Frisco Disco

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970’s into a changing new decade full of promise, hope, and uncertainty.

Meet Frankie, Ingrid, Ricky and Christian; each with their own secret demons of drugs, promiscuity and sexual uncertainty. Each longing to break free and try their wings and soar.

An upcoming feature, based on a true coming-of-story, set during the apex of the disco-era in New York City, full of exciting dance, glitter and updated re-makes of classic disco hits.

Our goal is to bring the excitement of the disco era to a new generation, in an updated form that will be both nostalgic and futuristic.

producers: Joey Dedio & Dennis Grimaldi

written by: Jared Iversen

director: Rafal Zielinski

 

 

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality- Poster

 

A BARDO IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

Tibetan Book of the Dead

Bardo Thotrol (Bar-do’i-thos-grol) in Tibetan or more commonly known as “The Tibetan Book, of the Dead”, is a classic of the world’s religious literature.

It concerns the nature of the mind and its projections – beautiful or terrible, peaceful and wrathful – which seem to exist objectively and inhabit the external world.

In particular it describes these projections as they appear immediately after death, in a much more overwhelming form since the consciousness is no longer grounded and shielded by its connection with a physical body.

It teaches recognition of these terrifying and seductive forms, and through recognition attainment of the state of enlightenment.

This centuries-old scripture was traditionally read aloud to the dying to help them transcend and see death and rebirth as a process that offers the possibility of attaining ultimate liberation.

Bardo means gap. It is not only the interval of suspension after we die but also suspension in the living situation.

According to the Tibetans, death happens in the living situation as well.

The Bardo experience is part of our basic psychological make-up. The book is not only a message for those who are going to die and those who are already dead, but it is also a message for those who are already born: birth and death apply to everybody constantly, at this very moment.

History

I came across this book as a teenager in India.

When I was at MIT, studying art, design and film, I received a grant to turn it into an one hour immersive three screen film and I had William Burroughs writing the script and Phillip Glass the music. We got only part of the way as the computers were not up to speed.

When I came a Hollywood, I developed a screenplay (“Bardo”) which was a mainstream film aimed at a wide audience, and also two subsequent low budget indie versions (“Last Verse”, “In a Dark Wood”).

After seeing the recent breakthroughs in VR I became interested in a realization of it as a VR experience and embarked on creating a new screenplay – utilizing lessons learned from the previous incarnations of this project and molding it into a VR experience that could be perfect for today’s audiences.

Story-synopsis

The script is a love triangle between three characters who find themselves in the Bardo state – one is in a coma (near-death experience), one is truly dead, and one was given a date drug.

We also visit dream-states, hallucinatory-drug experiences, and moments of illumination where life and bardo almost meet.

The central character Adam (23), works at a VR start up designing games.

Over a weekend in Las Vegas, he hooks up with Chloe (21) at a music festival, overdoses and goes into coma.

In the near-death state he reunites with Julia (20) his college sweetheart (love of his life) who died three years earlier.

His experience merges with Julia’s consciousness, who is truly dead. As they re-visit scenes from their loves, Julia encourages Adam to snap out of the coma, return and live out the remainder of his life.

Julia has brought Adam and Chloe together for a reason.

After Adam snaps out, Chloe immediately rejects him and they go their separate ways – but Julia engineers a way for Chloe to visit the Bardo through a date-drug experience.

As the two women meet in the Bardo state, they resolve past karma between them.

Al three are linked in more ways than one.

Chloe’s destiny is to be with Adam… so Julia and Adam can be together again.

Inspiration

Several films have been an influence – Its a Wonderful Life, Ghost, Jacobs Ladder, 2001 and Enter the Void, Matrix.

Even people who do not believe in life after death or reincarnation, would relate to the story – it is about looking back and seeing the effects of karma – the power of each action, word, and thought.
It is also about being fully in the moment in every point – seeing the magic of life, the world all around us and the loved ones that surround us and are connected to us in more ways that we can imagine.

It’s about how we all are so interconnected and ultimately one and all.

It is really a movie about love and life, rather than death.

I see it as a new version of the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

My hope is for it to be a visceral (beautiful, awe-provoking, mind-blowing and at times terrifying) experience as well as a journey that is moving, emotional, sensual, consciousness expanding and ultimately even “spiritual”.

VR Approach

The audience is the consciousness of one who has died (subjective POV), but the character can also appear in the scene “watching”, so we can also become an objective POV – like watching one’s physical ghost of current age beside one’s mother in child birth – seeing one’s own birth.

The past and the present reunite and become one. It is a chance to merge several realities and timeframes into a single shot, witnessing a collage of moments from one’s life play out all around as we, or the protagonist, interacts with the memories.

The experience is grounded by placing it largely in real settings with real people from the main character’s life – it is more about connecting death to life rather than visiting other worldly realms.

Films about death typically have fantasy settings can be problematic (“What Dreams May Come”, “Pretty Bones”) because they try to create a sort of spectacular, limbo-fantasy life-after-death setting which is un-reachable for our imagination.

Adam’s experience is colored by him being a designer of video games – but these elements can be kept to a minimum, if the budget is a constraint.

The three characters are often seen surrounded and immersed in memories, visions and hallucinations (“cyclo-ramas”) – to be filmed on a 360 green screen set and then capturing various moving components individually to collage behind and around the actors.

Core Audience

Understanding death one can lead a richer more meaningful life – especially if there is still much left to experience – so we are aiming at younger audiences – the demographic most interested in VR.

The central character is a designer of games – the story is about young love, childhood, school, college, relationship to one’s parents.

It is set in the world of tech start-ups, the Electric Daisy Music Carnival, Burning Man Festival, the outdoors – backpacking around the world, action sports and situations that would be fun for a young audience in VR.

Budget

Coming from the independent world, I see this as a film that could be done ideally for a budget of $5M – it could mushroom into something bigger by embellishing the effects – but at its core it is an emotional film – about real people – real lives – real places – so the effects should not overpower the experience. As an indie project, it can be more daring and we can push the envelope further.

Personal Connection

My mom has vivid memories of her past life, and I have seen the proof – I’m 99% sure that life does not end after death.

My writing partner on the original “Bardo” passed away a few years ago, but the moment I decided to write the new version as a VR film, the script came to me guided as if from beyond – often I found myself writing, without even being aware I was writing – and it was a joyful experience.

I met with a practitioner of past-life regression therapy and interviewed her. One fascinating aspect has been the reversals she has encountered, time and after time – unresolved issues repeated from life to life – men being re-born as women, parents reborn as offspring, the same “cast of family characters” appearing in different configurations. She has sees abusers being reborn as the ones abused, racists as ones discriminated against, killers as their victims.

I tracked down the Dalai Lama and offered the script to him – he took it, smiled and sort of giggled… then just bowed – a perfect “bardo” moment.
Rafal Zielinski
November 18, 2015

Tiger Within

IN PRE-PRODUCTION

written by  Gina Wendkos

A young skin head runs away from home to New York City where she is befriended by a Holocaust survivor.

Casey, 16, is a loner…and a lost soul in search of love. The film opens on her disastrous first day of school in Michigan suburbs where she is humiliated and disrespected.  At home, it’s not much better.  Her mother’s new boyfriend is an abusive drunk, while her mother, Marge, has good intentions but is ultimately weak.  When the boyfriend threatens to leave if Casey doesn’t, Marge sides with him and arranges for Casey to live with her estranged father in New York City.

Upon arrival at Kennedy Airport, Casey sees her father and his family before they see her.  She hears her three half-sisters and step-mother complain about her reputation as a trouble-maker and decides not to step forward. After a while, her father reluctantly leaves without her.  Casey can see the relief on his family’s faces. Now she is in New York alone.

She tells a cab driver to take her to a place “where no one will stare at me” and he drives her to the roughest part of town he knows.  She joins the rest of the bums, punks, junkies, and prostitutes and wanders the streets alone. It’s only a matter of time before her bag is stolen; she’s approached for sex; and she sleeps where she can, including a Jewish cemetery.

Academy Award Winner MARTIN LANDAU

The next morning, Samuel Benz (to be played by Martin Landau), a Holocaust survivor, is making his daily visit to his wife’s grave when he discovers Casey asleep on her tombstone. At first taken aback by the swastika covered jacket which covers her shoulders, he decides to wait for her to wake up.  When she awakes he invites her to eat and wash up at his apartment with no strings attached. She accepts the offer but is so exhausted that she eventually falls asleep in his bathtub.  The next morning she thanks him and returns to the streets.

Three months later, Casey is working in a massage parlor – jerking guys off for money.  She’s a little wiser now and number. She runs into Samuel a couple of times, then again on Christmas eve. Over dinner he reveals that he lost his two twin daughters in the camps and never had a chance to fulfill himself as a father… he then explains an old Chinese saying “embrace the tiger,” which means to learn to love ones fears “so you can control them and they not you.”

Taking this advice, Casey takes a cab to her father’s house in the suburbs. In a very awkward scene, he introduces Casey to his wife and three daughters. Later, Casey overhears his wife complaining about the new “trash” they’ve let into their house and what kind of “influence she’ll be on the girls.” Casey runs away again in the middle of the night…to Samuel’s house in the city, where she angrily confronts the old man for telling her to go in the first place.  Samuel quickly comforts her and offers her his house as a new home.  The only “catch” is that she must take the swastika off her jacket, and start going to school. She agrees.

The school won’t let Casey register without signatures from one of her real parents, so Samuel and Casey take the train to Michigan together to confront her mother and the boyfriend. Marge reluctantly agrees to sign Casey away. On the train back to New York, Casey asks Samuel why he’s going to all this trouble. He answers that he once made a promise to his wife to stop hating, and that initially he hated Casey…”You were the challenge God presented me that day in the graveyard… if I’d learn not to hate you, a child in a swastika, then I could learn to forgive all before I die.”

At school, Casey excels in poetry and makes friends with a young man named Tony.  Before going on a date with Tony, Samuel helps Casey “prepare” by buying her a dress, some stockings and shoes. The date goes well. Later, Samuel takes Casey to a health clinic to have “the talk” with health counselors.

One summer day, Casey and Tony begin having sex on the beach.  At the same time, Samuel is viciously attacked near his Temple by a gang of skinhead punks.  Casey finds him in the hospital later that day. He is close to death. Within the next few days his condition deteriorates and Casey begins to withdraw back into herself, avoiding Tony, neglecting the apartment, sleeping in the bathtub like her first night there. When Samuel finally dies, she completely reverts back to her old ways…including the massage parlor.

In the parlor, about to “work” on some guy, Casey comes to a revelation and quickly bolts during the middle of the “session.”  She goes to the cat section in the Bronx Zoo and sticks her hand in between the bars of a tiger’s cage in order to test her fear.  The tiger roars at first, then licks her hand lovingly.  Casey has embraced her fears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl 5

 

 

Girl5 is a film about a fictional pop/rock band, and the idea is to find five talented teenage girls who can sing, dance and act (and hopefully play instruments), and then to have a select music-team come up with one or two dozen numbers for them.

The concept is that they each come from a different continent so we may cast it not only in North America, but in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, as well.

The music might also come from musicians and songwriters around the world submitting tracks, the girls themselves or the music team.

Once the tracks are produced, there will be an extensive rehearsal period before the movie is shot.

The film will be a series of music videos strung together, and the story (our screenplay) will be part of the music videos, so the current script will not be shot in it is entirety – rather it will be shown in snippets and used more of a guide to improvise upon, the way music some videos are done.

The last week or two of the shoot will involve taking the group on a “mini-tour”, and have them perform live.  The performances will be filmed, and we will also create a behind-the scenes “fake documentary” as if the band was real, with interviews and “candid” improvised moments with the girls. The performances and this documentary footage will also be intercut into the movie.

To keep it within an indie budget and give it a hip-eclectic style, portions will be shot on a green screen, even with hand-drawn and animated backgrounds (we do not have to go to locations around the world, or shoot in huge concert venues). Sometimes the girls will literally turn into cartoons (when we cannot afford to stage the car chases, and big action sequences). The animation will be 2D, rather than the expensive 3D CGI kind, more like early Disney cartoons (think South Park, Family Guy, Adult Swim). We have already begun by working with a talented graphic artist-illustrator from the UK to create some samples.

If the film succeeds this could spin off into a TV series and the band actually going on a real tour and releasing more records.

 

Spritz sells cola around the globe in 1001 flavourts, but when Sean and Randy pitch Girl 5, they can’t say no. It will sell even more cola!

After a global search across five continents, the five mystery girls are chosen. The manufactured band and the manufactured sound is a smashing success! 

But someone forgot something in the all the excitement. It has no soul. The over-hype, over-promotion, over-marketing, boils over. It’s a total melt down and the fans turns violent.

Spritz faces a total write down, puts a contract out on the two swengalis and sicks the Dept. of Homeland Security on the band. The girls run into hiding, go underground. 

Suicide is not an option. They were chosen for their “talent”, not their looks, right?

They will not fail! They work, they sweat, they write and… they sing… for real.

They find their sound, their beat, their voice. And it’s the cry of the world all in one. Someone sneaks out a tune…. it goes viral.

Who are these sirens, these muses, these mystery goddesses? Everyone wants to know.

FEED THE WORLD – DANCE THE WORLD – LOVE THE WORLD – BE THE WORLD.

Spritz on!

 

365

365 Poster

The screenplay is an imaginary, conceptual, hypothetical film as if written by “John”, the central character, who is an aspiring screenwriter, an outsider and a rebel. John is adopting his “love-journal” that he created documenting his love scenes with his girlfriend “Jane” to an imaginary screenplay, a movie that would not be made by any main-stream filmmaker, as it is too intimate and risque.

With the advent of the internet there are a millions of such pieces out there in various forms. Whether they are photos, blogs, videos, tweets, social-media text bits – our compulsion to document and share the most intimate moments has become the fabric of our collective consciousness.

It is a “journal” – someone writing it down right afterwards, sometimes next morning, next day, next week. Sometimes it is a re-telling of the stream of consciousness, or trying to capture it as if the writer lost track of whether the dialogue was actually spoken, or went through the mind at the time, or occurred after the fact.

The challenge of this material would be to minimize the nudity, rather make it a poetic-literary stream of consciousness full of beautiful hypnotic images, a film about memory, poetry, art, the soul… and the mind of these two characters. It will also be a way to open up the film so it does not become just two-actors-in-one room.

I see this as a 150 minute movie with a non-stop continuous-hypnotic-sound-track that could almost place you into an altered state – it’s about those moments in our lives when we are in that zone. The non stop beat will help us jump in time within scenes and even edit them as non-continuous events – fragmented – as if snippets of memory….

to Jean-Luc Godard

Carnevale

Tanja-Schulz-Venice-Carnival-79

 

“CARNEVALE”.

Carnevale is a contemporary romantic adventure inspired by Shakespeare’s “Midsummer’s Night Dream”.

A young hipster American couple go to Venice during the time of Carnival, to party and experience the clash of old and new,  and test their relationship, which leads to a quarrel and eventual split up.

Fate would have it that both individually meet one half of trendy Italian couple also temporarily estranged.

Through a series of mishaps our four college students become the owners of a stolen diamond mask that makes them the target of rock stars, crooks, the police and an assortment of eccentric local Venetians.

Each of the four lovers finds what was lacking in their former partners.

Romance and passion blossoms amid a festive mood where the line between reality and fantasy merges.

Eventually true love shines through and the couples re-unite, switch and rediscover their former mates.

Carnival in Venice, Masks. Italy

Carnival in Venice, Masks. Italy

ALieNS

As a couple, Kane and Skye are pretty near perfect.  They’re young, ambitious, brave, and stuck together on a beat-up old spaceship hurtling across the vast reaches of intergalactic space.

The only problem is Kane comes from Drop Nine, a desolate little asteroid in the middle of nowhere, where life is nasty, brutish and short.  Where men are men and women are…well, men have been cloning copies of themselves for a couple of hundred years, so no one actually remembers what women even look like.

Skye is an ace fighter pilot from a technologically and intellectually superior civilization on the other side of the solar system.  A civilization of women who consider the few men camped out on asteroids like Drop Nine to be the scum of the universe.

But despite their different backgrounds, Kane and Skye quickly become reluctant allies in a desperate and foolhardy attempt to save what remains of humanity from certain destruction.  And while they’re saving humanity, they do the one thing people on opposite sides of a centuries-old war in outer space should never do.

They fall in love.

Romance,  adventure and the battle of the sexes with lots of attitude.

The past and future history of the human race as it’s never been told before…

 

 

Calling Aphrodite


IN DEVELOPMENT

based on play “Calling Aphrodite” by Velina Hasu Houston which received its world premiere recently at International City Theatre, Long Beach, California.

Youth, dreams, and lives destroyed in Hiroshima. The story of two teenage sisters who survived the blast close to ground zero and how it affected their lives.

Houston is a Pinter Review Prize for Drama Silver Medalist for the play which also was a finalist for the American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award for its 2007 world premiere. Calling Aphrodite has been embraced by The former Honorable Consul General of Japan of Los Angeles Kazuo Kodama as a “remarkable and appropriate exploration” of the Hiroshima experience. In 2008, Calling Aphrodite was presented at Tokyo Engeki Ensemble (TEE), Tokyo. TEE and Houston continue to collaborate toward an international presentation of the play in Hiroshima.

Continue reading

Fun

 

“Fun” – a Rafal Zielinski film

based on a play by James Bosley, screenplay by James Bosley

In a suburban wasteland of freeways, fast-food and pre-fab housing, two teenage girls meet one morning, become fast friends, share their secrets and later that afternoon, on a rising wave of frenzy, murder an old woman. They did it, they later say, for “fun”.

John is a journalist given the challenge of making sense of this “senseless crime.” Jane is a counselor committed to breaking down the barriers that block the girls’ from expressing any remorse over their crime.

Bonnie and Hillary, 14 and 15, staunchly refuse to soften their stand that the killing was fun, and challenge their adult inquisitors to defend a society that offers them no voice, no understanding, no love.

The story moves from the juvenile detention center where the girls are kept, to the girls on the day of the killing. We see them meet, talk, confess painful details of abuse and neglect. They share pain and secrets and find joy in their discovery of a kindred spirit – at last. It’s like love at first sight. They “get high just on each other’s company.” They begin a journey of ecstasy and murder.

Alicia Witt & Renee Humphrey, "Fun", a Rafal Zielinski film

The Film

FUN, coined by Graham Fuller of “Interview Magazine”, as “the most provocative new movie at the Sundance Film Festival”, where it won two Special Jury Awards for Best Acting for each of it’s two young stars, Alicia Witt and Renee Humphrey, started out as a stage play written by James Bosley. Developed at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and first produced at the Manhattan Class Company, it tells the story of two teenage girls who murder an old lady for “fun” .

Rafal Zelinski, having just completed “Ginger Ale Afternoon” written by Gina Wendkos, also based on her play, saw FUN at the Burbage Theatre in Los Angeles, and was profoundly affected by it.

After developing it together with James Bosley into a full length feature script, he set out together with executive producers Rana Glickman and Jeff Kirshbaum in raising financing. During the next year and a half of frustrated efforts, several times coming close to having it packaged with stars, Rafal decided to forge ahead with FUN as a low budget independently produced production. Further financing  was obtained by co-producer Daminan Lee who put together a Canadian tax-shelter deal.

The production team was joined by Sharon Ben-Tal – production manager/line producer, Gloria Zimmerman – production co-ordinator, James Zatolokin – production council, Jens Sturup – director of photography, and editor/associate producer – Monika Dorfman-Lightstone. Principal photography was completed in eight days. The prison sequences shot at the Central Juvenile Hall (a real working prison) were filmed in super 16 (later blown up to a b&w 35mm interpositive) and are filmed in cinema verite style. All the flashback sequences are filmed in 35mm AGFA color. The dialogue is to script although at times the intensity of the performances appear to be improvisational. A psychiatrist for abused teenage girls coached the actresses prior to principal photography. The color sequences were shot in Canyon Country, North of Los Angeles.

FUN endured budgetary restrictions, time constraints, and natural disaters (L.A.’s January earthquake) which contaminated the baths at Deluxe Film Labs in Los Angeles, as well as tumbling shelves of original negatives.  The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (winning the two awards for acting) and went on to the Sydney Film Festvial (voted 5th best movie), the Munich Film Festival (voted best American Independent Feature), the Edinbrough Festival, as well as the Montreal and Toronto Festivals.

FESTIVALS & AWARDS

“FUN”  premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it received two Special Jury Awards for Acting Achievement and went on to show at the Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver as well as other international film festivals including Sydney, Edinbrough, Munich, Vienna, London, Cambridge, Stockholm, Sao Paulo, Hawaii, Hamburg, Rimini, Mill Valley, San Jose, Warsaw, Oslo and Wales.  The Film opened theatrically at the Film Forum in New York  and received two nominations for Best Newcomer Performance and Best First Screenplay for IFP Spirit Awards.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY

Graham Fuller, Interview Magazine

Fun was the most provocative new movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This fictional case study of two teenage girls who jaunt across suburbia culminates in murder has more sociological import than a fistful of Gen X movies. Hyperkinetic direction and blistering performances by Renee Humphrey and Alicia Witt, though having taken a some time to get released it’ll now suffer comparisons with Heavenly Creatures.

Stephen Dalton, New Musical Express

A Clockwork Orange for the ’90s? Two wayward teenagers get their kicks from a sinister form of fun. This is a dazzling and disturbingly plausible piece of ’90s cinema which refuses to let any of its characters–or viewers–off the hook.

Washington Post

Good, unnerving performances from its young actors give Fun more edge than the usual independent movie.
They carve their initials in your memory forever!

The Village Voice

Infinitely trickier and more satisfying than Heavenly Creatures.

The Melody Maker

Digs deeper, disturbs far more thoroughly and speaks a hundred times more forcefully about disaffected youth than Natural Born Killers!

 

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Gingerale Afternoon

 

 

A comedy about birth, love and betrayal, Ginger Ale Afternoonis set in the middle of a rundown Texas trailer park, where we find Jesse (Dana Anderson) and Hank (John M. Jackson) living out their lives and trying to understand why everything has to be so difficult.  Nine months pregnant, Jesse is no more prepared to cope with life as a mother than she is about being a wife.  She spends her days half-heatedly cleaning the trailer, lazing around outside in a bikini working on her tan, and fighting with Hank.

Life is fairly predictable, though not particularly satisfying, until Jesse discovers that Hank is messing around with Bonnie (Yeardly Smith), a plump little teenager given to shorts and halter tops, with a wisdom beyond her years.  Words fly, tempers soar, egos bruise and we see deeply into the hearts and minds of three sensitive and generous people.

This intimate, warm, and touching comedy was written for the screen by Gina Wendkos from her original stageplay, directed by Rafal Zielinski (“Hey Babe,” “Fun,” ,”Age of Kali”,”Bohemia”). Shot by cinematographer Yuri Neyman (“Liquid Sky,” “D.O.A.”),  Ginger Ale Afternoon offers a spectacular wall to wall music score by blues legend Willie Dixon.

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