TVSO INTERVIEW: Thomas Baldinger, head of 624 Productions, talks us through his upcoming comedy Who’s Jenna…?
Scripted and directed by the shingle head himself, the film focuses on Jonathan Burke (Bill Sorvino), a successful financial advisor, as he starts dating Jenna Casey (Tracey Birdsall), an accomplished lawyer. Jonathan's best friend, Andy Roma (Joseph D’Onofrio) is convinced she looks exactly like a famous adult film star.
The official trailer was released last week for the Fall 2016 release.
TVSO: How does one become a director? Did you study film-making?
BALDINGER: Great question. I was a stage actor my whole life and I went to Wagner College for Musical Theater but I always had a true passion for film. In fact when I was at Wagner we had a black box studio where the theatrical department produced anything outside of musicals. I did most of my work in college there b/c I felt like that was the closest I could get to film in a musical theater program. After college I wrote, directed and produced a few plays off-off Broadway. And in 2011 when I was touring a play in the local theaters in New Jersey I ran into my Director of Photography, Jeff Sesselberg, who had previous experience with film. Jeff also had a Rolodex of “diamonds in the rough” crew members. So with my script and his resources we set out to make our first short film called Two Sides of Love which now has over 7,000 views on Amazon Prime. One of the main cast members of that film, Ronnie Marmo (General Hospital), was a great teacher to me when making that short film as well. Between his guidance from the actors stand point and Jeff teaching me all the technical pieces….it was sort of baptism by fire. One thing I did tell myself was that I surround myself with the right people. I was very lucky with the people I had on that first project. I made sure we did the same thing with “Who’s Jenna…?”
TVSO: And is it film-making that you do full time?
BALDINGER: My wife reminds me that I have three full time jobs. I work 9-5 in the financial industry, then 5 to midnight as a Producer/Director/Writer and then 24/7 a Father/Husband.
TVSO: Where did the idea of Who’s Jenna...? originate?
BALDINGER: It originated from a story that a family member of mine who works for a well-known financial news organization brought to me. The story was quite serious….and I don’t like to write things that are too serious. But I thought it would make a great backbone to a comedy. I originally wrote Who’s Jenna…? as a short film but then after holding a reading in front of a select audience I felt like there was more to what was on paper. I think the first draft of the feature took me about 4 months.
TVSO: Is it similar in tone to other adult entertainment industry movies like Boogie Nights or The Girl Next Door? How might you describe it?
BALDINGER: It definitely has a Boogie Nights feel to it at times. It also has that “Old School” or even “Animal House” kind of feel too. It’s a wacky rom-com. What starts out like a simple love story is hijacked by some fun and wacky characters. But there is a message in the film. And that message is about not judging people too quickly before you really get to know them.
TVSO: Did you meet any adult entertainment stars when researching or putting together the film?
BALDINGER: Amber Lynn is making a cameo in the film and talking to her was quite helpful. I wanted to make sure what I was doing was outside the lines. When I told Amber the plot of the film I remember her liking it a lot and I believe that’s when she signed up for the cameo. Learn anything interesting? Is anyone in the film actually playing a famous porn star or are they merely inspired by some? Mike Tota is playing a fictitious porn star and I think we both were able to draw from some 70/80’s porn stars. Without giving anything away all I can say is that we had a lot of fun with that character!
TVSO: Has the type of comedies we make changed, you think?
BALDINGER: Wow. That’s a tough question. I am making my feature debut as a writer/director so I don’t know if I have the right to say that comedies being made today have changed. I do know that you can never make a film like Blazing Saddles again. That is one of my all-time favorites! I’m a big fan of classics like Caddyshack, Animal House, History of the World Part 1…heck even The Blues Brothers is a great comedy. So I guess you can say that those types of comedies inspired me more than some of the comedies that are being made today. Not say they aren’t good movies…just not my type. I just want people to come to our film, sit back, laugh and forget the outside world for a bit. At least that’s what happens to me when I watch some of those classic films.