More than 200 people crowded into the on Thursday night for the premiere of '', an independent film produced and directed by New Jersey native Ken Castellano of 908 Media.
The short film—clocking in just under an hour—was shot hand-held and is characterized by tight shots, brief scenes and an alternative indie soundtrack scored by the Texas-based band Teenage Cool Kids. It follows the lives of Anthony and Vera, both transplants to New Jersey, and how their lives are thrown into flux when they cross paths.
Anthony works at a bank, writes on the side and moved from Providence to be with his girlfriend. Vera has just moved from Arizona and has promised her father, a former New Jersey resident, that she would visit the Great Falls in Paterson. Anthony is intrigued by Vera when they meet in his bank, and he begins to question the well-ordered life he has built for himself.
The audience is left wondering who Anthony will choose, and that seemed to be a big drawing point among viewers.
“Sometimes someone just crosses your path,” said Castellano.
“(The film) had interesting characters and points of view,” said theatergoer Ruth Derosena, a former student of Castellano’s. “You’re waiting to find out (who Anthony chooses).”
In fact, during the question and answer session after the film, the first question was about the film’s lack of resolution: who ends up with whom?
“Don’t answer that, Ken,” said actor Matt Cheplic, amidst chuckles.
The film is Castellano’s second outing, and he feels he has grown as a filmmaker. Nevertheless, there were challenges, he said.
“The extras wanted trailers, and I was often mistaken for a production assistant,” joked Castellano.
A quiet man by nature, Castellano said that one of the hardest parts of the film was managing people. He said he tried to be more assertive this time around, something he felt was lacking in his first directorial effort.
The crew, too, encountered challenges, but were on the whole thrilled with the outcome. According to Castellano’s wife, Wendy, most of the people, including the cast and crew, were seeing the film for the first time along with the audience. Sound technician Pat Driscoll said he had never worked on a film before, and that it was an interesting experience. Driscoll’s brother Tom, a theater student at Point Park University, was the set designer, and found it exciting to see his work on screen.
Cheplic, who helped run the question and answer session, noted that many people think of a “Turnpike-inspired grey” when they think of New Jersey, but that the colors of the film were vibrant and deliberate. Castellano said that he worked the colors according to the characters: they were punched up for Vera, because she is idealistic and optimistic, and muted for Anthony, who is deeply unsure of himself and his life.
Next week’s showing will feature two of the film’s actors for the question and answer period. 'Return to Start' will screen in New York City and the Phillipines, and Castellano plans to hit the festival circuit this year. But like his characters, the writer and director is glad to return to start.
“I grew up watching films (in the Westfield Rialto),” he said. “It’s always been very indie-friendly.”
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the 'Return to Start' website or the Rialto Theatre.