Next Thursday (March 22) begins a weekend-long celebration of creativity in film as the Garden State Film Festival launches its tenth year in Asbury Park.
What was born, in 2002, from a chance encounter with film powerhouse Diane Raver and actor Robert Pastorelli has grown into a tradition that brings thousands of visitors into our city.
I spoke with David Schoner, producer one of the festival’s first award-winning films (“Minimal Knowledge”). Schoner is back this year with a new action thriller, “A Dangerous Place” which was filmed in Asbury Park.
TBP: Your film is anthrax-meets-Enron. I love a topical thriller. What’s the initial creative process like for you?
Schoner: My film partner Greg Corrado came up with the concept. Afterwards, he and I talked about where we creatively want a story to go. And then we got the screenplay where we loved it and let it ferment for a while.
We are big believers in developing the personal angles of the characters. When you see a thriller normally it’s one story that pulls you through. We love a great thriller that engages you – where a lot is not what it seems. And that is what we set out to do here.
TBP: Your lead character, Claire Scully (Kristen Dalton) has many layers.
Schoner: The story is about modern day corruption and corporate greed but the subplot is about a woman coming to terms with the loss of her husband.
Claire comes back to work at the big pharma company she worked at for years and she begins working on figuring out why there is an outbreak of tuberculosis.
She starts suspecting her fellow coworkers are killing people to raise the stock price of the company but, as they say in the movie business, she is the one woman who can stop them.
For Greg and I, it is about healing. As in any great thriller. At the end of the story you have to come to accept what is going on emotionally with the character.
TBP: You filmed in Asbury Park on Seventh Avenue.
Schoner: We shot it in Asbury Park the summer of 2008. We wanted the houses where the characters lived to have lots of texture and layers – not just a simple split-level. The house had to have history and areas where you were not sure what what or who would come out.
We brought the idea of filming to our great Asbury Park friends and they were so supportive of us. Then, their neighbors got involved and let us use their homes. So we actually used three homes in town for three of the characters. Asbury Park is filled with great people.
TBP: How great, then, that you are bringing the film to the festival here.
Schoner: It feels like we are coming home. Beyond shooting this in Asbury Park, we were here with (festival organizer) Diane Raver the first year of the festival. We won the jury award and the audience award in 2002 for another film.
Diane is a major player in the festival circuit now and we are thrilled to be back.
“A Dangerous Place” screens Saturday, March 24, at 6 pm at the Paramount. Purchase tickets in advance at GSFF.org.