Published in Pawtucket Times, September 20, 2013
In 1999, little did Anthony Ambrosino and Nick Delmenico, working in retail stores at a shopping plaza in Coventry on Tiogue Ave., know at the time that their budding friendship would later propel them into the movie business, even putting them on the red carpet at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.
At that time, the twenty-two year old Ambrosino was just “messing around with a camera with friends,” he recalled, it wasn’t really a hobby nor a career. But, four years later, in 2003, Ambrosino, got tired of making comedy movie sketches,” this just pushed him into asking his younger friend, Nick Delmenico, age 19, to co-write a script.
“I dragged Nick in, keeping him from going into the corporate world where he might make a decent living,” quipped Ambrosino. After many rewrites, in 2005, the two novice filmmakers would finish their first script, beginning their filming of Sleather, a 92 minute “comedic adventure, about friends, family and fame.” In 2010, the independent film, costing under $100,000 to make, mostly self-financed by Ambrosino and a few investors, was completed and premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival were it received the Audience Choice Award for the most popular film.
Before filming Sleather, the young Rhode Island film makers created a production company, Sleather Studios, later changing their moniker to The 989 Project four years later when they took on a business partner. “You really need a production company to make movies to attract actors to the auditions, noted Ambrosino. “Are you are going to respond to an audition called by Anthony and Nick, probably not,” he said. “We just wanted to be taken more seriously.” Now, the company is referred to as Ambrosino/Delmenico.
Being in “the business” for over a decade, now seasoned, Ambrosino and Delmenico have become key players in the Rhode Island film scene. In 2005, they co-founded the Rhode Island Film Collaborative, where Ambrosino, 36, serves as the group’s Vice President and Delmenico, 30, its Secretary on the Board of Directors. The Pawtucket-based nonprofit film group fosters the growth and education of the local independent film community.
Ambrosino has worn many hats on the movie set, that being Producer, Director, and advocate for film and television production in Rhode Island. The West Warwick, resident, has worked on numerous productions throughout the New England region and has produced five independent feature films which have garnered several awards, including Best Film at Monaco International Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Ambrosino is a 2011 graduate of Leadership Rhode Island, a Producer and Programmer for the Pawtucket Film Festival, and currently sits on the Executive Board of the Pawtucket Arts Festival as the Marketing Chair.
Meanwhile, Delmenico is a Producer and Line Producer from Coventry, Rhode Island. Most recently he has completed four feature films, as well as several short films, which have won awards such as Best Film at the South African International Film Festival and a Spirit Award at the Boston International Film Festival.
Both are active in the Pawtucket film scene, being producers of the Pawtucket Film Festival, now in its 14th year. The three-day Pawtucket Film Festival celebrates the artists behind the films it shows.
Hot off the Press
With Ambrosino, serving as Producer, Delmenico co-produced Almost Human, which premiered in the 38th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Midnight Madness program. The TIFF took place in Toronto, Ontario, between Sept. 5-15, 2013. A total of 366 films from 70 different countries were screened at this prestigious international film festival including 145 world premieres that included the film from the Rhode Island film makers.
The TIFF programmers are very selective on what films get chosen, says Delmenico, noting that thousands may even be rejected.
Founded in 1976, TIFF is considered to be one of the most prestigious public events held for screening of independent films in the world. According to Wikipedia, in 1998, Variety magazine called TIFF “second only to Cannes in terms of high-profile pics, stars and market activity.” The website free encyclopedia also noted that in 2007, Time noted that TIFF had “grown from its place as the most influential fall film festival to the most influential film festival, period.”
Some of the most notable and publicly acclaimed films that have been premiered at TIFF include Chariots of Fire, The Big Chill, Silver Linings Playbook, The King’s Speech and Argo.
Now Ambrosino and Delmenico have reached a new level in film making. The New York-based IFC Midnight announced on Wednesday that it had acquired the North American rights for their film, Almost Human, following its TIFF premiere. “We are thrilled about Independent Film Channel (IFC) Midnight picking up the rights to their movie. It’s huge to get our name on a film that will be distributed throughout the country,” said Delmenico, noting that only a very small percentage of films get distribution deals.
Ambrosino said, “Getting acquired by IFC Midnight [owned by AMC Network] is crazy for a small film like this but it is a testament to Joe [Begos] and the rest of our cast and crew, he is a unique talent and the movie was a ton of fun to make.”
“We are so happy for Anthony and Nick as they had a dream to make movies and turned those dreams into actions. Throughout the years, I have witnessed them build their careers on various film and television production sets in Rhode Island. They gained experience, education, relationships, and together, have persevered to become wonderfully successful filmmakers with a phenomenal future ahead!, added Steven Feinberg, Executive Director, of the Rhode Island Film and TV Office.
Axe Murders and Alien Abduction
Written, produced and directed by former Coventry resident Joe Begos, Almost Human, which TIFF describes the 80 minute low-budget indie film as “… a raging inferno of axe murders and alien abduction…” and a ”… lean, mean, grisly indie horror flick,” was shot in February of 2012 with little fanfare and no big stars in front of or behind the camera. “I’ve always wanted my first film to be a gritty, dirty, low-budget splatter movie made with my friends just like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson did for their first features, and it feels amazing that it actually happened and that people are responding to it,” said director Joe Begos.
The plot of Almost Human is quite simple. On a very quit night on the outskirts of a small town in Maine, Seth (played by Graham Skipper) witnesses his best friend Mark (Josh Ethier) suddenly disappear in a brilliant flash of blue light. Two years later, Seth still faces the fallout from this unexplainable event, with many of the locals blaming him for his friend’s disappearance. With the occurrence of a number of grisly murders taking place in throughout the small rural community Seth comes to believe that Mark has returned. Teaming up with Jen, Mark’s ex-girlfriend (Vanessa Leigh), he seeks to determine if their friend is responsible – or is it something they can not understand (possibly the result of an alien abduction).
About shooting in his home state, Begos added, “I love the feeling New England adds, I grew up loving Stephen King and in his stories the setting of Maine is like its own character, and I wanted to elicit that same feeling with Rhode Island.”
“Ninety nine percent of the scenes in Almost Human was shot throughout the Ocean State, says Delmenico, specifically in Coventry, Cranston, Little Compton, and East and West Greenwich. Rhode Islanders are well represented in front of the camera as well. Many of the film’s stars are from New England with the majority being from here.
A final note…
Mark your calendars. The three-day Pawtucket Film Festival runs on Thursday (Night) September 26th, Friday (Night) September 27th, Saturday (Day and Night) September 28th, and Sunday (Day and Night) September 29th. Pawtucket’s celebration of film offers music, movies, and more at every event.
Patrons are provided with a unique festival T-Shirt, courtesy of Pawtucket-based Mirror Image Inc., an array of food from local sponsors such as Iggy’s Bread, and beverages, which regularly includes beer donations from Sam Adams. Music, Food, Drinks, Short Films, Features, and an official T-Shirt ALL for the price $10 (per scheduled time). For a schedule, go to http://www.thepff.com/#!aboutus/c2414.
Finally, for more details on Almost Human, go to http://tiff.net/filmsandschedules/festival/2013/almosthuman.
Herb Weiss LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care, and medical issues, even the arts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.