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Don't Mess With Frank

By Gary Wien

Frank lived alone. He had no job. No friends. No girlfriend. Then he met Charlie and everything changed... That's the premise behind Faces, a new film by Tom Ryan who grew up in Jersey City and shot nearly every scene of the film there. Ryan and the cast and crew celebrated the world premiere of Faces at the beautiful Loew's Jersey City theatre on October 10th.

"Frank's had a tough life," explained Ryan. "We don't know much about Frank's past, but we know that he's either spent time in prison or in a mental institution. He takes some medication and takes it frequently. He's having a tough go of it. He's out of work and socially awkward."

When the film begins, the audience is introduced to just what kind of a miserable existence Frank lives with every day. We see him go to a job interview and it's quite obvious he doesn't know how to interact with people.

The feature-length film (120 minutes) was originally inspired by a song from Ryan's heavy metal band, Vlad the Inhaler — one of the very first songs ever written by the band. The song didn't have much to do with Frank's character, but it served as the inspiration for the film's title and its concept. While Ryan is heavily involved in the local horror scene, he admits Faces is much more a thriller than horror flick.

Ryan says he first got into horror films as a kid, growing up in what he calls the Golden Age of Horror — the 1980s. Films like Halloween, The Fog, The Howling, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th were among his favorites.

"I've always loved horror movies," he says. "Always watched monster films on tv and really got into the bizarre side of horror — 70s flicks like The Omen or The Exorcist — stuff that was a little darker, a little more like psychedelic horror because of the really weird sound effects used in the films."

Like many filmmakers of his era, Ryan began by shooting VHS films using whatever props were on hand. He wanted to study media arts in college, but had to leave after two years due to rising tuition costs and entered the workforce. Just when it appeared his filmmaking dreams may be over, he learned about Dead Road, an internet series about the zombie apocalypse. He offered to help out with the special effects and wound up being cast as a character in the show.

"It changed what I anticipated could be done," said Ryan. "With technology, I don't need to be discovered. I can just do my thing and put it out there and show the audience what I can do. I don't need to spend $50,000 on a camera, I can get one for $300. It was a big transition in my thinking as to what I thought could and couldn't be done. That's when I went ahead and wrote my short film, Day 9."

Day 9 was Ryan's own take on what it would be like to find yourself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. The story involved Tom and his wife Melanie who were about to enjoy a long restful weekend with the kids dropped off at their grandparents. But the undead at their doorstep forced a change of plans.

"I really enjoy telling a story," said Ryan. "I enjoy seeing people engulfed in the characters as opposed to just seeing splatter effects from beginning to end. It's cool to see people's heads get crushed and arms cut off and all that, but I think some filmmakers forget about the importance of the story and characters. My target audience is a person who really digs stories. I want people to watch my films and say, ‘This is really a great film. What could these guys do with a major budget?'"

Faces is the definition of a low budget film. The entire cast and production team volunteered their efforts to make the movie. Ryan says his one wish is to be able to pay everyone. Not only does he believe they deserve it, but it would lead to a much smoother production schedule.

"When you're shooting an indie film, you're scheduling things," he explained. "Me, in particular, I go out of my way to accommodate everyone because I'm asking them to volunteer their time. With this film, we had a large cast. If we had the kind of budget that a major Hollywood film has I could pay everyone and they would have no problem fitting in the shooting schedule. But, unfortunately, when you're not doing that you have to work around everyone's convenience. I had people drive an hour to come to a shoot. It may not seem like much, but when you come to a shoot and you're on the set for 10 hours and then have to drive home an hour it's tough. Thankfully, we had a fantastic assortment of cast and crew members. They're the ones that really made the film as good as it could be. And we didn't even breach $1,000 on the budget." One individual who's efforts he likes to point out is his director of photography, Christian Santiago. "Chris worked tirelessly on this film. Not only capturing the visuals that made the film so effective but also handling the editing duties. Chris shared my vision of Frank's world and took it to another level. Both with his camera work and his cuts he did things with this film that make it very enjoyable to watch. Even in it's darkest moments."

Even though he's just shot a film in the thriller genre, horror is still very much in his blood. The support of the local horror scene makes him sure of that. He loves how fellow horror film makers all support one another in the area, cross promoting films and lending support at film festivals. He admires all of the people who love the horror genre so much that they volunteer their time and talents to the productions. And he loves their passion.

"I think the greatest thing about the local scene is that we've all found each other," he adds. "For many years, if you didn't run into somebody at a horror convention you wouldn't even know there was a scene going on. But from all over New Jersey, Pennsylvania to Maryland, these guys are everywhere. They love to see what you're doing and support what you do. It's a great little scene and it's got a lot of potential."

That show of support was truly on display during the movie's premiere on October 10. On the event's Facebook page, Ryan thanked the audience for making it a great night.

"After a year of hard work, last night was truly the reward that we only dreamed of," posted Ryan. "Even the staff at Loews was shocked at the turnout, the support and the quality crowd of awesome people that patronized the landmark theater. We asked for your support and you responded in droves. For that we are so incredibly grateful and humbled. Thank you, thank you, and thank you… You made us all feel like movie stars."

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UCPAC Presents Three Classic 80s Films on 35mm Film
 (RAHWAY, NJ) -- A series of three classic films is being presented on 35mm film at Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage theater. All viewings cost a $5 admission ticket that includes a 30 minute pre-show on the theater’s historic "Biggest Little Wurlitzer" organ and free popcorn along with the film screening. The films include The Breakfast Club (January 25), Pretty Woman (February 15), and The Karate Kid (March 8).
Hopewell Theater Hosts Special Valentine's Screening of "Casablanca" With Supper
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- Hopewell Theater will host a special “date night” celebration of Valentine’s Day with a screening of the classic romance film Casablanca paired with an optional Moroccan supper on Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14. An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood's quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Rahway Presents Pop-Up Screening of "Best of Rahway Reel Shorts"
(RAHWAY, NJ) -- In 2019, the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership will continue to expand the Culture Crawl Concept to include the Culture Crawl Film Series, with the first pop-up screening, “Best of Rahway Reel Shorts,” scheduled for Saturday, January 19th from 8:00pm-10:30pm at Atelier Rosal (74 E. Cherry St.) in downtown Rahway.
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.

REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"
Outside of cinephile circles, filmmaker Barry Jenkins is perhaps best known for his role in arguably the greatest debacle in the history of the Academy Awards. On February 26th, 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, only for it then to be revealed that Jenkins’ Moonlight was the actual winner.
New Jersey Film Festival: Spring 2019 - First 2 Weeks Preview
The New Jersey Film Festival - Spring 2019 takes place between January 25 and March 1, 2019 on the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the festival features over 35 film screenings. Here is a preview of the first two weeks of the festival. For the full schedule visit
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.

Event calendar
Saturday, Jan 19, 2019


ALABAMA @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Cimorelli @ iPlay America, Freehold - 6:00pm

TRAMPS LIKE US @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Jennifer Holliday @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Zhang & Upshaw: Earth & Heaven @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


ShowKids Invitational Theatre Presents Newsies @ Voorhees High School, Glen Gardner - 7:30pm

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm


THE CAPITOL STEPS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Woman of a Certain Age Comedy @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 8:00pm


Best of Rahway Reel Shorts @ Atelier Rosal, Rahway - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 2:00pm and 5:30pm

View all events

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