BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Several Rockland County legal professionals led by attorney Larry Weissmann have traded the courtroom for the TV studio and the results will surprise and amuse you.
Debuting on Saturday, May 20 at the Hoboken Film Festival in Greenwood Lake, NY, “Puppets” tells the story of a puppet husband and wife who star on TV and live in a world where humans and puppets co-exist as equals. Mr. and Mrs. Puppet face down a relationship crisis that threatens to break them up and potentially harm their careers.
While the puppet protagonists seem content to end their love affair, their puppeteers, a married human couple who describes their love only in the most glowing of terms, realize such a split could spell doom for the puppet couple’s TV career as well as all those riding the gravy train along with them. The puppeteers take action and bring the puppet couple along begrudgingly for a series of hilarious sessions of relationship therapy and other urgent interventions.
Mr. TV star puppet has an egocentric personality disorder that could rival a 1980s brat packer on a cocaine binge. Indeed, his extreme case of “legend in his own mind” syndrome, causes the puppet to make a fool of himself much to the delight of viewers. His ill-tempered theatrics are consistently amusing and off-the-wall, while his wife does a good job hamming it up as the somewhat innocent victim in the failing marriage. She’s not completely innocent herself, however, having admitted to a steamy extramarital affair with Sesame Street’s the Cookie Monster.
The pilot takes on a cerebral tone at times as a peculiar marriage therapist analyses his puppets clients, displaying a twisted command of Freudian psychology. The show also features plenty of dirty jokes that hit the mark, many of which might not be so funny if they were being thrown around by mere humans. A potty-mouthed puppet on the other hand, is a naturally hilarious thing.
The 2o-minute feature, promoted as a pilot for a potential TV series, is primarily the brainchild of first-time screenwriter Weissmann, an attorney based in New City, who has long been keen to dream of a career a little more on the creative side than pouring over troves of legal briefs on a daily basis. Weissman recruited fellow Rockland County attorneys Scott Ugell, who is also a judge in the Town of Clarkstown, Carol Barbash and Kim Sophia to get involved in the project.
Ugell and Sophia have small roles in the film, as does comic legend Jackie Martling (The Howard Stern Show). Other actors include Martin Kove, Julie McCullough, Buddy Fitzpatrick and Margaret Reed.
The zany plot was conceived spontaneously by Weissmann after he purchased a puppet and imagined the personalities it could express. Weissmann wrote most of the script in one night and later accepted contributions from Del Vecchio and others. However, when he wrote the script, he only imagined making a small movie that he would show to friends.
Instead, Weissmann found an instant fan of his script in Del Vecchio, a fellow lawyer, and founder of the Hoboken Film Festival, by far the Hudson Valley’s largest annual film industry party and award contest. Del Vecchio recruited rising star Dylan Bank (Get Me Roger Stone) to direct the pilot, while the maestro served as the main producer himself. Weissman, Ugell and Barbash are listed as co-producers of the pilot.
Weissmann is excited about the potential for more opportunities to explore his creative side.
“A few years ago I produced a couple things, but nothing I actually wrote. When I wrote ‘Puppets’ I did not know it would become a big project. Once we show it at the Hoboken Film Festival, we’ll take it to other festivals,” Weissmann said. “I am excited to see audience’s reaction. I am proud of the work.”
If you get a chance to see Weissmann’s “Puppets” pilot or a future episode of the concept, one this is for certain, you will react!
Weissmann said without Del Vecchio his idea would may have never gone further than his living room. “Without him it doesn’t get done.”
Del Vecchio not only helps launch film careers and entertains audience, his name might be familiar to Rockland County residents for other reasons. The film maestro is also an author and an attorney.
In recent months Del Vecchio has led the legal effort to remove Mayor of Spring Valley Demeza Delhomme from office over several alleged severe infractions. That case was originally spearheaded by the late Tony Gerard, a close friend and former law partner of Weissmann. It is currently awaiting the decision of an arbitrator appointed by the New York State Court of Appeals.
What can you say about Del Vecchio, other than he is a modern-day Renaissance man, incidentally the name of another pilot at the festival, this one co-starring Del Vecchio and Dylan Bank, who also served as director.
Weissmann said, “He has been running the film festival in Orange County for the past four years. Producing 31 films is tremendous.”
Since moving the film festival to the Hudson Valley region partly due to the costs of damage from Hurricane Sandy, Del Vecchio has made a point to produce most of his films in this area. His efforts have brought work to actors and film industry activity to local communities.
In fact, Del Vecchio briefly courted Rockland County as a possible destination for his big festival, which was hosted by Middletown from 2014-2016. Though he chose scenic Greenwood Lake just over the border in Orange County as the host site for his festival, Del Vecchio insists he will do a big project in Rockland County in the future. That choice would fit the trends as Rockland has seem an increasing film industry presence develop over the past decade or so.
Del Vecchio’s Hoboken Film Festival attracts considerable celebrity star power. This year, Hollywood legend Armand Assante received the fesitval’s Lifetime Achievement Award, while comedian Gilbert Gottfried emcees the closing gala and award show Thursday night, May 25.
Check back soon for more stories on the festival, as well as a list of award-winners.