By Rob Potter
SOUTH FALLSBURG July 20, 2001 What happens when a group of high school friends compete for a scholarship by performing countless hours of community service?
How will they overcome their own fear of failure and prevent their archenemy from winning the scholarship money through his usual underhanded methods?
Questions like those will be answered on Saturday, August 4 at Kutshers Country Club during the premiere of the movie Community Service.
Community Service, subtitled Based on a Pointless Story, is a comedy that features a local cast and was shot entirely in Sullivan County.
The movie was written, edited and directed by Benny Fine, who is the president of Ravenstake Pictures. Fine is a Fallsburg native who now lives in Orlando, Florida and works for the Disney Corporation. His younger brother, Rafi Fine, a recent graduate of Fallsburg Central School, was the photography director for many of the Community Service scenes and is one of the films lead actors. (Rafi and Bennys sister, Dorah, is also in the movie, as is their father, Yehudah. The trios mother, Ellie, made the title cards for the films credits.)
After casting several friends from Fallsburg and Liberty central schools, the Fine brothers filmed the majority of the movie on weekends during the month of February. Shooting locales included just about every actors home and areas around town.
We shot from about 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Rafi Fine said. Those were long days. Wed be ragging on each other, saying things like, Get your line right and Dont laugh.
Its clear that, despite the countless, rigorous hours of work preparing for and actually filming Community Service, the cast and crew actually had a great time doing so.
When asked about his favorite part of the movie, recent Fallsburg graduate Eric Clark, 18, laughed and answered, The dumpster scene.
In the movie, Clarks character, Eric Morris, is rejected by a girl and then hides in a dumpster.
When we were filming that scene, a lot of people were walking by, looking at us, Clark said. They were like, What are you doing?
Like most of the cast members, 17-year-old Jonathan Crowley had some acting experience in school plays and productions.
I enjoyed it, Crowley, who will be a senior at Liberty Central School this fall, said. I get a little nervous with the audience there, but with this, only the camera is there.
Judging from the three-minute preview tape of Community Service that the cast has shared with friends and family, Crowley and his fellow cast members hid any jitters they might have had very well. The preview contains some of the films funnier moments and a sampling of the music from the films soundtrack. (Benny Fine contacted a dozen relatively unknown bands and asked them to play on the Community Service soundtrack.)
The film follows the exploits of five friends played by Rafi Fine, Clark, Matt Friedman, Elon Weiss and Alan Knack as they make a pact to win a contest that rewards the high school student who performs the most hours of community service with a scholarship and spending money. They are guided in this endeavor by their all-knowing mentor Cancredi, played by Fallsburg Central School teacher and varsity baseball coach Brett Cancredi.
This is a very, very, very independent film, said Rafi Fine, adding that he and Benny shot Community Service with a Sony Digital 8 camera and a budget that would barely be a blip on the radar screen when compared to the multi-million-dollar movies Hollywood studios release each summer. Who knows what will happen? I would like to make another movie with Benny.
(Community Service is the first movie the brothers have made with live actors. Previously, they filmed a trilogy of shorter movies with GI Joe figures as the actors and their own voices as the dialogue.)
Rafi noted that one influence for making the movie was independent film director Kevin Smith. Rafi, Clark and Crowley all said they have enjoyed Smiths films, which include Clerks, Mall Rats and Chasing Amy.
Along with the aforementioned actors, the cast of Community Service includes Fallsburg students or recent graduates Satya Stainton, Darren Kenney, Brendan Woodard, Zachariah Baker, Stephanie Sutton, Ilya Kutar, Jayme Kaplan, Lionel White, John Hinton, Beth Woodard and Sara Scheinman.
Actors and actresses from Liberty include Augusta Brown, Alexandra Lavinio, James Dennis and Oliver Olsen.
Other cast members include Madhava Hansen, Andrew Schrier, Maria Poulos, Kacie Ter Bush and Michelle Trubuhovich. (Poulos and Ter Bush are both Tri-Valley students.)
While there is no violence or nudity in Community Service, Rafi Fine noted that the movie does contain profanity. He would therefore give it an R-rating.
And because the majority of the cast is teenagers, the film naturally includes humorous dialogue directed at a teen audience. However, Rafi Fine noted that Community Service is not a carbon copy of recent teen-oriented comedies such as American Pie and Scary Movie.
There is more wit to it than that, he said. A lot of the teachers who saw the preview loved it.
Although Benny Fine has entered Community Service in film festivals in Colorado and Florida, the official premiere is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, August 4 at Kutshers in Monticello. There is no set admission fee, but donations will be accepted. Audience members will also have a chance to purchase copies of the Community Service CD soundtrack.