces that originally involved the talents of Dana Benningfield: the Folie monologue "There's a 200 Foot Cowboy in Istanbul" (in which she starred as a disillusioned but sadly seductive tobacco company exec) and Dickie Nessinger's 'Harvest Moon,' which she directed as a gently hilarious tall-tale slice of magical realism.
New Jersey Repertory inaugurates its new season this October with a production of Lee ("A Walk in the Woods") Blessing's sociopolitical satire "Whores." For more information on this and other Rep offerings, visit the company's Web site at www.njrep.org.
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