MIHS graduates re-unite to produce film: Movie “Crook” pokes fun at amateur theives

Four college students, three crooks and a camera. These are the fundamental ingredients for Mercer Island High School graduates Alex Ricciardi and Adam Goodman’s latest project.

This week, the two friends are producing “Crook,” an amateur film poking fun at amateur thieves.

Developing the idea nearly a year ago, Ricciardi and Goodman reunited during their winter break from college and scratched out the beginning of a film script. Soon they were on the phone calling up friends from high school — Denny Chapin, Brent Roberts, Sam Speer. Their very first movie-making team, back together again, ready for production.

“We’ve been making films since our first year at [Crest Learning Center]. It’s just something we would do,” said Ricciardi, who now attends Brooklyn College in New York.

But unlike their high-school productions — the most memorable being a mockumentary about Crest — “Crook” is the group’s first attempt at something serious.

“This one’s going to be really good,” Ricciardi said. “We’re preparing to show it at festivals. It’s a much larger endeavor than anything we’ve done before.”

What’s most exciting, the producer added, is that everyone’s returned with new talent and experience. Goodman, the director of “Crook,” spent a year working with McKenna-Gotlieb Productions, while Chapin, the group’s cinematographer, interned on the set of “The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle,” an indie feature backed by the Northwest Film Forum.

“This is our first serious attempt at something bigger, now that we’ve got more experience under our belts,” said Chapin, who studies philosophy at Beloit College in Wisconsin.

Asked about his decision to separate film from academics, Chapin said that when it comes to making movies, experience outweighs education. “Learning how to make a film is much more experiential than it is something you read in a book.”

Ricciardi shares this observation.

“I enjoy learning about film studies, but beyond that, when it comes to the actual production aspect, I don’t think film school has been a terribly beneficial thing. I’ve actually switched my major from film production to film studies because of this,” he said.

Over the past six months, Goodman and Ricciardi have spent countless hours writing and re-writing the 40-page script. And now that each actor has a copy, the script’s open to improvisation. But that’s half the fun of it, the film makers agree.

“When Adam [Goodman] and I were creating this script, we were really trying to write it around the characters and the comedy — not the other way around,” he said. “Adam plays the lead role — he’s Mr. Crook — and Brent [Roberts] plays the second crook who’s a little more by the book. The dynamic between the characters, that’s the comedy.”

Watching Ricciardi, Chapin and Roberts discuss the film — half joking, half serious — around a small table at the North-end QFC, it’s clear the group of friends love working together. At times, this can be a double-edged sword, according to Ricciardi.

“As assistant director my job will be keeping people on task, and it’s kind of hard because you don’t want things to devolve into just hanging out with your friends,” he explained.

However, after spending more than $500 to rent professional sound and lighting equipment, the crew is taking its six-day production deadline seriously.

“It’s sort of naive of us to think that we can shoot 40 minutes in two weeks, but we’ve got everything rented so we have to get it done,” Chapin said.

The team is filming most of “Crook” on Mercer Island, although the setting could be anywhere in the Northwest. After the movie is complete, Ricciardi and Goodman plan to organize a premier on Mercer Island in August to raise local attention. Then Ricciardi will take “Crook” off to New York, where he’ll push it with film festival organizers. And maybe, just maybe, their little Island film will become a star.

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