Shooting Brooklyn: Indy Filmmakers Ready Debut of Mob Web Series

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We support the independent authors, writers, artists, designers, filmmakers, etc., who create the stories and images that move us. Today, the Internet's DIY emphasis has stimulated the growth of new storytelling formats including ebooks, YouTube videos and podcasts, in addition to the traditional mainstays of stage, screen and T.V.

And despite all the critics and industry prognosticators ever seeking to raise the bar as high as possible, at any given time a self published ebook or podcast or whatever may debut, gain traction and rocket to success, or become an underground classic or even a masterpiece. 

You'll notice that the independent film the following  story details may gain distribution at one of the many film festivals -- but even if it doesn't, the filmmakers can still distribute the finished property. Emboldened by this artistic sentiment, contributor Nick Christophers, aka "Nicky Packs," (though I still call him Nicky Vegas) offers the following...
--Ed Scarpo

By Nick Christophers

Yes, another mob film project is in the works.

But this one is going to be a standout, according to the filmmakers behind it, who believe that what differentiates their offering, Brooklyn Ties, is the engaging tale it tells, which includes a major twist calculated to jolt viewers out of their chairs. Then there's another twist: it's not a film per se: It is a web series, meaning the story will unfold as 25-minute-long episodes that play on your computer or mobile device.

Now being filmed in New York, Brooklyn Ties centers on the Mafia's "young Turks," the up-and-coming younger generation. Rather than defer to their "betters," meaning the mob's old-timers, the young guys in Brooklyn Ties' world decide it's their turn.  (If this reminds you of Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, you're on to something.)

This is the first project for the two men behind Brooklyn Ties. Queens natives Steve Denett and Sean King are self-proclaimed "mob movie buffs" who analyzed a variety of mob films, from the all-time Mafia classic of all classics, The Godfather to The Departed, a Martin Scorsese-branded remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film titled Infernal Affairs that also included a fictionalized version of James "Whitey" Bulger.

Currently in post-production, Brooklyn Ties, the filmmakers say, is gaining interest within New York's independent entertainment industry thanks to buzz that resulted from a certain rumor centered on an upcoming promotion of the web-based series.

Independent-budgeted projects require filmmakers willing to push the creative envelope in unique ways. Great filmmakers are even inspired by funding constraints. To compensate for budgetary production values they can unearth more richly creative ideas.

It's a long, iconic story exemplified in films such as Paranormal Activity, to use another genre. That micro-budgeted horror film was seeded with dark hints of demonic possession among other horrors, most of which were left to the viewers' imagination. By tossing in the "found-footage" concept, the film's tiny production team was heaped with critical praise and reaped the benefits of record-breaking box office numbers. The film even was expanded into a franchise.

That, of course is a rarity in the Mafia film genre, which for years has been beset by a stream of forgettable indy films, though a small number of superior works sometimes resonate with viewers and go on to become underground classics.

(ED's NOTE: Some decent new(ish) mob flicks, from my personal shortlist are 2008's Under New Management, penned by  Denis Hamill and starring Chris Diamantopoulos and Kelly Overton, it tragically slid right under the radar; then there's  James Gandolfini's last finished outing, 2014's highly underrated The Drop, which costarred Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. It is one of the "most accurate" films about life on the street, John Alite once told me. Nevertheless, The Drop is simply a fantastic film in every way.)

Brooklyn Ties' filmmakers are under no illusions as to the obstacles in their path -- and they say that they have put enough into it to make it a standout mob show. For one thing, they crafted a story with an edgy "rawness" that they say will stimulate interest and drive word-of-mouth traffic.

Steve is from Queens Village and Sean is from Ozone Park, what many term "Gotti" territory.

"I saw a guy get beat right in the middle of the street. It was just a normal thing in my neighborhood."

Raffaele Santorelli plays a savvy old-school mob boss -- a modern-day version of The Godfather's Don Corleone. Named Dominick Valente, the boss initially is enjoying the power and privilege he's accrued; he's living his version of the American Dream. Then he brushes up against a Skinny Joey Merlino-inspired wiseguy named Sal Marino (played by Seth Nicoletti), who puffs his chest out and acts as if he's ready to take control of what is rightfully his.

Brooklyn Ties is an action infused drama following young Italian American men living the life as soldiers in the mafia. In their journey, they will try to conform to this particular lifestyle in hopes that the opportunity may present itself to capture and run the streets of Brooklyn.

Yes, these two are the film's main characters -- and though they are seemingly locked in a mortal feud, there's context that knocks everything for a loop -- these two deadly rivals belong to the same blood family -- they are cousins.

Sal has a love interest named Valentina (played by Sybelle Silverphoenix). Their relationship has the requisite ups and downs to conjure up the old roller coaster metaphor. Production commenced this past April -- and season one is due to appear on (YouTube screens near you) in May 2017. The promo is slated to hit in November.

Sybelle Silverphoenix

Sean began working on the project in 2006. It was only until a good 10 years had passed before he felt comfortable and ready to bring aboard a partner, Steve Denett.

The two studied mob films, as well as the extras added to the DVD versions. They watched and rewatched YouTube videos brimming with filmmaking tips from the maestros, such as Scorsese.

The series was and is still being shot all over Brooklyn; already in the can is footage that has captured scenes unfolding against such noteworthy gangland backdrops as Bushwick, Coney Island, Bensonhurst and Williamsburg.

"Brooklyn has the best streets and architecture around. The series is like Goodfellas but in the modern time,” said Steve.

The plan is to hit as many film festivals as possible. Distribution through online outlets such as iTunes also is on the agenda.

Brooklyn Ties is made by artisans whose love of the mob film genre graces every piece of footage and every spoken line of dialogue. With such major and durable passion informing every component of Brooklyn Ties, viewers should keep a sharp eye out -- and prepare to be wooed...