May 4, 2001

Cornell Does Hollywood: A New York Story

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Has Cornell gone Hollywood? Not quite, but with the production of an original screenplay, A New York Story, students are producing, directing and acting right here in Ithaca.

The film, written, directed and produced by Daniel Levin ’01 is a narrative 10 to 15 minute Woody Allen style comedy that involves about ten people, including actors from the Hangar and Firehouse Theaters, members of the Cornell Community, and a crew of friends and volunteers.

The film project used professional equipment cameras and editing equipment from the Public Access TV Station. Despite the fact that it is sponsored by the Russian Theater Studio at Cornell and Pegasus Public Access TV Station in downtown Ithaca, the production has had its share of problems.

“It is very difficult to direct and produce at the same time with relatively [little] budget. For this project, I had to rely on the generosity and enthusiasm of the actors and crew members, for which I will forever remain grateful,” said Levin.

“All actors delivered a splendid performance and I am very honored to have worked with George Sapio, Brian Van Campen and everyone who pitched in to help make this film happen” said Levin.

The actors in the film range from experienced theater and film veterans to those new to the trade.

“I’ve enjoyed working on the production because it’s given me a chance to meet some other actors in town. Also Daniel is very considerate, Some of the dialogue is very natural and believable and when it doesn’t work, Daniel lets us change it,” said Nadine Bernard ’88, an actress in the film.

Having completed Cornell and the New York City School for Film and Television, Bernard has acted in a lot of student and independent films. She moved back to town a few weeks ago from Los Angeles where she did some extra work on the sets of “The Family Man” and “Traffic” among others.

“It’s fun to do the New York City, Jewish, Woody Allen type characters,” said Nadine Bernard.

For Sofya Tenenbaum ’04 this was her first time acting in a film.

“It is a nice experience,” she said. “I think that the tension between the two families in the plot is interesting.”

Originally the film started out as a portfolio graduate school project for Levin, but “in a nutshell, it all boils down to my love for cinematography” he said.

The film is about “two New York City lawyers Blumkin and Khamkin, the latter is a poor lawyer from Brooklyn, while Blumkin lives in Manhattan. They both hate each other,” explains Levin. “But Khamkin depends on Blumkin for case referrals and can’t get away from him.”

Their children fall in love and when Khamkin decides to kidnap Blumkin’s son out of desperation “forgetting about his daughter’s feelings,” said Levin, and the plot becomes even more humorous.

“The two quarreling families then go through a series of difficult, but humorous negotiations. There is a surprising end which I’m not revealing,” noted Levin. “The film as a whole is full of witty jokes and snappy dialogue.”

The choice of the set of the film is designed to match the atmosphere of New York City. The film had four shooting locations. A private residence (a director’s apartment, much like most apartments in Collegetown), was used for the poor dwelling of the Khamkin family, set against a private home in Ithaca, used for the opulent Blumkin house in Manhattan.

Cornell Plantations stood in for Central Park in the final scene of the film and the streets of Ithaca were used for the car chase.

“We had to go out of our way to find the most wrecked car to match Khamkin’s character. Unfortunately we had to contend ourselves with a relatively well preserved car, generously lent to us by a member of the Cornell faculty,” said Levin.

The film is almost finished being filmed, and after editing the tapes, it will be fully completed. There will be a public showing of the movie in either McGraw Hall or Goldwin Smith Hall during finals week, with a finalized time and location to be announced.

Archived article by Veronika Belenkaya