Interview with Fred Sayeg

Fred Sayeg is the director of the new independent film “The Encore of Tony Duran”. The film is Fred’s feature film directorial debut and was an official selection at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival. “The Encore of Tony Duran” stars Elliot Gould, Cody Kasch and Gene Pietragallo. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Fred about working on his first film and what is to come upcoming.

Mike Gencarelli: With the film “The Encore of Tony Duran” being your feature directorial debut, do you feel that you were able to add your unique experience and talent to the film?
Fred Sayeg: Yeah absolutely.  In fact that was the only reason I did it because I knew we had very little money and time.  I felt that I could do it, if I could do it my way…the way I envisioned it and without any outside interference.  Not from any ego standpoint, I just knew you do not have a lot of time to bicker and things can’t go all the way to jury with a little movie like this. I felt from the very beginning I knew that I could get it done well.  I was able to rely on myself for the decisions and I do not have any regrets. I feel very fortunate now [laughs], I wish I could make every movie I do like this.

MG: How did you originally become attached to the project?
FS: A guy I work with on my corporate films, Mitchell Cohen, wrote it based on an idea by our co-producer Terry Fraser. It was a semi-biographical piece about Gene Pietragallo, who we call Tony Duran. I would say that about 40-50% of it is true.  So when he told me about it and what they were trying to do and how they had a director but he fell out, the wheels started turning in my head.  I thought it was doable because the way it was designed.  I went over the script with Mitchell and reworked some stuff. I thought we can actually make this happen.  I felt so strongly that I said I would even help raise the funds and I did in a short time.  It sort of went rapid fire from that point on.  It felt like only a few short weeks from when I started to when it was finished.

MG: The film was shot in just 8 days, was that a grueling schedule?
FS: It was about 9 days [laughs], not that big of a difference. There was a day when I almost did 19 pages in one day.  It was a lot and I wouldn’t recommended it but it was simply this is what we had to do.  You can’t fall in love with a lot of scenes that you would like to cover a few times.  We had to say this is what it is and if we have it covered, then we would move on.  I trust my DP a lot that he got the shots.  We knew that later we might have some problems but mainly we got what we needed.  I needed to make sure we got continuity and luckily we did not run into problems.  There were a couple of things I wish I had more time for but I am sure that happens with everything.  We were lucky to finish in the time we did.

MG: How was it working with such a great cast such as Elliot Gould and William Katt?
FS: Elliot is such a professional.  He walks in the set and everyone stands a little straighter.  He has been around and he knows it all and heard it all.  He knows his lines and he is a professional and he expects everyone else to know their stuff. I had people with a lot of experience and I had people with little experience.  You can’t do a film in this amount of time with people who do not know what they are doing.  You can get the greatest director and crew in the world and it doesn’t really matter.  They guys did such a great job and they are the main reason that we got it done.  It was a great little ensemble we had.

MG: How do you feel about the buzz surrounding “The Encore of Tony Duran”?
FS: Yeah, it is very fun.  You look at each other on set and you don’t really know what you have. We all knew in our hearts that we have this little film with this big message. I think that might be the reason Mike that this resonates. We are in a time when America has some economic problems, everyone has a little Tony Duran in them.  They know somebody that has hit the bottom and thinks they cant get any lower and find maybe they can get out of this.  This is a redemption film but it is a real world redemption film that people can relate to. Tony is not a big ball player, he is just a guy.  He hits bottom and loses everything and thinks it is over.  His old friend Elliot says maybe says “You know what it is really not” and sometimes that is all it takes.

MG: You also started your own production company, tell us about that?
FS: One More Time Productions was formed just for this movie.  Then I also formed Mister Moon Media and will do other films like this under that with similar messages like in this film.

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