In late July, Rockville Centre filmmaker Kenneth Frank was ready to start shooting his latest film, “My Sister’s Wedding” in the village.
The film shoot, to take place at a house on Morris Avenue, had already been pushed back from May due to Covid-19. The crew and actors were set to start early this month, when they faced yet another coronavirus setback.
Now, Frank says the film shoot has been delayed to spring 2021.
“At the very last minute, the health and safety requirements changed,” Frank said. “We didn't have the time or budget to get the [Covid-19] tests we needed. It made sense to wait until next spring to shoot because it will be a little simpler.”
Frank’s independent film studio, In the Garage Productions, received “Best Feature Film” at Long Island International Film Festival last year for “Family Obligations,” which was shot at various locations in Rockville Centre and the South Shore, including Golden Fortune, Unk’s Landromat and the Long Beach Boardwalk.
The studio’s first feature film was “The Mix,” and it is currently sending out “Sofa King” to film festivals, which are delayed at the moment. It has also released several short films, including one in American Sign Language called “Too Much Noise.”
Frank runs In the Garage with his wife, Shawna Brandle, the executive producer of the new film, and Chris Mollica, who served as a producer and lead actor in “Family Obligations.”
“My Sister’s Wedding” takes place all in one day at a family’s childhood home as they marry off one of three daughters. It follows one of the sisters as she tries to navigate the family dynamics and break free of their drama, and ends in the wedding.
Frank and Brandle live in Rockville Centre with their two daughters, Eleanor and Peppa, so they were happy to secure the filming location right in the village. “My Sister’s Wedding” takes place on a summer day, so they decided to wait until spring 2021 for the shoot, when warm weather returns.
Originally, the filmmakers had planned to have about 30 to 40 extras to play guests in the wedding for the film, but they cut them when they realized they’d be shooting in a pandemic. Frank had amended the script to reflect a “Zoom wedding.” Now that the film is delayed, he is unsure which version of the script he’ll use come spring 2021.
Since the film has employed actors from Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), In the Garage needed to abide by their guidelines, including coronavirus-related health and safety measures. These rules were often changing, and in late July, SAG announced that all actors and crew members on set needed daily coronavirus tests. Unfortunately, Frank said, this was not within their means.
“It's disappointing because we all put in a lot of work and time into it,” he said. “But the number one thing is keeping people safe, this way we’re not worrying about those resources and health. We don't want to rush this kind of thing, so it was definitely the right move to be cautious and put it off.”
Frank noted that the smaller film studios may have a tougher time bouncing back after the pandemic, and there are still many unknowns in regards to funding and time constraints, leaving independent filmmakers to prioritize their energies depending on the situation. For example, they may have to hire a health and safety officer when they return to set, which would be an additional cost.
“We’re learning as this goes,” he said. “And figuring out the best ways to make movies within the new circumstances.”