(35mm color, 18 mins.)
An anti-romantic comedy written and directed by Jonathan Spottiswoode and Sam Serafy, THE GENTLEMAN played the 2000 Slamdance and BBC Short Film Festivals before being picked up by the Independent Film Channel. The film played on IFC several dozen times over the next three years.
Starring Jon Tindle and Carol Monda.
A Creative Differences Production, 2000.
A Greek woman's dinner party in Washington DC becomes a mini United Nations as national differences become apparent amongst the dinner guests. When a jilted Englishman arrives and the conversation turns to romance, it's The Empire Strikes Back all over again.
INSPIRATIONSam Serafy and Jonathan Spottiswoode decided to make The Gentleman after attending a dinner party in Washington, DC... Sam had recently had his first film, Watch With Mother, included in Cineblast's video collection of the best international shorts. Jonathan had just won $1,000 worth of film from Kodak as a prize for his student music video work. They were both looking for inspiration for their next projects. However, they didn't expect the material to fall (almost literally) into their laps.
The Gentleman is loosely based on the events of one spring evening in the nation's capital.
Less than a week after the fateful night, Sam and Jonathan met for their weekly poker game. While explaining to their buddies what happened they began to sense the narrative possibilities of the story. After sending draft scripts back and forth, they finally decided to take the dangerous step of total collaboration: to co-produce and co-direct a short film.
They quickly decided to cast JON TINDLE as Jonathan's character... It was an easy choice: Tindle, one of DC's most respected young actors (now living in New York), has English parents and is even physically fairly similar to Spottiswoode. The harder choice was for Tindle himself who had been asked to star in several never-to-be-made local films. Naively, he committed to the project.
Casting the other characters was more difficult. Serafy and Spottiswoode held a long and depressing day of auditions. Using an old photo of the singer, Maria Callas, in one of her more self-consciously seductive poses, they tried to coax a number of actresses to become the Evelyn character. But to no avail: the script seemed flat. At the very end of the day, CAROL MONDA arrived. By rote at this point, the directors showed Carol the Callas photo. A few seconds later the actress had transformed herself into some bizarre synthesis of the original Evelyn character and a Greek opera singer. For the first time all day, the directors actually laughed at their script.
Some fine actors also auditioned for the part of Phedon. Finally, Sam and Jonathan took a gamble by casting NICK GALIFIANKAIS. A Greek-American and a non-actor, Nick had already agreed to be accent coach during production. Mostly out of curiosity, the directors asked him to read for the Phedon role. They discovered Nick was a natural.
The other actors cast: LUCY SYMONS, JEFF McCREDIE and DC icon (gay icon, black icon, one-man-show icon) MICHAEL SAINTE-ANDRESS.
It was soon clear that the only person capable of playing Sam's role was Sam Serafy himself.
Forming the partnership, Creative Differences, Sam and Jonathan embarked on several months of grueling pre-production... Raising money, negotiating a SAG agreement, securing locations, hiring crew, begging for free catering etc, they had bitten off far more than they could chew. GLENN GREENSTEIN soon came to the rescue, performing various miracles as line producer and working his proverbial **** off. He soon stirred up a whole underground network of volunteers: production assistants, grips etc. Glenn also introduced the directors to the Director of Photography, CHARLES VANDERPOOL. With Charles on board, other seasoned DC film professionals (sound recordist, JIM GILCHRIST and gaffer, ANDY SCHAEFFER) soon signed on. It was only a week before production when DEBORAH MARTIN (assistant director) and D COLLINS (script supervisor) joined the team. Deborah was soon horrified to discover that Sam and Jonathan had given hardly a thought to efficient cameras set-ups. Meanwhile, rehearsals had begun, a set was being constructed in Church Street Theater, and a committee was planning a fund-raising reading from the script on the set the night before the first day of shooting.
The Gentleman was shot over a two-week period... The first week was spent on a sound stage. During that time, Jon Tindle, the lead actor, was also performing in the evenings as a vicar's wife in Arnold Bennett's Talking Heads. (Tindle subsequently earned a Helen Hayes nomination for that performance.) The second week was spent on various locations: an underground parking lot, the line-producer's bathroom, downtown Washington DC, and most significantly Tunlaw Condominiums - the very location where the actual dinner party had taken place. The Board of the Condominiums had agreed to the filming on the condition that none of the residents complained about the noise. They had also consented to a flowerbed being planted in the circle of the main driveway. Sam and Jonathan had three nights to shoot scenes in the lobby, in one of the upstairs corridors, in the elevator, and in the driveway outside the front entrance.
Those last nights of shooting tested everyone's limits. Already exhausted by a grueling production schedule, no one had anticipated that it would snow in April. Furious arguments raged one evening, when almost everybody on the set became their own expert meteorologist. Should the night's shoot be canceled, or should the crew wait for the snow to stop? Eventually, the cast and crew played a waiting game, shooting quick takes between snow flurries. At the beginning of the last night, also bitterly cold, the directors learned that a resident in the condominiums had complained about the noise. Ominously, the Tunlaw Board was meeting at the condominium that night. How soon would the film production be ordered off the premises? Worse, the directors and the director of photography picked this moment to have a screaming match. It was such a horrifying spectacle that the sound recordist threatened to walk off the set.
A few hours later, in the freezing cold at 3 in the morning, the directors and director of photography swapped a few more insults. The sound recordist, already upset because his boom operator had decided not to show up, presented the directors with his sound reels and began to walk away. He could only be lured back with desperate promises of peace and harmony and a cup of warm soup. The final crisis came just before dawn as the crew raced to set up a car rig shot before daylight. Once the sun came up, it was all over. Except for post-production…
THE FIRST CUTWith the assistance of ROBERT VALETTE, Sam and Jonathan pieced together a 29 minute version of the film on a free AVID system provided by Montage Productions... This video version was shown on WETA and MPT (Washington and Maryland PBS affiliates) and included in DC's Rosebud Film Festival and, incongruously, in the DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Neither Sam nor Jonathan had the money or energy to cut the negative and make a film print.
THE FINAL CUTShortly afterwards, Jonathan moved to New York. With Sam's blessing Jonathan decided to re-edit the film... His motive was simply to have a punchier video version for his reel. He enlisted BRIAN DILG (renaissance man extraordinaire) as editor. They soon cut the film down to about 22 minutes. After showing it to some filmmakers in New York, Jonathan began to wonder if it was time to make a film print. He was soon convinced after talking to "Matthew Harrison":http://www.filmcrash.com, acclaimed director of Rhythm Thief (Sundance Jury Award Winner) and Kicked In The Head. Matthew gave this advice: Cut the negative, blow the super 16mm negative up to a 35mm print in Dolby Surround Sound, and then watch the film get projected. As far as Matthew was concerned it didn't matter if all domestic and international festivals rejected the film. The point was to finish the film properly, to treat oneself like a filmmaker, to assume there would be a future project and to get familiar with the feeling of completing a film.
Jonathan and Brian decided to edit the film one more time before cutting the negative. The most recent cut had included a Frank Sinatra song, but Jonathan was soon informed that he couldn't get the rights to it even for limited exhibition. So, in addition to tightening the story, he still had to make some significant musical choices. The final 18 minute cut includes some of the original score composed by PETER FOX, Miles Davis' performance of "All Blues" (with permission of Sony Columbia) and also parts of Mikis Theodorakis' score for Zorba The Greek (with the permission of 20th Century Fox).
SCREENING HISTORYThe Gentleman was one of less than twenty short films picked from several thousand entries for inclusion in the 2000 "Slamdance Film Festival":http://www.slamdance.com ... Sam and Jonathan attended the premiere in Park City where the film opened for Good Housekeeping, that year's Festival winner of the best feature film award.
A few months later, Jonathan attended a screening of the film in Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival. "Je suis anglais, donc je me deteste," he said apologetically to the French audience. Sam later attended a screening in London at the Odeon Leicester Square during the BBC Short Film Festival.
The Gentleman was also subsequently screened at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. It has twice been screened in New York - at the Film Anthology Archives, and at the Pioneer Theatre as part of a Slamdance-On-The-Road weekend.
THE INDEPENDENT FILM CHANNELBy sheer good fortune, during the Spring of 2000 Jonathan met Alison Bailes, presenter of The Independent Film Channel's "Live At The Angelica." Alison suggested he send the film to Kelly DeVine, the Channel's acquisition guru.
Within a few months Jonathan was offered a contract to allow the film to be screened regularly on IFC over the next three years. One problem: it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to gain the TV broadcast rights to the Miles Davis and Mikis Thodorakis music. Sam suggested that Jon and Carol overdub their conversation in the film about Miles Davis and that Jonathan write a faut retro jazz piece.
The result: Spottiswoode and McMahon's "Giles Davis' Horn Blues" performed by Spottiswoode and His Enemies. (See the soundtrack page for further details.) The Gentleman was first screened on IFC (http://www.ifc.com) in November 2000 and has aired dozens of times since then. It has also screened on The Romance Channel...??!
HAPPY ENDINGSam and Jonathan are no longer in debt. Miraculously, their friendship has remained intact.