The Music, a short film review

The Music is the sixth film by award-winning New England director/producer/writer Mark Battle of Sweven Films – sequel to his second, The Janitor. Despite six years separating the two films, the cadence and tone have remained the same. However, something phenomenal has happened — Mark has accomplished what many filmmakers fail to pull off — the sequel transcends the first!

The Janitor (2013), winner of Best in Fest at the 2013 SNOB Film Festival, introduced us to Dominic, a cleaner for hitmen. Dominic is a quiet man, private and living modestly. In The Janitor, Dominic is faced with cleaning up a botched hit. In The Music, Dominic is still cleaning hits but he’s tired. He wants out.

Dominic is played by Michael Anthony Coppola. Michael, a handsome, broad-shoulder Gregory Peck-looking actor with a tousle of gray in his wavy dark hair, plays Dominic to perfection. He does not have many lines of dialogue – 20 lines – which he speaks in a low-pitched, slightly accented voice, sometimes in Czech. But what Michael doesn’t say, he expresses with movements of his eyes, hesitations, and facial expressions. Michael skillfully conveys Dominic’s story on his face. It’s an execution guaranteed to win awards.

The film is aptly titled. The music is not simply melody accompanying the story, rather it’s like a rudder on a boat changing the course of characters actions. When Dominic listens to music, he sails smoothly, methodically through the process of clean-up, but when the music abruptly stops, reality of his actions floods his consciousness. He heaves from the foulness of it all. When the character, Miklos, Dominic’s handler listens to music, his conduct is altered, outcomes are affected.

The Music is filmed in black and white, and as with every Mark Battle composition of genius, it is a work of art. The clarity and depth of each scene is stunning, like an Ansel Adams photo – pure and focused. The beauty of the visual backdrop against the anguished story plays in perfect harmony. And, Mark’s clever lack of color for literal interpretation – Dominic lives in a clearly defined black and white construct, despite his profession, burden, and legitimacy being muddled – is absolute brilliance!

The Janitor being my favorite among the Sweven Film oeuvre; it’s what began my admiration of Mark’s writing and cinematography. When I read that he was working on a sequel, I was ecstatic. It took a few years for the symphony to find its tempo, but it was well worth the wait! The Music now tops my list. Standalone, or as a sequel, it will be the short film that I guarantee audiences and film festival judges will be talking about this year.

Want to see The Music? Watch it in November in Concord, NH at the 18th Annual SNOB Film Festival! Dates & times TBA —

Huffington Post

Mom’s Day Off: An Unscripted Daycation

My children are ALWAYS with me — ALWAYS.

Not since a year ago, when my father was flown to a hospital in Central New York for emergency surgery, have I been away from my hubby and children for any more than a couple hours.

Even when my hard-working hubby is home, I’m the one they sit on, sleep upon and hang off of like monkeys clinging to their mama. So, when I saw an opportunity to get away for a WHOLE day — I jumped at the chance to shake the cubs from my fur.

Confession time. I am a movie geek — nay — movie snob.

I do not like big budget, explosive Michael Bay movies. I think chick flicks are insipid and formulaic. And, if it weren’t for the children in my life and the geniuses of Pixar, I would never touch anything attached to Disney.

There is no specific movie genre that I swoon for — horror, action, comedy, thriller, sci fi, satire — if the dialogue is well written, the actors act believably, and I am enraptured in the story, then it gets a thumbs up from me.

Thanks to the influence of my talented screenwriting and film directing brother, and my busy mommy schedule, I have been captivated by Short Films the last few years. A short film is any film not long enough to be considered a feature film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits”

And, one Short Film maker, fellow New Englander Mark Battle (Victim, The Janitor) of Sweven Films, and winner of the Best Short Drama at the 2014 SNOB Film Festival for The Convict, has gained my fandom with his beautiful imagery and the rawness of his films. So, when I spotted a posting from Sweven Films that he needed extras for his latest short, Here Lies Joe, I didn’t just jump, I did a Triple Lindy from the high dive, to be in the movie.

But, all it took was an email. I had the job. I was going to be in a Mark Battle film!

What about my children?

I called in a favor from a friend.

The next morning, the day of the shoot, I packed up the kids and drove them to the home of my friend. It took some Houdini-like maneuvers to escape their chain-like grasps. Ignoring their cries, I made a run for the minivan. As I sped away, I threw a Judd Nelson fist to the air, and sang to myself, “don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you forget about me!”

I have been a background actor in a few films. It is exciting — and easy, as long as you are punctual, reliable, and possess the ability to take direction well. Plus, you get all the experience of being in a film without any of the heavy lifting, like memorizing lines or, you know, acting.

Call time — the time at which the actors and crew members must be at the location and ready to work — was 9AM and I got there at quarter of. I immediately went to work, helping where I could, setting up, and getting to know the actors and crew.

As we readied for the shooting to begin, it hit me. I wasn’t an extra — I was THE extra.  

I wasn’t standing in the background, or pretending to be passing by, or part of a mob — I was an essential character in the scene. I had make-up. I had close-ups. I had to ACT.

Not since my winning dramatic monologue in the 1987 French Festival pageant in Upstate NY, had I actually performed for an audience. Sure, this scene was not shot in front of a live audience — but when you are the number one fan of Mark Battle and HE is the one holding the camera — it IS kinda like being the only one on stage.

I was nervous, but Mark’s direction was reassuring and helped boost my confidence. 

The shooting wrapped at 5PM. I helped clean up the set. Said my goodbyes to the cast and crew and as I was departing — *fan girl squeal* — Mark Battle gave me a hug and thanked me for my participation.

I walked away from the set smiling and proud of myself. I stepped into the blinding summer sun and made my way to my minivan. As I settled in behind the steering wheel and turned on my phone to check my messages, it suddenly struck me — *gulp* — not ONCE had I thought about my kids!

How could this be? How could I have not considered the welfare of my children for eight hours? I am the good mom. I am the mom that other moms seek out for advice. I am not Joan Crawford — I care about my children.

Despite my lack of attention, the kids were all right.

As I drove them from my friend’s house that evening, my youngest asked, “Are you a movie star now, mommy?”

We settled into our dinnertime routines at home and I came to the realization that even the best mom can take a vacation from parenting once in a while. It’s not like my kids were home alone.

Originally posted in Huffington Post on August 11, 2015 as Mom’s Day Off: An Unscripted Daycation