Downtown Goes “UpCrown”

David Sepulveda PhotoA brash Hula Hanks sign, the relic of a closed business, disrupts the facade’s symmetry at 216 Crown St.—incongruent with not only the building’s formal structure, but also the forward-thinking plans underway at the location known as LoRicco Towers.

It is there that writer and director Stephen Dest is developing a film and video production studio called UpCrown Studios, part of a suite of three, second-floor studios at UpCrown Entertainment Group. Also included is the recently opened UpCrown Gallery (now showing photographs of artist/author Anthony Riccio), to be followed by a music rehearsal and recording studio in the next phase of development.

The new multi-media venture founded by company president Anthony LoRicco abuts Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.  LoRicco said his company is already in talks with high school personnel about ways to interface with school programs.  Dest, who is a guest artist-instructor at Betsy Ross Performing Arts and Neighborhood Music School, said he has trained a number of Coop High students and alumni over the years through various theatrical programs in the city.

A native of New Haven, Dest has been an actor and director of stage and screen for more than 20 years and has worked with many significant actors and directors including Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Steve Martin, Christine Ebersole, and Brian Murray. Dest is perhaps best known for his extensive resume of stage achievements, whose work has been seen in major theater venues from coast to coast.

In 2008, Dest’s short film, “Blind,” was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently sold to Movieola, a Canadian film channel. But it is Dest’s new film project, “My Brother Jack” (working title) that has New Haven’s arts community buzzing.  Dest has been developing the project for ten years and will begin production on the New Haven-based, full-length feature film this winter.  A murder mystery, the film is a fictional account of two brothers who take disparate paths in dealing with the aftermath of their parent’s deaths after witnessing their murders. The killer’s own death on the day of his release from prison deepens the mystery, but it is the relationship between the two brothers that is at the core of the project.

Dest said that writing about parental loss was, in many ways, a means for coming to terms with his own sense of parental loss; a result of his father’s premature death at age 40, when he was a 13 year-old. It was a theme he also explored in the Cannes Film Festival short film, “Blind.” Jack and Vincent, protagonists in “My Brother Jack,” evolved from a composite of Dest’s own family relationships; he is one of four brothers (and a sister), the director said.

Of late, Dest has been busily meeting with supporters, city officials, and industry insiders as he navigates the complexities of establishing a home for locally produced film projects, as well bringing his own film project to fruition. Barbara Lamb, New Haven’s director of cultural affairs, said that her department, which is responsible for coordinating logistics when a big film comes to town, has been following Dest’s career and the department ”takes great interest in those trying to develop artistically—especially when they can help put the city’s name out there; we are proud of Mr. Dest’s achievements.”

“My Brother Jack,” according to Dest, will be the first full-length feature film to come out of the UpCrown Studio., a fundraising website for film projects, is presently receiving donations on behalf of the film project.  The monies will help defray the hard dollar costs of pre-production if the fund-raising goals are met before Oct. 29.  Meanwhile, Dest continues the hard work of raising awareness of the film while also working to attract a talented cast and crew.  He is committed to seeing that New Haven not only serves as the backdrop for the film, but that the project itself is a product of New Haven talent and teamwork.

When completed, Dest’s projects will complement initiatives undertaken by Connecticut’s legislature in 2007 to boost the state’s movie/media infrastructure through tax credits. While the industry remains underserved, Dest said he expects that his studio and the City of New Haven will become a significant resource for growing the number of digital and film projects in the region. At a recent fundraising event, the energetic director explained the role that New Haven will play in his projects and underscored the potential benefit to the city: “I want this [film] experience to do for New Haven what Woody Allen did for Manhattan.” Stay tuned.

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posted by: Dodge N. Bullits on October 25, 2010  11:52am

Did he just compare New Haven to Manhattan???

posted by: Bjorn on October 25, 2010  1:19pm

I’m blown away by the many interesting lives, careers, connections, upstarts, creative projects, etc, etc that is germinating in this fair city.

posted by: stephen on October 25, 2010  1:30pm

Great Article! Everyone involved with this film project is very excited to be working in New Haven. Thank you for all your support.

posted by: stephen on October 25, 2010  1:43pm

Everyone involved with this project is very excited to be filming it in New Haven. Thank you!

posted by: Heidi Beutler on October 25, 2010  2:54pm

Another great article- and another opportunity to read about the cultural enrichment and opportunities that are taking place in New Haven.

posted by: Adrienne on October 25, 2010  5:24pm

It’s encouraging to know that Dest is not only opening a film/video production studio and creating a film situated in New Haven, but that he has established the studio adjacent to the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. This opportune location, coupled with Dest’s desire to work with high school students, provides an excellent venue for striving students studying the theatrical arts.  All the best to Stephen Dest and his future endeavors in the New Haven area.

posted by: Barbara Abrams on October 25, 2010  7:32pm

Handsome picture, superb article!

posted by: Amy on October 25, 2010  9:30pm

I’m a supporter of this film on Kickstarter and appreciate the article!

posted by: DW on October 25, 2010  10:47pm

It is wonderful articles like this that remind us of all the talent and creative forces happening right here.  Thanks for keeping us informed and inspried.

posted by: P.J. on October 26, 2010  2:51pm

To Dodge: no- he did not just compare New Haven to Manhattan. Dest is hoping his contribution to New Haven will be as beneficial as Allen’s was to Manhattan.Pay attention to what is written!!
I,for one, am very excited about this project and the positive impact it will have on the students at Co-op as well as the entire community. Great article and photo!

posted by: rosie on October 26, 2010  4:41pm

This seems like a project worth supporting.I urge you to follow my lead and make a small donation today.  We need more investments in the creative endeavors in New Haven. I applaud Dest for following his vision.

posted by: Geo on October 26, 2010  8:46pm

Having taken classes with Dest and experiencing what he does on a much smaller level, it excites me to know that there are opportunities for his passion and skill to be experienced on a much larger scale!

posted by: TJ Jackson on October 26, 2010  9:31pm

Keep up the great work Mr.Dest, I see nothing but success for this project, can’t wait to see the turnout of it.

posted by: on October 27, 2010  3:50pm



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posted by: Stephen on October 28, 2010  10:12am

Thank you for all your support. We are all very excited about establishing a professional production company here in New Haven. Regarding the fundraising campaign (kickstarter) we have just 48 hours to reach our goal! Once again thank you for all the kind words.

posted by: David on October 29, 2010  9:02am

Great article David!  Thank you for helping us get the word out about the project and our plans for the future.  We appreciate all the support and enthusiasm it has helped us to generate.  We have just fourteen hours left to reach our fund raising goal on Kickstarter. If anyone would like to support the project please visit

And thank you for helping us to spread the word.

posted by: pat lopiano on November 2, 2010  4:15am

A merger of excellence! by Dest for the studio concept and Sepulveda for bringing it to light.
With all of the local/Yale theatrical talent it’s a wonder something like this isn’t currently tenured in New Haven already.  This venture is long overdue and has success written all over it.