Marc Baron: Artist and Shepherd

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IndiePictures got a moment to sit down with filmmaker, Marc Baron.

Mr. Baron’s latest endeavor – currently looking for financing – is MegaBall$. “When a computer geek, determined to prove he can predict winning lotto results, uncovers his plan has been bankrolled by the Mob, he struggles to beat the odds before his number’s up” reads the elevator story.

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Along with business partner Joe Cirillo, they formed the independent film company Oroloro Entertainment, which is currently developing/producing numerous screenplays written by Marc and Joe. Three of the many Oroloro projects include: “Love of a Lifetime” (a heavenly romantic comedy to die for), “Hot Properties” (based on a play with the same title written by Richard Wolf, and directed by Marc Baron in New York City), and the aforementioned “MegaBall$.”

Marc is the Shepherd (President) of The Lambs since 2013, America’s first professional theatrical club established in 1874, where he often sings, acts, and directs. He is also president of The Lambs Foundation, an entertainment-based charity founded in 1943. Marc has been serving on the NY Board of SAG/SAG-AFTRA for over 10 years.

His work include film, television, theater and musicals, cabaret, voice-over, directing and screen writing.

MegaBall$’ script is a favorite among screenplay competitions:

 

Time to fade out and pan to Marc, to tell his own story.

Mr. Baron, tell us about yourself as an artist.

As far as I can recall I have always had interest in music and theater. I remember singing in second grade and playing a lead in a play – a penguin, no less. By high school I was playing trombone, then tuba, made the district and state chorus. And in my senior years I was writing skits for the drama club, performing and directing. In college I was focused on theater with a minor in directing. I’m where I belong when being creative – directing, acting, singing or helping others do the same. I often find myself falling into leadership positions. I helped run my high school drama club. For a little more than 10 years now I have been serving on the board of SAG-AFTRA, been active on many of its committees and talking to young would-be actors about their careers.

Early in my career I was focused on musical theater. My mentor was Gene Kelly’s brother, Fred. Fred was a dancer, choreographer and director, and he taught Gene how to dance. I was married at that time, and my then-wife objected to me going on the road (I had two good offers to tour that would have been good for my career). So, I focused on work in town. I did some background work on a few films where I learned what a stand-in does. I preferred that over extra work and quickly began getting a lot of it. My directing training helped me understand what was needed on set, and I was always good at getting along with people. My short time in the Navy taught me how to respect the pecking order, take orders and be on time. What I did not realize, at first, was how the stand-in work was preparing me more for direction and writing than acting.

My mother would often joke that my artistic side was in my DNA. My grandfather was a sculptor from Vienna who knew Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. My grandmother was a concert pianist and distant cousin to Gustav Mahler. My mother was a dancer who schooled with Hedy Lamarr in Vienna. My mother was supposed to audition for “Ecstasy,” but my grandfather wouldn’t allow it. Hedy got the job. My mother’s cousin was Otto Waldis was a character actor who began his career in Fritz Langs “M.” I have been researching and writing on a book, titled “Brother in Stone,” about my grandfather, and in the process discovered and reunited with family in Europe though dead since 1939.

What I call my film master class was “Family Business,” a feature film starring Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery and Matthew Broderick. In addition, from having fun every day, I was getting acting tips from Dustin, talking music theater with Sean (yes!), and kidding around with Matthew. I was Matthew’s stand-in and double. Sidney Lumet was working on a book on directing and he often explain things to me. This truly was a master’s class! One day I was busy off in the corner, writing – we were shooting over the holidays. I began with…’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the set, not a creature was stirring not even Lumet. One day Matthew grabbed my poem, disappeared, then returned with Dustin. The two encouraged me to learn how to write and create my own work. Every day…for 5 weeks. I worked with Matthew again on “The Freshman.” He’s a nice guy and keeps in touch. In fact, about 3 years ago he did a fundraising luncheon for The Lambs Foundation.

Matthew Broderick

Marc with Matthew Broderick

Highly impressive. Now, you are Shepherd of the Lambs, tell us about The Lambs – something we couldn’t read in a press release.

While The Lambs holds an amazing 144+ year history as a social club for theater and entertainment, what really makes it work is the “family” of members. Throughout its history, the great accomplishments were driven by the connective tissue of the members and the need to help others. The Actors’ Fund was created by Lambs for that reason. Lerner and Loewe first met when Lerner ‘helped’ Loewe find the men’s room.  Today, while we meet over a shared bond of entertainment and art, the real bond is a community, or a family. We may not like everyone in a family, but we still find that bond. Maybe it’s the tribal nature of humans. Whatever it is, it’s working. After all, we’re 144 years old. The trick is getting others to be aware of and to be part of that community. By the way, it was Fred Kelly – and my acting/sing teacher Lewis Hardee – who brought me into The Lambs. Our Foundation was founded in 1943 and supports non-profit theater and education in the arts. Little did I know then I would eventually become the Shepherd (president) of The Lambs. http://www.The-Lambs.org

Dustin

Nose to nose with Dustin Hoffman

I had no idea! The wide range of people you must come in contact with must be fascinating. You’ve dealt with members of the arts industry from so many eras through your own travels and through your association with The Lambs. How as the industry changed over the years – from your point of view.

Life changes, and arts changes with it. It was not that long ago where artists physically met to discuss ideas….when the audience went to theater, or movie houses. Today we’re isolating ourselves. The very tools that should help us – the internet, social media, advance home electronics – are separating us and isolating us. We stay in our home theaters. While the internet and social media give artists an opportunity to promote and display our work has become counterproductive. It’s too easy to be distracted with social media. And, it’s depriving the artists from needed income. Electronic theft of music, songs, books, movies, is money out of the pocket of the creators – money needed to continue study, to pay rent, the pay for medical needs and prepare for retirement.

And it’s too often to find auditions/work in music, theater, writing, film, etc, offering “No pay, but good exposure.” Perhaps it is, but landlords expect rent to be paid. Are we headed to a society where only those from wealthy families can afford to be artists?  It’s a worrisome double-edge sword where opportunities to create increase while the chance to earn a living from those creations disappear. Artists have always needed to find sources of income, but it is becoming more difficult to get the benefits of our own work.

I have been fortunate to find a side-job related to the business, giving tours about the making of “The Sopranos,” where I did 13 episodes as a stand-in. I talk not just about the show but about the process of making it to clients from all over the world. The NY Times called it one of the best tours in NYC!

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As Shepherd of the Lambs, Marc walks with history. Here he is with Joyce Randolph, a TV pioneer and member of the cast of the Honeymooners.

It’s says something when the Times lauds your “side” job. Now let’s get down to details about your latest film project. 

Along with producing partner Joe Cirillo, we are developing a comedy feature film about computer geeks, the lottery and the Mob … called “MegaBall$.”  Joe was NYPD then, with the help of director Mike Nichols, retired and started an acting career. He struggled along with Danny Aiello, who keeps in touch. Joe’s first role was in “The Godfather.” At the same time Joe ran a private security company for celebrities and film sets. Together we formed Oroloro Entertainment LLC. (www.Oroloro.com)

We’ve been developing several projects we have written. One day, on my way to our daily meeting, I saw a sign about a big lottery payoff. Within a few subway stops I had the idea of a short film, made some notes, and later discussed it with Joe. I put my notes aside for future reference. The encouragement of Matthew and Dustin helped me stay focused on my story.

Sometime later, my mother took ill and I was commuting regularly from NY to FL. After numerous boring and somewhat depressing nights, I decided to start writing that short film to help raise my spirits. Hey, a comedy, right? Within a week I had 80 pages. Clearly not a short film. I showed the first draft of “MegaBall$” to Joe and he really liked it. The title comes from combining the two big lottery games, Megamillions and Powerball. I also did deep research on mathematical algorithms and lottery odds so there would be truth within the story.

I kept reviewing, tweaking, rewriting and improving the script. We decided we would focus on making “MegaBall$” our first production, hopefully to open doors to our other projects. We began to enter the screenplay in contests and festivals – ones that focused on comedy, which also offered feedback. Used those notes to refine. As of today, we have received 15 festival laurels often placing in the top-10.

We created a simple video teaser for just $100 to demonstrate our sense of humor. No crew. Just me, Joe and two volunteer actors who looked the roles. No sound. Filmed on an early DSLR at just 720p. Then I edited on a PC, cutting, adding all the sound, music, voiceover. It can be found on our website, MegaBallsMovie.com

Two years ago, we rebooted the project with the help of a new lawyer, Hal ‘Corky’ Kessler, who has been involved with more than 50 films. Then we attended the Toronto International Film Festival, just to meet, greet, and promote our official re-launch. The project was well received. We attended Sundance where we entered in a pitch contest with the Utah Film Commission. We placed 2nd (later told we tied for first). Based on feedback from people met at both festivals we adjusted on our budget from $2mil to $3mil so we can hire the level of actor that will sell the film.

We each reached back to industry contacts – Joe was an actor and film security specialist, and me from my 100’s of sets as a stand-in – to build our team. The MegaBall$ team holds every major award, including Tony’s, Emmy’s, Clios, Drama Desk … but no Oscars. We’re still looking for more team members, including a sales rep and editor.

The hardest aspect of independent filmmaking is the financing. Although we have personal contact with known actors, most won’t read scripts until at least half the financing is in place. Investors want to know who is in the film and how it will be distributed, and distributors need to know who the cast is before showing interest. A dilemma to say the least.

We are raising a total of $3.5 million. $3m is to make the film, and $500k to market – the costs of entering and attending festivals and markets, upgrading the web site, having hand-outs, posters, and electronic press kit (EPK) while attending events. Those numbers, as we experienced in just two festivals, really can add up.

We are determined. The numerous festival laurels help. We have had talks with many investors, too many are just posers who talk a good game. One investor in particular looks promising but things never move on a schedule we’d prefer. While we wait, we continue searching for other accredited investors.

Thanks to Corky, we have grandfathered in a federal tax incentive that allows investors to fully deduct their funds the day we start production. We’ll shoot in NYC and investors will see a great tax-rebate from New York State. All this substantially lowers their risk, by as much as 50%. The sales projections are favorable. We have all our legal in place, a 506c PPM, a detailed budget and schedule, have scouted locations and we continue all we can do to attract the money and move forward. We have established a solid social media following, built an email list with contacts all over the world (many from my tour).

We just chatted with an L.A. filmmaker so now I ask…  NY vs LA for film production

NY has always been a good place for independent film, while LA has the studios and much more volume of work (and more actors/producers/writers). What is great in NY is the state tax incentive, which is well funded for years to come. That has attracted productions for years and created jobs. The rebate incentive here is one of the best in the country. In “MegaBall$” investors can expect almost $500k returned to them from the tax plan about 8-10 months after filming completes. I got to LA often for SAG-AFTRA Board meetings. It can be seductive. But I prefer NYC. It’s my home.

I agree with you. NYC is where it all began. Now, final thoughts?

It’s been a struggle. The artist’s life often is. I keep my days fulfilled with my service to my fellow artist in SAG-AFTRA and The Lambs. Every day I work on something creative – I have no choice. It’s in my DNA. It might be my book, on a screenplay, reading and learning about industry trends, or watching good/bad films. It can be isolating at times, financially straining, but the rewards – when the happen – are great.

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