Even as “My Brother Jack,” an Independent movie filmed in New Haven, prepares for a run at this season’s upcoming film festivals, writer-director Stephen Dest is already thinking ahead to his next film.
Head of the drama department at New Haven’s Neighborhood Music School and a busy theatrical director for many regional productions, Dest recently received a New Haven Arts Council Award for “Artist of the Year.” He was unable to personally collect the award owing to his presence at the Bahamas International Film Festival, where his film made its world premiere and was an official selection in the “New Visions” category.
“Grace,” the working title of his next probable film project, will also be filmed in New Haven environs. Dest described “My Brother Jack” as a psychological thriller. Holding his hands as if framing a scene, he explained that the film’s focus is on its characters, with local scenery assuming an important, but subordinate role. The City will play a more pivotal role in his next film according to the director: “In GRACE I will look into the narrative of an overworked father with unresolved personal issues trying to raise a daughter on the brink of adulthood, submerged in the rich and complex architecture of this beautiful city… New Haven.”
Among those celebrating the movie’s screening in town will be local artists—painter Larry Morelli and sculptor Silas Finch, whose art works play an integral part in the film visually and symbolically. Some of the movie’s scenes were shot in Finch’s own studio. Another name that may be familiar to New Haven audiences is local legend and indy musician and composer Jonny Rodgers, who contributed music to Dest’s first short film, “Blind,” screened at the Cannes Film Festival several years ago. Dest said that Rodgers created around 90% of the music for the My Brother Jack Film soundtrack, a coup of sorts because of strong demand for Rodger’s work in the industry at present. Indy rocker Sidewalk Dave (David Van Witt), can also be heard on the film’s soundtrack along with other musical notables Dave Brook and the Streams and Pipebomb.
Those familiar with the HBO’s award winning series, Boardwalk Empire, will recognize My Brother Jack cast members Mark Borkowski (Larry), introduced last season, and Malcom Madera (Jack) who was “polished off” in last year’s season finale. Though lead cast member Jon Thorndike (Vincent) is not yet a household name, Dest said he sees many qualities in the actor that remind him of legendary actor James Dean, and was thrilled with the complexity he brought to the role. David MacNiven, one of the film’s producers and actors, had what Dest decribed as one of his favorite scenes, filmed at the local Stella Blues bar on Crown Street. Female actors include award-winning, New York actress Melissa Hampton (Renee), and Liv Chelsea (Alex) making her film debut.
“The strength of the film overall is embodied in the top performances delivered by the film’s actors—some of today’s emerging stars and tomorrow’s,” said Dest. Those following the movie’s progress are happy to see that the film has come full circle; back to where it was written and filmed, though for director Dest, the work of maximizing audience and selling the film has just begun. See the official trailer here.