Art Eddy III

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Film Director David Rodriguez Talks New Film “Last I Heard”

David Rodriguez had a life-long dream to become a director. Growing up he had a passion for the film industry. He is the youngest of four siblings and was born in the New York City. After ten years of living what he called the “suburban grown-up life” he wanted to make a change.

So in 2003 David went to make his dream a reality. In 2004 he was able to direct his first film called “Push.” Now with a few films under his belt, David is back with a new movie. This summer he will be promoting his latest project, “Last I Heard.” The film stars Paul Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Renee Props, Paul Ben-Victor, Stephen Bauer and Chazz Palminteri.

David was kind enough to answer some of my questions I had on his latest film and who was his inspiration to become a director.

Art Eddy: You have a new feature film out that you wrote and produced called “Last I Heard.” Tell me a bit about the film.

David Rodriguez: Although “Last I Heard” is a small slice of life from a Queens, NY neighborhood, it also acts as a bit of social commentary addressing the ‘old school’ person’s mentality and how they would deal with a progressive society. The film touches on a few different issues but at its core, it’s about an old Italian gangster ‘Mr. Joe,’ played by Paul Sorvino, who’s trying to live the same life he lived after serving 20 plus years in federal prison. All along, he’s dealing with one blow after another, ultimately reverting back to who he really is and doing so at the ultimate price.

AE: How did you come up with the concept of the film?

DR: I was watching a TV doc on the making of “Jack Falcone” who was an undercover federal agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family in NY. While doing so, he mentioned this gangster who had served 8 years in prison. Apparently, this older Mafioso was attempting to reclaim all of his previous rackets and the word that stuck with me when he described this man was ‘pitiful.’ I feel it’s fair to say that our main character, ‘Mr. Joe,’ has moments of appearing pitiful although he is a character you’ll grow to understand and maybe even start to sympathize with and love.

AE: In the film there are great actors like Paul Sorvino, Michael Rapaport, Renee Props, Paul Ben-Victor, Stephen Bauer and Chazz Palminteri. Tell me about working with a cast like this?

DR: What can I say, it was truly amazing. I’d find myself smiling from time to time, taking it all in. I had actors on set that were in some of the greatest films ever, “Goodfellas,” “A Bronx Tale,” “Scarface,” “Cop Land,” “Get Shorty,” and “True Romance.”

Their stories were amazing and the collective experience with this cast was something most directors dream of. I’m pretty firm on set and they all knew what I wanted, however, because we all knew each other so well, we created a very nurturing environment that allowed us to grow on set and everyone brought their ‘A-game.’ It was because of my actors that we made it look so effortless.

AE: You will be going to film festivals to showcase your film this summer. Do you enjoy these fests when you are promoting your film or is there pressure in hopes the audience will dig the film?

DR: Well, the first stop is the Seattle International Film Festival where we’re world premiering in competition. It’s a huge top tier fest so we’re excited to be a part of it. We’re also excited that we’re premiering and screening during the closing weekend.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and excited, but ultimately we have to trust the work we do and I feel really good about this film. It was a blessed project as Sorvino said once. Everyone really showed up, cast and crew alike. I hope people dig it, but that’s all out of my hands now. I feel good.

AE: You also co-wrote and directed the acclaimed feature film, “American Bully.” Tell me about the process of shooting that film?

DR: “American Bully” was a challenge on so many levels. We shot in Louisiana with producers who really were never on the same page as my cinematographer John Barr, the actors and myself. I didn’t know what the budget was when we started or how it was being spent. The weather was uncooperative in Louisiana at the time.

Ultimately, we were forced to make the best film we could in spite of all the challenges we had and I guess we pulled it off. It was a lesson for me throughout the process that every single person up and down the line needs to be on the same page in order to have success. That all said, I’m incredibly proud of that film and it’s very near and dear to my heart.

AE: What made you get into the career of producing and directing films?

DR: I’ve wanted to be in show business since I was 6 or 7 years old. At the time, my family lived in the Bronx and my oldest sister Janet would take me to all the big summer films at a theater on Fordham Road. I saw “Jaws,” “Rocky,” and “Star Wars” and it was a transformative part of my life, but growing up in a blue collar family wasn’t necessarily conducive to a creative mind. I got lost in those films, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I decided to go for it and attempt to direct. A few bad bouts with the 9 to 5 suburban life forced me to do what I always dreamed of doing. It was the scariest and best decision I ever made.

AE: Did any directors inspire you as you were looking to get into the entertainment industry?

DR: Fortunately, at the time that I decided to direct for food, one of the cable channels had a program where once a week or so they would feature a new director and that director would tell their story of how they got into directing and all that they learned throughout their careers. The show featured Ridley and Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Cameron Crowe, and Martin Scorsese and so on. It was like having an ‘A-list’ faculty of directors in my own personal film school. That said, if I had to pick one director whose body of work is most inspiring, I couldn’t. There are two, Martin Scorsese and Steven Soderbergh.

AE: Your focus is of course on “Last I Heard,” but do you have any other projects that you are thinking about starting?

DR: Of course! I wrote a New York based cable TV pilot recently that I’d love to direct and see happen as a series. I also have my eye on a few smaller projects at the studio level that I’d love to pitch, and I have some of my own scripts that I’d like to see happen. I really don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of “Last I Heard,” but I’m being patient and open to all opportunities.

AE: Who would you love to work with in your next project?

DR: As I’m sure you know, the climate of the business is ever evolving, so I’d like to work with actors that will help me get whatever I do next green-lit and financed. That said, if it was all over tomorrow, I’d be happy knowing that I worked with the most amazing cast ever in “Last I Heard” and they set the bar pretty high. It’ll be tough to top that experience.

5 Gadgets to Upgrade Your Beer

Beer is great on its own. It follows the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Yet we are always looking to fix or tinker with things and beer is no exception. To keep up with that mentality we wanted to share five cool beer upgrades you can add to your bar or kitchen. Some are practical while others are there to keep you entertained.

Cap Zappa

Remember when we thought beer opener key chains were awesome? Well there is something bigger and better. How about a beer opener key chain that shoots the beer cap? The Cap Zappa not only opens your beer, but you can try and hit your friends with the cap. It can clip on to your key ring and doesn’t take up too much space in your pocket. It measures at 2.2 x 12.5 x 19 cm and it launches your cap straight up in the air. You can see how poor your aim gets as the night progresses while you keep on drinking. Just make sure you don’t shoot your friends eye out.

On-Ice Mixed Drink and Beer Dispenser

One thing that we all hate is warm beer. One way to combat this issue in the hot summer months is to use the On-Ice Beer Dispenser.  This mini clear keg keeps 80 ounces or a little over 2 liters of your favorite brew or drink at a finger’s touch away and ice cold in its separate beer tower compartment without diluting the flavor! This dispenser is great for any occasion indoors or out. Whether you are serving ice-cold ales, liquors, white wine, mixed drinks, or shots this cooler keg will be a main staple for your bar. All you have to do is as the inner part with ice. Next add your drink of choice in the exterior and enjoy ice cold beverages wherever you go.

Pocket Beer Bong

Did you ever want to have the capability of bringing a beer bong with you no matter where you go? Well now you can with the pocket beer bong. This pint size gadget lets you use any regular beer bottle and turn into a makeshift beer bong.  The Ultimate Bottle Bong has a small hose and a bottle cover to let you jug a beer like you did in college. This is perfect if you need to “catch up” when you come late to the party.

Fridge Monkey

The Fridge Monkey is a flexible rubber mat designed to maximize storage space in your fridge by stacking bottles and cans and stopping them from rolling around. Ideal storage for 10 beer cans, 10 beer bottles or 5 wine bottles or any combination. The Fridge Monkey is made from a flexible rubber material, measuring 9.75 x 4 inches (l x w).  The bottles are able to stay still through the use of ridges built into the mat, giving those rounded sides a base to gain their footing on.

Randall Jr. Personal Beer Infuser

If you ever wanted to make your own brew, but never had the patience, well the Randall Jr. from Dogfish Head is something you might want to pick up. All you have to do is take off the top and add hops, spices, and fruit and then fill it up with off-centered ale and savor the fruits of your creativity. The Randall Jr. holds up to 16 ounces of beer. No doubt you will have loads of fun trying new combinations of hops and other ingredients to personalize your beer. So get creative and drink up!