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In the Garage Productions, the Long Island-based production company founded by Shawna Brandle and Ken Frank, is proud to announce that a production date has been set on their seventh feature, The Bigfoot Club, to be written and directed by Steven Tsapelas. 

Filming will begin in Summer 2024 in New York and Connecticut. In The Bigfoot Club, the world’s most famous bigfoot researcher reappears after a 20-year absence in order to reunite with her childhood friends and investigate a new clue in the search for the legendary cryptid. Kathryn Mayer (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) is set to star as the aforementioned Bigfoot researcher, Dorothy “Dot” March, while Samantha Sayah (My Sister’s Wedding) portrays her former best friend Willow who has now expanded her interest in monster hunting to a very successful podcast; and Olivia Hellman is Esme, a lifelong fan of Dorothy March. 

Rounding out The Bigfoot Club cast are Meghan Palmer as Breezy, Kevin Wolfring as Einstein, Paolo Kossi will portray a mysterious character, with unexpected ties to Dorothy March, and Jerry Colpitts (How I Spent My Summer Vacation). Colpitts is reprising the role of Dr. Peter Greenport from UFO Club, also written and directed by Tsapelas for In the Garage Productions. 

The film will be executive produced by David Rheingold, with Brandle, Frank and Ritchie Filippi serving as producers. The Bigfoot Club is expected to premiere in early to mid 2025. Learn more about In the Garage Productions at their official website.

UFO Club was written and directed by Steven Tsapelas and stars Spencer Gonzalez, Eloise Gordon, Paolo Kossi, Josiah Schneider, Jerry Colpitts, and Frank Failla. The movie is a rom-com set in the 90s that follows a “nerd who becomes friends with the most intimidating girl in school because he believes she has a video that could prove the existence of aliens.” You can watch for free on Tubi TV and you can learn more about the movie from our interview with the director.

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.

Who?

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!

What?

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.

Where?

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.

When?

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.

Why?

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.

How?

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!

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Yesterday I asked indie filmmakers on Twitter to share their movies that are currently available to watch on Tubi TV for free! As I hoped for, we got a really diverse mix of independent films that really showcases that there is something available for everyone. Here are 5 indie flicks that you can watch tonight…

The Inevitable Death of the Crab
Director: Ahcitz Azcona
Starring: Costanza Andrade, Ahcitz Azcona, Ricardo Niño, Jesus Hernandez, and Yuriria Munguia. 
Description: An anonymous death threat to entrepreneur Carlos against his family in Mexico leads to the discovery of a high-level political corruption racket. (Source: Tubi)
Click here to watch on Tubi TV

Wheat Soup
Directors: Gerald Saul & Brian Stockton
Starring: Shaf Hussein, Sandi Happy, Gord Wilson, Leonard Cyrman, Mike Benny, and Bob Campbell.

Description: In a post-apocalyptic future, a wheat farmer embarks upon a journey and encounters a variety of unusual characters, while traveling across the land.
 (Source: Tubi)
Click here to watch on Tubi TV

Noah’s Shark
Director: Mark Polonia
Starring: Jeff Kirkendall, Tim Hatch, Jamie Morgan, Samantha Coolidge, and Ryan Dalton.
Description: A televangelist and his team set out to find the fabled Noah’s Ark, but discover it is guarded by an ancient curse and a deadly great white shark. (Source: Tubi)
Click here to watch on Tubi TV

The Mix
Director: Chris Mollica & Greg Townsend
Starring: Chris Mollica, Brian Silliman, and Cyrina Fiallo.
Description: Would you kidnap a man for stealing your cookies? Sal, the hapless owner of a home grown cookie company places his hopes for financial and personal success in the hands of the enigmatic Joshua Vandersteem. After the deal goes bad, Sal is forced into desperate action. Relationships are tested, feelings are hurt and ultimately blood is drawn. Can Sal redeem his misdeeds or will this be the way the cookie crumbles? (Source: Tubi)
Click here to watch on Tubi TV

My Best Friend’s Famous
Directors: Kevin Ignatius
Starring: Nick Psinakis, Mindy Sterling, Ryan O’Neal, Anne Akhila, and Darryl Gudmundson.
Description: An insecure New Yorker moves to Los Angeles and grapples with jealousy when his less-talented best friend becomes a star on a hit television show. (Source: Tubi)
Click here to watch on Tubi TV

What recent indies have you watched on Tubi TV? What is your favorite platform to watch indies on?

Writer/director Steven Tsapelas, the creator of We Need Girlfriends, just wrapped production on his new independent feature film UFO Club. The movie is being made by In the Garage Productions and produced by Shawna Brandle, Michael Cannetti, and Kenneth R Frank, who is also the movie’s cinematographer, and executive produced by David Rheingold.

The rom com is set in the 90s, Tsapelas told us that it follows “a nerdy high school senior” who has to “strike up a friendship with an intimidating classmate because he believes she has a video that will prove the existence of aliens.” That nerdy high school senior William is portrayed by Spencer Gonzalez, while his intimidating classmate Alex is portrayed by Eloise Gordon. Rounding out the cast is Josiah Schneider as Chris, Paolo Kossi as Johnny, Emma Magnus as Vicki, Meghan Palmer as Jacquelyn DeNatale, and Frank Failla as the Fanny Pack Man.

The Official Plot Description: Nerdy high school senior WILLIAM discovers his hero, a local UFO hunter, has been arrested for a serious crime. Convinced of his innocence, William sets out to find a VHS tape of a ‘flying saucer crash’ that was raffled off during a meeting of his high school’s UFO Club. However, the tape went to a girl named ALEX, an intimidatingly confident Ska music fan. Worried that she might be a part of the conspiracy, William strikes up a friendship with her in order to find out if he can trust her. But, his search for “the truth” is complicated when he falls in love. A quirky romantic comedy set in 1998.

Check out these images from UFO Club and we will follow the progress as it gets closer to release!

Family Obligations is an independent film from In the Garage Productions and writer/director/cinematographer Kenneth R. Frank. The movie “tells the story of an isolated person who is finally drawn out of himself and into meaningful relationships for the first time in his life. It’s about the power and the pitfalls of involving yourself in other people’s lives.” You can check out our in-depth interview with Kenneth here and you can watch the movie online for free on Tubi TV.

Family Obligations stars Chris Mollica, Frank Failla, Chandler Rosenthal, Jerry Colpitts, Brian Silliman, and Eleanor Brandle-Frank. It was produced by Shawna Brandle, Brett Brandle, Kenneth R. Frank, and Chris Mollica.

We had the pleasure of meeting Kenneth R. Frank, the writer/director of Family Obligations, through one of our long time film contacts and I’m really happy we were able to connect. Kenneth has perfected not only the art of making indie films, but forging human connections through his films. He took us on a deep dive for his directorial debut Family Obligations, and his passion really shines through.

Who? 
Family Obligations is the second feature film from In the Garage Productions. I wrote the film, directed it, and shot it. My wife Shawna Brandle is our lead producer who handles budgeting, scheduling, paperwork, works as SAG liaison, and basically oversees all logistics for our projects. Her sister Brett Brandle also serves as a producer and does a lot of the design work on the films. Chris Mollica plays the lead in the film Peter Steele and was one of the editors. Kevin Wolfring was my assistant director on set who doubled up as sound man most of the time, as well as being the other editor. Those are the key people in our company. Chris and I have been best friends since high school, and we ended up married to a pair of sisters. Kevin is a former student of mine from my teaching days, so it’s a very tight-knit group. The only way I could have launched a film like this and got it made at the budget we could handle is knowing that I had these people along for the ride with me.

Of course, even with this core filling the biggest roles, a film still needs many more collaborators, and we were able to find so many great people to work with on this. In front of the camera, we cast Frank Failla to play Peter’s Uncle Frank, and he was perfect. Frank is a retired cop who I first saw doing stand-up comedy and learned he had been acting for a few years. He took to the role so quickly, and it was great to see him paired with Chris in these scenes. We saw our lead actress Chandler Rosenthal in a short film that Kevin had written and directed. She joined the cast to play Melanie, the single mother who lives in Frank’s apartment building that befriends Peter and starts a relationship with him. The rest of the cast is a mix of veteran actors in New York like Jerry Colpitts and Brian Silliman along with some new faces. My older daughter Eleanor plays Melanie’s daughter Mia, who has some fun scenes with Chris’s character. My younger daughter Peppa also appears in a small but important moment in the film. She was initially reluctant to be a part of this, but has since negotiated for more time on screen in future projects.

To fill out the crew, we were very fortunate to find our colorist Jan Klier before production began. I knew that getting someone very knowledgeable and experienced to produce the final image was critical. I had some very specific ideas on how I wanted to tell the story through color, but I also knew that I was shooting this myself and needed to work very quickly, so whoever handled this task would also be fixing a lot of my mistakes, so I needed to trust that Jan could deliver. Not only was he a great colorist, but he was so easy to work with that we ended up asking him to do our final sound mix and delivery of master files, as well. He’s going to be my director of photography on my next script that I’m directing, My Sister’s Wedding.

From start to finish, the theme of a successful film is finding collaborators you trust, and that’s also true in the distribution end of things. Family Obligations is available through MBUR Indie Films Distribution. We have dealt with a few distributors in our time, and MBUR has been the most communicative and transparent of any we’ve seen.

What?
The film tells the story of an isolated person who is finally drawn out of himself and into meaningful relationships for the first time in his life. It’s about the power and the pitfalls of involving yourself in other people’s lives. The main character Peter Steele, played by Chris Mollica, returns home to settle affairs after his father’s sudden death. Initially, he tries to push through everything as quickly as possible so he can get back to life as he knows it. He hits a snag when he discovers that his father was actually responsible for taking care of his own brother, Peter’s Uncle Frank.

Slowly, Peter realizes that taking care of Uncle Frank might be the second chance he didn’t have with his father. Frank, however, is a reluctant patient, and Peter finds him a challenge to relate to. Through Frank, Peter also meets Melanie and her young daughter Mia, who live in the same building. Melanie and Peter find some common ground, but Melanie seems to have wrapped her head around living with responsibilities for another person.

So the film is really about this man learning how to (& sometimes how not to) relate to people he cares about, not to see everything as transactional but as something that he actually allows himself to feel.

Where?
The film is set and filmed on Long Island, where my wife Shawna and I live with our family. In fact, much of it is in our hometown, even in our apartment building. We shot in the Chinese restaurant we order from. We shot in an office building across the street from the school where I taught for thirteen years. We shot in a laundromat around the corner from our home.

We made our first feature film The Mix out in Los Angeles, and that was a great experience working with an amazing cast and crew located out there, but we really wanted this to be a product of where we lived. I wanted to show the places I knew. I wanted to work with people around here. Incidentally, people were so kind to us in making this. It really felt like the community embraced us and helped in ways great and small. Some locations gave us a break on their rate or didn’t charge us at all.

People were generous with their time and knowledge. It was a great experience getting to make this out of our home.

When?
We shot the film at the end of 2018, played festivals throughout 2019, and released the film through MBUR in 2020.

The film is set in present day, but we did some conscious things to give the film a little “age,” if that makes any sense. First, we shot on a digital sensor the size of Super 16mm film, and our color grade emphasized those qualities with lots of grain and a general warming of the colors. Secondly, the settings for most scenes are older brick buildings with sort of outdated decor and design choices that hopefully evoke what would have been this character’s childhood. He has come back home to where he grew up, and I wanted it to feel like the places hadn’t changed since he left. There’s a throwaway joke about him having this antiquated cell phone in an early scene, and I think that a lot of this character is frozen in time when he probably should have been evolving out of this lonely state.

You’re also alone with these characters in this film. There are no real cultural references or intrusions from outside their lives. To me, that was very important. You, as an audience, needed to be inside the world of these kinds of lonely people whose lives go on, day by day, largely unaffected by pop culture moments around them. So, in a way, I hope that as the film ages, it would become harder to pin it to any specific time but you would instead just feel a mood of these characters’ world.

Why?
This film was a very personal expression for me. I’m someone who has always thought about and written about family in as many different forms and expressions as I could find. I think the fundamental question I’m always asking myself is how to situate my individual identity in the context of the people around me. Then, building off that, what are my responsibilities to that group of people and what are my responsibilities to myself? Hence the title, Family Obligations.

Ironically, when I’d get up on a stage for Q & A’s after screenings, almost every moderator would ask me if the events of the film were based on personal experience, and they’re not. After seeing the film, most people have assumed that I had a similar relationship with my father or uncle, and I haven’t. But the film’s story is a synthesis of a lot of things I’ve seen and thought about for many years: the misunderstandings across generations, how we take care of the sick and the dying, how we make peace with other people’s limitations, how we forgive others, how we forgive ourselves (hopefully). So I developed this story out of a desire to explore those questions I had.

What I hope is universal for people watching is the feeling of being pulled out of your own experience and into someone else’s life on terms you don’t get to dictate. At some point, I think we’re all called to serve some role in another person’s life that we don’t get to control. Whether that’s taking care of someone when they’re sick, dealing with a loss, helping someone through unforeseen difficulties of their own, or something else entirely, at some point we acknowledge that we don’t control all aspects of our lives. So what do we do then? What kind of people are we then?

How?
Family Obligations is available on Blu-Ray disc at many sellers online. It streams free on Tubi TV and Plex, and it is also available for rent or purchase at AltaVOD and Amazon. The movie just became available on HooplaDigital.

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