Death By Scrabble, my HBO Project Greenlight submission film, screened in Brooklyn this past month at The Art Of Brooklyn Film Festival. I directed and produced the film purposefully to win Project Greenlight. For those of you who don't know, the show is a reality television series created by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. It's a contest that awards the winning director, an up-and-comer who is attempting to make it in the industry, a budget to make a film... and the problems that arise during production. Though I did not win, my film did make Top 200 and that is a great accomplishment for me having been one of the several thousand submissions entered into the contest. But man, if I had only won!
The Art Of Brooklyn Film Festival is a local, indie, growing festival in Brooklyn. My film, a dark comedy about a couple playing a jinxed game of scrabble in order to hurt one another, played during the comedy block of short films. The audience had a great sense of humor and it was wonderful to see my work on the big screen in front of a active audience. The Q&A afterwards was one of the best I had been too. My films have screened in many festivals before and the sessions afterwards are always pretty uneventful. The person in charge usually automatically asks the audience if they have any questions, and most of the time they are too shy to speak up. Many times, the audience is the cast, crew and family of the films anyway and don't really have questions. The curator at The Art Of Brooklyn Film Festival was the executive director, Joseph Shahadi, who had a deeper investment in making the Q&A successful. He did a wonderful job starting a discussion and had interesting questions. He knew a little bit about each film and it was great to see someone from the festival actually care about the work their screening.
Death By Scrabble stars Leslie Lopez and Michael Kingsbaker, two great actors who both attended the MFA program at the Actors Studio drama school within Pace University. Leslie has become extremely popular and rightfully so due to her exciting role on the Starz show Power, from executive producer 50 Cent. Leslie plays "pink sneakers;" an assassin who is recognized by the infamous pair of kicks she wears while she does her dirty deeds. Leslie was wonderful to work with and the festival asked her to perform in a round table discussion about acting in independent film. The discussion has several great actors in the industry including Annabella Sciorra (Sopranos, Jungle Fever), Craig "mums" Grant (Oz, Birdman), and Nico Tortorella (Hunter&Game, TV Land's Younger). Joseph ran this discussion as well, and some interesting revelations about working in independent film came to light for me. I was intrigued by the fact that actors have to struggle with deciding whether the project they're being asked to dedicate their time to is something that will further their career, or is just a vanity project for a director to pump up his ego. I will now think about that during my next casting process for future projects. I want my actors at ease knowing I'm making films for a purpose - I want them to go somewhere and I'll only work on something I'm deeply committed to.
I could keep Death By Scrabble locked up for another year attempting to screen at other festivals, but I'd rather set it free on the internet. So without an further ado, watch the film here! Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.