I love the 90s, UFOs, and rom-coms. The independent film UFO Club speaks directly to me, and I had the absolute pleasure of reading the original script and getting to see this movie go from the page to the screen. The flick’s writer & director Steven Tsapelas chatted with My Hollywood Dream to share more details on making the movie and how you can see it.
UFO Club was produced through the Long Island-based production company In the Garage Productions, run by husband and wife Ken Frank and Shawna Brandle; it was also made possible by film producer David Rheingold, who regularly champions independent film projects that he believes in. We have an incredible cast of younger actors, including Spencer Gonzalez as the lead William, Eloise Gordon as Alex, Paolo Kossi in the role of Johnny and Josiah Schneider as Chris. Our editor was the amazing Vaj Potenza.
Oh, and I wrote and directed it!
In the year 1998, a nerdy high schooler named William has to strike up a friendship with an intimidating classmate named Alex because he believes she has a videotape that will not only prove the existence of aliens, but will also exonerate his recently incarcerated mentor, UFOlogist Dr. Peter Greenport (Jerry Colpitts). It’s a movie very much informed by my high school experience, combining my then love of The X-Files, with elements of some of my favorite time-appropriate teen rom-coms, like She’s All That and Can’t Hardly Wait. It’s a pure throwback, with a lot of heart, and a fun sci-fi element.
The film is set in a fictional town on Long Island, and was filmed in some really iconic Long Island locations: including All-American Burger in Massapequa, the Malverne Cinema, and my very own high school in Bethpage. However, we filmed most of the movie in Connecticut, in and around my home.
We filmed UFO Club in the summer of 2021; for many of us, this was our first time back on set after quarantine and it was great to get together and make something. Truly, it was a communal experience. It is set in the year 1998, the year before I graduated high school, and there was something comforting about the nostalgia of “living” in that time period. In filming UFO Club, we really tried to evoke a sense of the late 90s: however, we made not sure to exaggerate that time period, instead trying to play it as real and mundane as the 90s actually felt to those that lived in it. Mostly, this was done through the removal of modern tech, along with the addition of some classic tech: cordless home phones, old tube TVs, and we even found a functioning payphone for one scene.
In high school, I was in an actual UFO Club in my high school. A guest speaker came to the class and raffled off a video of a purported UFO crash on Long Island; however, the raffle was won by a girl who drew her own name. My nerdy group of male friends knew we’d never see this tape, because a girl would never invite us over their house. I always thought that was an amusing idea: in order for us to see the tape, we’d have to get outside of our comfort zone and TALK to a girl.
This concept was in the back of my head when I met Ken Frank at the Long Island International Film Expo in 2019. He wrote and directed Family Obligations, which won Best Feature that year. We got to talking and found we had a lot of similarities. He had such a great experience making a movie that he convinced me I should do it, too.
Actually, one of the biggest reasons I wanted to make it is because I wanted to involve my family: my wife Ana, our kids Stella and Linus. I used to produce short films and web content with my friends when we were in our 20s, but had been so busy with my day job and raising kids, that I stepped away from it for a while. The opportunity to show kids that you CAN create something, from start to finish, was a major factor in my wanting to do this. And Stella & Linus were very involved. They act in the movie, helped create some props, and were just involved from the beginning to the end. We’re talking about making another movie now (Bigfoot Club) and, once again, the main reason I want to make it is to get them involved.
We’ve had a very successful festival run: winning Best Feature at Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival; Best Comedy Feature and Best Writer at the Chain NYC Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Long Island International Film Expo. Because of that, we were picked up for distribution through My Spotlight Independent, a division of My Production Limited, and are now available on a few platforms: Amazon Prime, Tubi and My Spotlight Independent’s own streaming service. There will be more platforms throughout the year, and we’re excited that more people will be able to watch UFO Club!