Your upcoming movie Ball Boy - in a few words, what is it
about, what were your inspirations when writing Ball
Boy, and (as stupid as this may sound) is any of this based on
I've always been fascinated with sports, having played tennis,
baseball and football for the better part of my life. Ball
Boy is not really based on any personal experience of mine though.
One thing that really struck me were the silent folks who do their job
quietly and are invisible to the world. Specifically the ballboys. And what if people actually went to watch a tennis player because she
had an entertaining ballboy. A ballboy increasing ratings? Now, that's funny. And that germ of an idea kept spreading and
Ball Boy tells the story of London
Bell who shames his family, which contains a long line of legendary
ballboys, when he gets banned from baseball for life for objectionable
behavior. Down in the dumps, London's friends, Roman and Dublin, convince
London to try out for Women's Tennis Federation despite London's
objections about tennis not being a team sport. The WTF is run by a wacky
Orthodox Jewish Rabbi known as Rabbi Mendel, who is assisted by the
scheming Saul. At the tryouts, London goes up against a more athletic
competition, with the exception of one mentally challenged ballboy
hopeful. The tryouts feature duels, where ballboys go one on one and race
for balls, as two guest players, the sexy champion Vlada and the
no-nonsense number two contender Bella, smack volleys against each other.
London ends up losing most of these duels and trudges back to his favorite
dive bar, the OZbar.
The one saving grace for London: He may have caught the attention of
Bella. The OZbar also happens to be the place of choice for a celebration
for the ballboys who won jobs. The obnoxious and steroid-inclined ballboy
Sebastian ridicules London for thinking he could win a job in tennis just
because he was a famous baseball ballboy. London, humiliated, gets a
surprise visit from Coach Sven, the coach of the number one player
Vlada... You can guess what happens... And no, London does not end up as a
Ballboy for Coach Sven.
What can you tell us about the
writing process and your collaboration with co-writer Jay Boccio?
started off working as a production assistant for All People Are
prank show that I'm directing, where all the victims are pranked with the
cameras in plain sight. We did fake auditions and pranked some
actors - that was brutal as actors take themselves seriously and I truly
respect actors, but it was hilariously funny. Anyways, Jay
always had some cool ideas and I knew he was a writer and I realized that
this is the guy to bring on as a co-writer for Ball Boy. I wrote the
first draft, and then I had him do the second draft. We kept trying
to top each other and towards the last draft, I was focusing on keeping
the story on track as I was shifting my attention towards directing the
flick while Jay continued to push the envelope to make the script as funny
as possible. We started tailoring the script towards the actors we
cast during our last draft polish and it really helps to finish that
script right when you know your whole cast. On the set, I had Jay
serve as the on-set writer and it really helped since I was focusing more
on the actors' performances. I also want to mention that Ball Boy is based
on an earlier version of the script that I wrote along with Robert Vaughn,
and can't thank him enough for his contribution in helping me finish that
earlier script which helped lead to creating this one with Jay Boccio.
I think it takes a lot of guts to let go of your script a bit and bring in
a co-writer. I ultimately did this because I felt I was so married
to some elements of it and I've learned that some of the best comedy comes
from writing couples. Comedy is a different animal from the drama
genre. We try to be on the same page and head towards one kind of
voice, but the key is to try to get it as funny as possible without
ruining the story. I hope we nailed that balance between story and
can you tell us about Ball Boy's specific brand of humour?
script of mine will have some Broitmanisms (just little silly things that
are funny to me), and no, I did not come up with that pompous term, my
buddy, Guy Shahar, did. He mentioned when he watches my work, he can
tell it's mine before even reading the credits. For this story, I
was influenced by WaterBoy and DodgeBall. I'm a fan of those kind of
sports comedies, and I'm sure some of it trickled into the writing for
this story. Having said that, at the end of the day, it's really a
Dave Broitman and Jay Boccio brand of humor along with the influence of
producer Eric Vargas and the rest of the cast.
would you describe the look and feel of your movie?
has a WaterBoy and DodgeBall feel to it as I mentioned previously.
It may seem like just a balls to the walls comedy, but it has some heart
to it and it's definitely not as shallow as the comedy might seem at first
glance. We put in a lot of thought into each moment and how it
impacts the flow of the scene and the feel of the movie.
talk about Ball Boy's principal cast for a bit, and why exactly
I held open casting calls for most of these
roles with the exception of Pepe, whom I based on a character played by
Eric Vargas (who is also our main producer) in our All People Are
Famous prank show. We wrote the part of Coach Sven with the talented Keith
Collins in mind as he's perfect for that role. The part of Sebastian
was inspired by Roman Itkin's on-air persona, yet I still had him audition
and he beat a ton of people for that role. Myles MacVane who I knew
from our days on Don't Shoot the Pharmacist! really captured
the essence of Rabbi Mendel and won that role. Matthew O'Connor,
whom I saw in Mama Needs a Ride was originally cast as Dublin,
then shifted to Bartender Jimmy role when we brought in Ben Curtis (Dell-dude,
We Are the Hartmans) to play Dublin. However, on the day of
the shoot, the actor playing Roman couldn't show, and I asked Matthew to
step in. See, I had Matthew audition for 3 different roles during
the audition process, and he actually nailed all three roles. It
turned out for the best as Matthew and Ben had such a wonderful rapport
together and it's a happy accident for the movie. Our Bartender
Jimmy role ended up going to Steve Armato, who was the grip for our movie,
and he really did a nice job. I am truly in love with the whole cast
as I think we nailed the casting choices: our leading man Guillermo
Heredia, Carlotta Brentan, Lana Chidsey, Nate Steinwachs, Julien Vargas,
Samantha Tuffarelli, Jordan Scott Gilbert, Mo Gelber, Andrew Schmidt.
I feel like I'm forgetting someone, oh yeah, it's probably me... as the
fan that flips the bird. Many hugs to the extras as well.
How far along in production is Ball Boy
presently, and any idea yet when and where the film might be released onto
the general public (and I know it might be waaay too early to ask)?
finished shooting it already. I hope we can screen it by December
2013. We already have a fast-paced promo trailer that played at our
Sep.11 wrap party at the XVI Rooftop in NYC. Brendan Boettler is a
very talented editor that can do trailers and full length flicks at a
pretty quick pace too. He understands what we're trying to
accomplish with each project and that's why I love working with him. Music
composer Alex Blackstaffe is new to the team, and him being from London
only helps, since the Brits know their comedy.
future projects beyond Ball Boy?
Kickball is next! Has-Beens, a project by Eric Vargas, is also on
So Real? Entertainment's
radar. Also shooting more episodes of All People Are Famous, a prank
show. Get Famous, co-written with Robert Broomall, is another project
we will be getting off the ground. Lastly… a sitcom based on Don't
Shoot The Pharmacist! is a possibility.
What got you
into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I actually went to school for
pharmacy. With about one month left before graduating, I realized
I'm pretty good at writing. In my earlier years in school, I was
never a great writer, and it's because I never believed that I can even
write well. When I won a couple of contests, it got into my head,
probably fed my ego a bit, and now I believed I can write. And just
like that, I would write like a pro. I started getting paid to
write reports for other college students and their professors would say
things like, wow I've never seen anyone write like this, bla bla, and it
ate at me because I wanted to say "hey, I wrote that, not him." Lol,
anyways, what do I do? I write this really funny (or I thought it was
funny) script titled Gransby, but the story is really bad. I just
focused on being funny. It's about a dude who wants to date a girl
because he thinks she's a virgin, but at the end it turns out she's not. On top of that, it has a surreal element where she's in a town where only
trustworthy people can get in, but the main character is not trustworthy,
and he's not able to enter the town of Gransby. After graduating
pharmacy school, and taking a bunch of screenwriting classes and seminars,
and failing to sell a couple of scripts, I realized I need to write what I
know, which was pharmacy, and go make a movie. I read Kevin Smith's
quote "don't wait for your break, make your break" or something
like that, and that added fuel towards my ambition of making a movie.
I went to producing and directing classes and seminars and Dov S-S Simen's
School of Film Producing and took the plunge to make a feature which
further served as my film schooling.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Ball Boy?
There's a few that I want to mention firstly: I shot a feature
titled Don't Shoot The Pharmacist! starring Ben Bailey (Cash
Cab), Steve Byrne (TBS' Sullivan and Son show) and Godfrey
Phat Girlz, 7-up Guy). I'm really proud of that movie. Also
have been filming All People Are Famous, a wicked prank show
that I created with Eric Vargas along with Roman Itkin and Jimmy
Justice, that targets actors, directors, film production assistants and
job interviewees. I directed and produced Sexcut with Matt Florio
who has a good knack for comedy writing and also shot a reality show for
super-smart agents Steven Saperstein and Mike Roitman, and also directed
a couple of episodes of Something About Ryan which was produced by Ryan
Mooney and Maria Rusolo.
I learn something new on each project, and try to not make the same
mistakes twice. It's very simple, but not enough people follow
through on this philosophy. This applies to one's life, not just
As far as I know, you
have also produced musicals for Broadway, right? So how does producing for
the stage compare to directing for the screen, and which do you prefer,
Definitely prefer directing for the screen. I feel so much more in my element there and truly what I know. I
have so much respect for the producers and directors of Broadway. Some folks, including me when I was a kid, thought that a Broadway
director simply watches the show and claps, and maybe whispers or signals
to them while the show is happening. Sounds naive right, but I bet
some folks think that way to this day.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
This is a real tough question, but I'm willing to divulge and have a
feeling this will be a very long answer ...
I'm pretty easygoing, but not so much when filming a project. I'm
extremely hyper, mentally-wise, as I think and obsess over every little
thing even though I'm not always expressing those thoughts to anyone at
that moment. I am extremely ambitious as to what I'm looking for
out of each character and scene, yet I know when to let things go if
it's not an important issue. I also know I'm not perfect, and
appreciate all the help I can get. The day that I become an
arrogant schmuck who thinks he knows everything… well, I will never
let that day happen.
If someone has an idea that really strikes them, I encourage them to
mention it to me. I don't have that insecurity that some folks may
have where they feel they're getting shown up because they're giving you
an idea you haven't thought of yet, i.e. one of my actors
thought it would be funny if an umpire says "that's not
kosher." If I agree, I do not hesitate to put it in. To
me, that's what makes someone a good director, recognizing an element
that can make that moment better and not being afraid to use it just
because you weren't the one who thought of it at the time. Any
decision I make based on others' suggestions is made with respect to
how it will affect the outcome of the story. The director gets
judged on the decisions he's made. I'm extremely cognizant of that
yet I'm very self-aware that I come off as nonchalant at times because I
do not want to burden my worries on others. Jeez, I'm sounding a
bit full of it, but I'm baring my naked thoughts here.
I fully accept that fact that there's a human element to deal with in
terms of what your mind wants out of each scene and each character
versus the reality of what kind of result you are really getting. There
are times where an actor goes on an impulse and it works better than you
could've hoped for and you let them run with it. That's the
biggest credit to a director, to recognize something special, and also
to know when to cut it off or do another take if you know you didn't
capture the essence of what you're looking for. Sometimes the
budget prevents you from getting a certain shot, or there are some time
constraints, and it's a matter of being creative and still satisfying
your vision for that moment. For example: I wanted to create a
shot where we see a drink slide down the bar, and imagine the camera
that is sliding along the bar as the drink. This way when the hand
catches the drink from the drink's POV, it will be a very cool
transitional shot. As it turns out, we were pressed for time, and
instead came up with a different way of getting that transition.
We shot a close-up on the actor's hand, and a drink slides into frame
and that satisfied my vision for that shot without ruining the integrity
of the film in any way.
When I'm working with veteran actors who are more seasoned than the
younger or less experienced actors, I will watch a take or two, and then
suggest a couple of adjustments that I feel can elevate the scene or the
characters. With some characters, there's a certain level of
improvisation that I am fond of, yet with some other characters that are
more dialogue-driven and giving important information towards the story,
I'm more strict. I do not believe in teaching an actor how to act.
The performance will not feel kosher. The actor needs to
feel and understand the moment, and the naturalism of the actions and
speech will shine through. I also believe that whenever possible,
if an actor is drinking a Shirley Temple, then it better be a real
Shirley Temple. If they're snorting coke… hmm, then I'll
compromise a bit. I respect each actor's technique in terms of
what helps them achieve that performance. As an actor, I lean
towards a variation of the Stanislavski method, but each actor should
rely on what works best for them. I strongly feel any director
should at least have some acting school background. The Deena Levy
school of acting in NYC really helped round me out as a director, and
special thanks go out to my acting teacher Don Puglisi, who is a
marvelously delirious actor by the way.
Lastly, I realize I'm pretty strong at adapting to and resolving changes
or issues on the spot. On this particular film, an actor for a
very prominent role did not show up. I had to do a script re-write
on set and pull off a slightly different take on the story. It
worked out well and the actors on the set for that scene, Ben Curtis and
Matthew O'Connor, were true pros that helped me pull it off. It
also helps to have a strong director of photography (Dan Zimmer) who
gets things done with passion and cares for the movie as much as you do.
Hence at the end of the night, my goal is to help the movie get to that
next level without being overwhelming towards my cast and crew… and to
try to preserve that singular voice that I strive for in comedy.
who inspire you?
Kevin Smith, Larry David, comedian Dane
Cook, Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Affleck (for the way he turned his career
around). Need I clarify any further? Nope.
Your favourite movies?
American Psycho, Major League, Borat, Superbad, all
Tarantino-flicks, Waiting, Moneyball, Crank, most Statham-movies, and
TV shows such as Impractical Jokers, Breaking Bad,
Suits, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Prison
And yes, I'm forgetting about 64 others. I can watch a sports comedy
or sports drama over and over again each year by the way. Believe it
or not, I enjoy watching thrillers and dramas more than comedies though.
I think that's why I do comedies, because I want to make something that's
funny to me. Believe me, there are lots of good comedies out there,
but there's just that little something extra that I prefer, and I think
that's why I derive more pleasure out of making a comedy.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I'm not big on
horror movies, and Blair Witch Project is a movie I actually walked out on
within 10 minutes of watching (I didn't care for the gimmick for that home
video feel, they do have my respect though when it comes to marketing)…
I do like the Saw-
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
think whoever's still reading this is sick of me by now. But…
gotta show some love to Keith Collins for getting us noticed and the So
Real? Entertainment crew that made it happen. Dan Zimmer the DP
really helped me pull off the movie. Make-up artist Tatiana
Maldonado did a lovely job with the actors and is a great presence to have
around. Many thanks to Todd Rawiszer the 2nd cam operator, Sawrab
Karim the sound man, the grip Steve Armato, PA's Damaly Shepherd and
Christina Lio, co-writer Jay Boccio and my main right-hand man and
producer, Eric Vargas. Special thanks go out to Ozzie Manresa
who was gracious enough to let us use the OZbar in Cliffside Park, NJ, the
Screen Actor's Guild, the village of Ridgefield Park, and our sponsors
including Monica and Phillip Biondella, Raul Razon, James Fox, Countryside
Chimney of NJ and Oliver & Brick fashion line. Lastly, thanks to
my loving family and girls for being there for me!
for the interview!
Thanks and hope I see you at the screenings!