Mill Basin Filmmaker Shoots Latest Movie On Local Streets
Twenty-one year old Iengo, who lives in Mill Basin, got his start in film in high school as part of the television program at Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School. He previously attended Public School 312 on Avenue T in Bergen Beach. He credits his teacher, Yoevan Hanratty, with inspiring him and his peers as she brought her experience in broadcasting into the classroom.
In his junior year, the arrival of a new principal and subsequent changes inspired Iengo and his friends to create a short satirical film called, "The Interrogation." The film, which Hanratty submitted for a competition, subsequently earned an Emmy Award for technical achievement.
Since high school, Iengo has continued to make award-winning films. In 2007, "Blood Oath," which he produced, directed and wrote, was an official selection of The New York International Film and Video Festival. The film earned Iengo awards for best director of a short film and best short film.
Iengo said he draws inspiration from both his family's Italian roots and local connections. "Blood Oath" draws from stories about his grandfather's time as a captain with the Bonanno crime family, which he heard about from his grandmother.
"The organized crime element of the mafia is in my family," Iengo said. "These stories were very true for me."
Stories and films of that genre, such as those by Martin Scorsese, encouraged Iengo to make an organized crime film of his own.
"I want to do something true. I want to do something that's not about New York City, something about Brooklyn," said Iengo as he described his mindset for "Blood Oath."
Iengo was also motivated by what he learned from shooting his short films and felt ready to make a feature length film. For "Partners" Iengo drew inspiration from his family's connection to law enforcement. His brother Michael is a U.S. Customs agent and brother Christopher is a New York State corrections officer, as well as one of the stars of "Blood Oath." The script for "Partners" was written in one of Iengo's script writing classes and intended to be a 1940's cop drama. After his professor encouraged him to take another look at it, Iengo changed the story to present day and decided to approach the organized crime story from another angle.
Iengo faced the problem of raising funds to shoot the film. Originally he planned to shoot a short trailer and try to raise money with that. However, once he started filming, Iengo found he did not want to pause the filming to shop around for support.
"When we initially cast for it and then started to shoot it, I just fell madly in love with the story," said Iengo. He went to the cast and crew and asked if they would stay on board to film. "I sat the actors down and said I think we should just all make this into a feature film and I think we should just all see this through." Iengo said that, "Not a single person wasn't onboard."
Iengo and his team decided to take out a loan to help with production. They have also received assistance from such organizations as Made In New York, started by Mayor Bloomberg to encourage filming in the city by helping films secure loans, rent equipment and get filming permits, in addition to a combination of tax and marketing credits.
"Partners" has received small donations from individuals. More important than the money, said Iengo, is donation of props. One example was the donation of a white Pontiac Firebird, which Iengo is using as the detectives car. It is these details that Iengo believes will separate "Partners" from other films.
"We wanted an extremely authentic N.Y.P.D. cop drama," said Iengo. "We are not Hollywood trying to distort truth to entertain. We believe truth can be as entertaining."
With this goal of authenticity in mind Iengo enlisted the help of a Sergeant from 1 Police Plaza, Michel Spizo and a ten-year veteran of the navy seals Ben Smith, to help make tactical maneuvers and police raids as realistic as possible.
Iengo, referring to famous Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, said, "Good movies have messages."
"Partners" has many messages said Iengo, mainly, " the brotherhood that officers get with each other, beyond friendship. The trust that's what we're trying to show in 'Partners'."
Iengo said, that the film should be completed by the beginning of next year and will debut at the 2009 New York International Film Festival. He also hopes to raise enough funds to rent out a theater and screen "Partners" himself.
His advice to budding young filmmakers, is make the film of your dreams. "Don't make a film because you think it is too big, you can always bring creative elements that are unique to you as a filmmaker," said Iengo. He also encourages people to find out about film festivals that might accept their work.
Finally, Iengo cautioned that filmmaking is not a business for the weak hearted.
"You will take a lot of abuse," he said. "Hollywood is not nice, but it's showbiz."