Before I get to the rest of the cast, I have to thank the unbelievably kind hospitality and amazing location Jared Christopherson provided for “Choke.”
His penthouse apartment overlooking NYU area, with an extensive massive “L” shaped rooftop terrace was perfect for the Red Carpet Event scene.
The balcony perspective was absolutely sensational, but even better was how open Jared was to allow us to free reign to shoot the scene the way Edwin M. Figueroa wanted it. I’m sure I speak for the rest of the cast & crew that we will be forever grateful to him for this day and I can honestly say we could not have had a better place to begin the movie.
On top of that, Jared played role in the scene as the “Producer’s Assistant” and he had the crucial function of trying to protect the Producer from seeing something that was going to really upset him.
Next I have to talk about the contribution Designer/Wardrobe Stylist Janine Giorgenti gave making George Brianka, James Balsamo and I look our absolute best. Janine not only provided the thousand dollar suits we each wore, but she personally came to the shoot to make sure the clothes fit us best and pinned us by hand, when she needed to.
It meant a lot to me that someone as talented and successful as Janine was willing to help our little production. It says so much about her kind and generous heart. The world needs more people like Janine and I’m honored she was willing to help us look so good.
Janine was assistant by Fashion Stylist Alexandro Jomar Ramirez, and we can’t thank them enough for the expertise and the incredible clothing they dressed us in.
If you live or do business on Long Island or New York City and are in need of any kind of men’s fine clothing, there is no one better than Janine Giorgenti.
Richard Kern was back to make a cameo as one of the “Cloaked Figures” from “Stash.” Edwin thought this was a good idea since “Stash” will follow “Choke” in the order of movies shown in DEVIL’S FIVE.
Rick also came through with helping provide some of the dinner as he spearhead obtaining a tray of Baked Ziti from Dan Romano @ Frankies East Side Gourmet Italian Restaurant (located 313 Main Street Farmingdale NY 516-756-2753) which was gobbled up faster than you can blink an eye.
The other “Cloaked Figure” from “Stash“ was young Jesse Ray Sheps. It’s always great to work with the little guy who projects maturity way beyond his years. Having worked with Jesse four times now (“Stash“, XXistence Teaser Trailer, “The Devil’s Five” and “Choke“), seeing him and his amazing parents Robert & Marci almost feels like family to me.
“Choke” also afforded Jesse the opportunity to show off his musical skills on guitar and the ladies enjoyed his performing no doubt.
Last but certainly not least were our two Paparazzi photographers Kato Peragine and his son Christian Peragine. I go all the way back to 1994, when I directed a Music Video for Guitarist Michael Knight called “The Phoenix“, which Kato was the drummer in that band. Christian by the way has picked up the sticks and is really developed into drummer himself.
Kato and I struck up a friendship then and have worked together on all sorts of things since. For example, back in the late 90s, when I couldn’t attended a Joe Satriani concert in NYC as a journalist/photographer I called Kato and he went to the show instead and covered the show with some amazing photographs.
Kato auditioned for the role of “Johnny Garrett” in Evil Streets back in 1996 and served as the Gaffer on the fundraising Trailer I made for Anomaly.
Besides being an occasional actor and Drummer, Kato is also a very experienced Electrician and actually provided all the electrical work in my house right after we bought it. Kato and his son (s) rewired/reinstalled every single outlet plug and light switch in the entire house.
Kato is also an accomplished and decorated Martial Arts Instructor and in mid-2015 I directed an Infomercial for the Super Punch and Kick Target product Kato and his business partner created.
Having Kato and Christian in “Choke” was fantastic for me because with their talent behind the lens and our long history, it just made the whole experience that much more meaningful. Their outstanding pictures in this and the previous blog can certainly attest to that.
I’ve got to tell you that producing and acting in a movie is a different experience than directing one. It’s a lot less stressful. “Choke” is actually the first movie I produced that wasn’t one of my own films. I guess I must to have done a decent enough job, because I received propositions from two different directors to produce their next films.
As the Producer, I was responsible for putting together all the cast for a Red Carpet Event scene taking place at a supposed film festival and getting the main portion of dinner for the cast and crew (which numbered close to 25 people).
When I was casting this scene I purposely choose more actors than were really needed, anticipating that some of them wouldn’t make it when the time came to shoot. That’s exactly what happened. Thank goodness I had experience to guide me, as three people out of 20, couldn’t make the shoot, so we were still good to go.
As far as getting dinner, I made a bunch of calls to restaurants near the location and found that establishments in New York City are not as willing to helping a small production like ours versus Long Island or New Jersey.
Also actor Richard Kern was able to get a tray of Baked Ziti from Dan Romano @ Frankies East Side Gourmet Italian Restaurant (located 313 Main Street Farmingdale NY 516-756-2753).
Tiffany Figueroa (Edwin’s wife) took care of the rest of dinner that included spring rolls, yummy spaghetti & meatballs, snacks, drinks and more. All in all there was more food than anybody could eat.
I don’t normally appear in front of the camera when I’m directing because watching the acting performances and viewing the shots is way too important. Though I studied acting for 1-year at HB Studios in Manhattan, being in films is not something I yearn for or go out of my way to do. But Edwin asked me and after all he had done for me as a cinematographer on my films Stash, XXistence Teaser Trailer, the Veronica Freeman music video “Again” and “The Devil’s Five” I couldn’t possibly turn him down.
Since the scene was going to involve filmmakers, I decided to cast real directors & producers to join me in the scene. Not every movie-maker wants to be on camera, so I did get turned down by a few and some didn’t even return my calls and or emails.
Luckily I had some filmmakers who were up for the challenge and proved to be perfect for the film.
My Devil’s Five Partner George Brianka, who Directed “Don’t Say These Words” segment and acts in “The Devil’s Five” segment as a pimp named “Mr. Jingles”, was more than game. Edwin had seen first hand how good George can be on The Devil’s Five and plucked him out to act as the main character in the scene filmed.
My long time writer/director buddy from Philadelphia, Chris Blake Sasser proved to be an excellent choice. Chris has the look of a filmmaker who has dealt with the difficulties the industry can exert, sort of a “been-there done-that” quality, that made the scene more believable and in many ways a lot more fun as well.
Filmmaker James Balsamo was a gas, providing a never-ending barrage of pans and quips that had most of us laughing. Almost from the moment you spoke, James was quick to strike with a Double Entendre. Plus he doesn’t let anything phase him. He just flowed through the scene enjoying everything it had to offer him.
James Ippoliti was another great guy to have in the scene because the Philadelphia based producer/journalist had lots of cool stories about his old radio show. Plus all of us filmmakers had an affinity for movies made during the golden-era of horror (70s-80s), so there was a lot of talk about John Carpenter’s films, the best schlock films and so on, when we weren’t with our lovely on screen dates.
Fashion Stylist Alexandro Jomar Ramirez, who was on set to assist Designer/Wardrobe Stylist Janine Giorgenti, wanted to appear in the movie, so we put him in as a filmmaker. All I can say is that Janine and Alexandro made James Balsamo, George and I look our best and of I think he had fun looking terrific as well.
Speaking of which, I have to talk about the beautiful actresses who participated in the scene.
Megan Penn played my “Date” and scorched the screen in a spectacular red dress. I really appreciate how she came in immaculate make-up and in that killer outfit. I actually didn’t get to act that much with her because Edwin split us up on opposite sides of the scene. But Megan made enough of an impression with Edwin, that she may end up playing a much bigger role in the film.
I was very happy to have Stash, XXistense Teaser Trailer, The Devil’s Five Make-Up Artist Sarah R. Cruz make her onscreen debut as George’s “Date.” There’s no doubt that Sarah is a gorgeous woman and everyone loves her. The fact that she’s worked with Edwin and I so many times before, not to mention George, makes us like a small film family.
Alida Lang who was in the XXistence Teaser Trailer, brought her good looks and ended up being elevated to a bigger role than just a “Date.” Alida has a wealth of experience in front of the camera and she did a wonderful job interacting with George.
The striking brunette Stephanie Almeida played Chris Sasser’s “Date.” Stephanie’s energetic approach made her a pleasure to be around and she juxtaposed nicely against Chris’ Hollywood-hardened self.
Rrita Toka was incredibly sweet. Rrita’s fine features contrasted nicely against James Balsamo, as his “Date.” Where as James is a bit burly, Rrita sparkles like a exquisite piece of jewelry.
Lisa Zebrowski played Alexandro’s “Date” and with her dainty charm and red-hair came across as nothing short of chic. Lisa told me she had a great time with everyone involved and that meant a lot to me as Producer.
Ingyang Katja Müslin was perfect in the role as the “Bartender/Waitress.” The blonde, who comes from a potent mix of nationalities, was not just easy on the eyes, but wonderful to speak to. You never guess such a feminine woman would be as skilled at climbing rock cliffs most folks wouldn’t dare think of scaling.
Dazzle Lin has an unmistakable smile and zest that just makes her a joy to be around. I found it a lot of fun to listen to her Taiwan accent and the exuberance she radiates.
Noelle Figueroa played the “Entertainment News Reporter” was very easy to get along with. I didn’t interact with her a whole lot as she was placed on a different part of the set than I was, but she thanked me for putting together the group of actors that was there and that she had a great time.
It was great seeing Ian Clarkson again as it had been over two years since he worked on Stash. I know from Edwin’s reaction when Ian walked in, that he was just as happy to have him in his movie. Since Ian has so much experience having worked on rigorous Realty TV shows and other film & TV, that acting as a “TV Cameraman” was a piece of cake.
To hear about Janine Giordenti’s amazing Wardrobe Styling and the rest of the cast & crew look for my next blog, which will finish off the November 5th Shoot for “Choke”