2003-03-26 / Front Page
Aberdeen man turns dream into reality
By josh davidson
ABERDEEN — Matawan Regional High School graduate Robbie Bryan’s "art imitating life" independent film is now being sold in stores around the country.
The actor/writer/producer’s independent film, The Stand-In, some of which was filmed at the Aberdeen home he grew up in, was released to stores including Borders, Best Buy, Musicland and Amazon.com on Feb. 25.
The movie’s cast includes Kelly Ripa, of Live With Regis and Kelly; Dan Grimaldi, of The Sopranos; Jaid Barrymore of The Last Days of Disco; and Lou Myers of The Wedding Planner.
"We had a nice little cast for the amount of money that we spent making that film," Bryan said.
Bryan recruited Ripa through a past acquaintance.
The two were on an American Bandstand-type television show growing up, he said.
Ripa received the best actress award at the 1999 New York International Film and Video Festival for her role.
Bryan took the nod for best director at the festival.
The semi-autobiographical movie is about a cynical former Negro-league baseball player (Myers) who meets Brian Roberts (Bryan), a young man looking to become an actor.
It shows the actor’s experiences trying to achieve his dreams.
"It’s basically a story of why people go after their dreams and why they’re taken away," Bryan said.
Autobiographical aspects include the fact that Bryan attended Rider University, Lawrenceville, with the intentions of becoming a lawyer, but changed his mind to become an actor shortly before graduating, he said.
"You will see that in the movie," he said.
The idea to make a movie came in 1996.
Bryan was a stand-in for television and movie star Michael J. Fox when he and a friend, Daniel Margotta, were struggling as actors, Bryan said.
They decided to take a shot at furthering their acting careers.
Margotta’s friend inspired them to take a chance through his own independent film.
"To know somebody who pulled it off made it seem more real," Bryan said.
Bryan took on the task of raising money for the film.
He and his wife put up $160,000 using credits cards, he said.
His father pulled money from his retirement fund and his in-laws took out a second mortgage on their house, he said.
"To have $300 in your bank account and raise $400,000 is a minor miracle," he said.
Bryan wrote the screenplay for the movie a year later.
The Stand-In was shot in Aberdeen and Parsippany in 1999.
"Then we did the festival circuit for a few years," he said.
The movie’s scenes portraying the filmmaker’s father’s house were shot at the Aberdeen house Bryan grew up and lived in for 30 years on Inglewood Lane.
"It’s kind of cool that we shot there, and I even got to use my dad as an extra in a couple of scenes," Bryan said.
Bryan wanted to film at Matawan Regional High School, but despite support from most of the district, one board member turned the request down, he said.
The member wanted him to pay the school for its use, he said.
High school students from the school would have been used as film extras, he said.
Most of the movie was shot in Parsippany and at Montclair State University, Upper Montclair.
The movie’s original distributor was ineffective, Bryan said.
A friend who was in DVD sales for Metro Goldwyn Mayer Inc. (MGM) found him a new distributor, IndieDVD Inc.
Bryan had to pay the original distributor $15,000 to retain rights to his movie, he said.
To make back money spent, he will have to promote the film.
"Now, you wait and see how the movie’s going to do," he said.
He used a small advance received from IndieDVD to pay some of the money received by investors.
"The great thing is that [the movie] is in stores, and we beat the odds," Bryan said.
Many low-budget independent films do not go anywhere, he said.