Home is just a word…
Embrace the Fall
Drama-Comedy HD/Color/Dolby SR/1:85/Flat/2008/104mins.
“… Around is a film about optimism, about taking chances and about dealing with the hand you’re given. It’s about the people you meet and the effect they have on your life–-and the effect you have on theirs. It’s also one of the most powerfully moving and genuinely uplifting films I’ve seen in a very long time…” - Paul Pritchard, Pulpmovies.com
“Around is maybe the first movie I’ve seen that captures an actual slice of life, Doyle is well drawn and a fully formed character, and actor Rob Evans portrays him so well that I was convinced that I could actually run into Doyle on the streets of New York. …Around is a tale of life that, for once, actually gives us a picture of life that feels real and I credit not only David Spaltro, but each and every one of the actors in the film!” - Brian Morton, Rouge Cinema
“the embodiment of independent film… Woody Allen for a younger generation of technologically-overwhelmed, financially-strained bohemians” - Dan Mecca, The Film Stage
“…AROUND” is a film about “finding home” and a real love-letter to the city of New York. Doyle Simms grows up across the Hudson from NYC and flees his toxic family to attend a film program there. After a bumpy first year he returns more determined than ever to become a storyteller and figure out his place. Financial setbacks force Doyle to find creative “rent-controlled living” and begin a dual life living out of Penn Station while going to school. We follow Doyle over his college years as he begins to build relationships with several colorful characters such as Saul, a homeless book dealer who shows him the ropes and his own brand of street philosophy, and Allyson, a beautiful, struggling actress he carefully begins to pursue and fall for. Doyle begins to find a weird balance and begin to build a home, but the pressure of maintaining his worlds begins to crack the façade and he’s forced to confront his past family demons and reconcile the person he wants to be with the person he is.
About the Production
“What’s life but equal parts love and death? You’ve been close to both, so, if you don’t have a story I don’t know what to tell you.”
A friend in a coffee shop in Union Square spoke those words on a very cold day in February 2006. I’d just come back from a couple of months abroad; working, traveling, and decompressing from the last four years in NYC and school, trying to figure out what to do next. While there was a great clean slate and energy to go out and try something, direction seemed lost. I was unsure of exactly what I wanted to do and with my life. Those words jarred me though, as if awakened by some still slumber. On many trains while traveling and working in Europe I’d told small and big stories about NYC to individuals of all ages and nationalities. After awhile all the stories sort of became easier and lead to one another until I found myself telling one long one. Despite the “that should be a film…” comments that occasionally followed finishing it I’d never once put two and two together.
Notes, treatments and words scribbled on napkins were all I could muster until, while teaching English in Asia I found myself trapped by a particularly nasty monsoon season and, locked inside, began what would be the first drafts of “…Around”. Returning in the fall I began refining and sharpening the script through helpful notes from colleagues, friends and actors.
Casting took place in the winter of 2006, as more rewriting was taking place. Robert Evans was cast along with Marcel Torres and Veronica Heffron. The casting of the female lead was a strenuous but rewarding process, as thirty local NYC actresses came in over a long weekend in January 2007. After five were called back we immediately realized that one actress Molly Ryman had both a unique beauty and charm, subtle character delivery, and also a strong, guarded but loving quality that would counteract perfectly with Rob’s portrayal of Doyle. The chemistry and trust built intense but enjoyable rehearsals with the two leads which also lead to several great unscripted and added moments to the story. With Rob’s and Molly’s particularly strong improvisational skills they managed a great connection to the characters. Other than getting to meet and work with some NYC’s finest young actresses, the other perk to seeing so many girls were that two of those called back in to read with Molly for the role of Allyson, while not getting that part, found themselves in the film in different roles.
By spring of 2007, because of time restraints on the impending fall’s writer’s strike and possible SAG strike the following year, the chance of any immediate outside funding fell-through and it became a mission to self-fund the film. With a $150k USD or 40 credit cards (no, seriously…) and a cast locked down, I went about trying to find anyone crazy enough to partner up with me on that daunting quest to make a feature film for less than $200k that took place over four years, had 190 locations, and was set, for the most part, entirely in NYC. Where would I find anyone that insane? By the time of early summer, Lee Gillentine, who had only come to NY a year earlier, having been a self-taught Gaffer and never having produced before, put together a crew, budget, and schedule with just six weeks of real pre-production. Meeting Lee, only 21 at the time, was a great experience because instantly I knew both from his passion for the project, energy, and real belief in the ability to do this on our own, that this was the person who could actually make it all happen. Lee’s inexperience as a producer did not deter either his tenacity or ability to get things done, and, most importantly, his understanding of the most important role as producer is surrounding you with the best possible people. He had assembled an all-star crew of the best he had worked with on various other low-budget films over the year. Without this, the film could not have been done and proves once again, not only in my own personal experiences, that youth and lack of experience will always be overcome by drive and allowing oneself to think outside the box.
Over 27 days in September 2007, 21 of them production, “…Around” was shot all over NYC. Many obstacles that befall all-sized budget films befell us in the grandest examples of Murphy’s Law. Production days were changed, locations fell through, extras didn’t show up, a technical error almost deleted an entire days worth of shooting, the president of Iran showed up to Columbia University the day we shot amidst an onslaught of protesters and security issues, car accidents, sets were built and painted over night; all these things and more. The thing that always pulled us through any of these almost Biblical impediments was the hard work and passion of the talented cast and crew that I was blessed to be working with. The skill they all had at their respective crafts combined with a sheer love for what they did and the project brought an energy that would overcome any problem and would be obvious in the end product.
A two-hour rough cut of the film was screened and tested for the cast, crew, and their friends and families on January 24th, 2008. It was my birthday and almost two years to the date that I had simple, yet life-changing cup of coffee with a dear friend. After another grueling six months of cutting, tweaking, and post-production “…Around” was finally finished with a complete and crisp sound mix by the exceptionally talented Carlos “Storm” Martinez at [Creativemixing.com]. Keeping with the NYC artist’s spirit, songs were donated by local buzz worthy bands for the festival and private screening circuit. An impressive score was written and recorded by Vita Tanga, who manages to evoke everything the film says about the main character with a few simple chords of a poignant and brooding theme that stretches and changes along with the mood of the film.
The greatest feeling at the end of all of this though is finishing something that has been a labor of love, being able to share it with those closest who also bled for it, and knowing exactly what it is you want to do with your life. What you’re passionate about. Regardless of where “…Around” goes and how many more stories I get to tell, knowing what you love and want to do with your life is possibly the greatest gift of all. You don’t climb the mountain to reach the top, you climb for the love of climbing and that makes reaching it all the more rewarding and bittersweet the journey. I feel blessed to have been able to take this one and look forward to the next, whatever they may be, with all that I’ve learned and now know.
- David Spaltro, Writer-Director of “…Around” 07/01/08
Boards to Screen
Some storyboards from our incredible storyboard artist Jess Levy and their manifestations on screen.