Director John J. Budion’s film about his experiences growing up in East Rockaway has continued to create a buzz and has generated plenty of early success.
“Rockaway” debuted at the Flickers’ Rhode Island Film Festival in August and won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film. It then made its West Coast premiere at the Catalina Film Festival in California in September, where it was selected as Best U.S. Feature Film. Last Saturday, it won the award for Most Impactful Narrative Film at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.
“It was amazing to be on the studio lot there with a feature film,” Budion said. “It was very humbling and I had to take a step back.”
The event was an honorary ceremony for the Hollywood Film Festival, and “Rockaway” will be screened there sometime in 2018. Budion said he believes the movie will be shown as part of the event’s winter showcase in January, but he was not positive as of press time. He added that “Rockaway” was one of 6,000 to 7,000 submissions from around the world, and was one of about 60 or 70 chosen to be screened at the festival.
“Rockaway” is a coming-of-age film written and directed by Budion based on his experiences growing up and forming friendships in East Rockaway in the summer of 1994. In it, characters based on John and his brother, Anthony, spend time with their best friends Brian, Sal, Billy and Dom, and devise a plan to take revenge on the Budions’ abusive father.
The film features a cast of star-studded young actors, including Keidrich Sellati, of FX’s “The Americans,” who plays Anthony; James DiGiacomo (Dom), who has appeared in the sitcom “Kevin Can Wait” on CBS; and Long Island native Tanner Flood (Brian), of Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
Budion said the bond between the actors, himself and everyone involved in the film has gone beyond the screen. He added that they have enjoyed the buzz that has been surrounding it since its debut.
“It’s humbling because it’s a story about my brother and I and our friends, which seems like a very small story,” Budion said, “but I guess it has a lot of staying power and resonation power with all viewers of different ages and different walks of life seem to connect with it.”
Budion said that he is still actively looking for distributors for the film and hopes to be able to secure a theatrical release for it in the summer of 2018. He added that he is also anxious to debut it in New York, and believes that the Tribeca Film Festival in the spring would be the perfect place, but he is waiting to hear whether or not is has been accepted.
“We’re sort of the little engine that could, because we don’t have a distributor, a sales agent or representation,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of lifelong friends who came together to make this film and all the amazing, talented people that came on board to work with it just fell in love with the story.”