From producer/writer/actor Michael Knowles and Dragon Baby Productions comes a new film that blurs the lines of sexuality in a way that it apropos for our time. Old Friends/New Beginnings explores relationships and their boundaries. David and Julie are the average married couple on the outside, but underneath it all both are unfulfilled. David (Michael Knowles) finds that marrying into money made it easy to become complacent not only in his work as a writer, but in his role as husband. Julie (Kathleen Wise) is feeling unappreciated and undesired – leaving her doubting herself and wondering if her husband cares anymore. Their marriage has become stagnant.
Enter old friend, Marc (played by Jilon VanOver), a real charmer, and his new girlfriend, Catherine (Monique Zordan). After years apart, the trio are reunited. It soon becomes obvious that there was/is an unresolved romantic relationship between David and Marc, and also between Marc and Julie. Marc’s girlfriend, Catherine, is the uninhibited type and finds herself attracted to Julie. Julie, finding herself the object of desire, feels flattered and more than a little curious. This movie examines relationship boundaries, love, sexuality, and acceptance of who we are – by those we love, and ourselves.
Knowles, whose acting credits include Sex and the City, Guiding Light, One Life to Live, and Law and Order: SVU; and producing credits for Room 314, One Night, and The Trouble with Bliss, shares that Old Friends/New Beginnings was around ten years in the making.
“Let’s see. I actually started writing this script about 10 years ago. I banged out a first draft and then kept tinkering with it over the years. Sometimes not touching it for several years. The spark came from two things. At the time I was studying writing and acting with Tom Noonan in NYC. He always encouraged his writing students to write about what they are afraid of and at that time I was engaged to a young lady who had a lot of family money. Like, a lot ‘a lot’, and my biggest fear would be that I would lose my passion to work and create and live, much like David has in the beginning of the movie. In general, I have a fear of being lazy.”
He enjoys the writing and creative process for film possibly more than acting. “Yeah, my journey started as an actor. I do enjoy acting, but writing and directing kind of took over and I love both of them. They overlap, but are two very different processes. When I started producing it was just to get things done, but I realized early on that I had a knack for getting things done. I’m actually now a member of the producers guild and have several scripts that I am attached to as a producer that I had nothing to do with the writing.”
So how did Knowles go about casting the characters for OF/NB? “I chose Kathleen, Jilon and Monique from their auditions. I actually didn’t meet Kathleen in person until we were on set. Her audition was a video submission and her call back was via Skype. I also cast Monique before I met her in person. Her audition process was the same as Kathleen’s, but I was able to meet her on one of my location scouts to NYC, which is where Kathleen and Monique lived. I live in LA. Jilon lives in Los Angeles and submitted a tape and then he came in to do a call back.”
New York provided the picturesque background for the film beginning with a beautiful home in Bridgehampton. “The sailboat scene was in Sag Harbor, NY, and the beach, parking lot, and street scenes were shot in South Hampton. The cast and crew all lived in the house during the production. It was a great experience.”
In all, the movie was shot in 12 days on what Knowles cites as a “micro-budget”. “And I mean micro. This was the lowest budget film I’ve made to date. My wife and I funded it.”
Now completed and ready for distribution, OF/NB seeks to begin making the rounds at major film festivals. “We are waiting to hear from some festivals and I’m sure we will play a few soon, but my focus has always been on getting this out to as many people as possible as soon as possible with a big focus on making back the money we spent and a little more. In some ways this film is an experiment on a new business model I have, which is basically make a movie as cheap as possible, give everyone involved a little piece of the pie and get the film out to the audiences to start making money as soon as possible. I sent a screener over to a distributor, Gravitas Ventures, whom I’ve worked with on two of my previous films. They loved it and got on board. We’re planning for a fall release.”
Altruistic in his film ventures, Knowles says “I have come to realize that I want to make movies and tell stories about people learning to live and love more. Movies that bring people together not separate us. “
Indeed, the lives of the characters in Old Friends/New Beginnings are strengthened after the trials endured over the weekend, and for those simply enjoying then movie, are touched and maybe even validated.
This film was well done and pretty ballsy with the sexual tension and blurred lines of sexuality that seemed to break down walls that had built up over time in relationships gone stagnant and lifeless or left unfinished. It is definitely a movie whose time has come in a climate of activism focusing on societal and legal acceptance of love in all forms between consenting adults.
Keep up with screenings and release dates on Old Friends/New Beginnings on their Facebook page.