Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Godfather On 6th Street And Father Moffo

from famous residents of Waterbury Connecticut
Rev. Joseph Moffo, Roman Catholic priest who appeared in the Godfather Part II. Fr. Moffo was pastor of St. Joseph's Church in New York City where a portion of the movie was being filmed and was asked to play the part of a priest.

Production designer Dean Tavoularis chose East 6th Street in Manhattan, between Avenue A and Avenue B. The block was completely remade, its storefronts converted to the cigar stores, social clubs, butcher shops, and theaters Coppola’s grandparents might well have known. The pushcart-crowded block is complete to the dirt and dung on the cobbles. As Vito Corleone walks among his people on this block, first as a serf, then as a lord, we see him as he is, without apology.
A production photo exists of a smiling, relaxed Coppola standing on a roof during the shooting of the Lower East Side sequences. Below him, it is 1919; down the street, just out of camera range, it is 1974. In GODFATHER PART II, Francis Coppola lets us occupy two worlds simultaneously, as well, those of Vito Corleone and his son Michael. And we see each of those men, handsome, loving, and terrible, with utter clarity.

There is also a film made about the filming of the Godfather on 6th Street called THE GODFATHER COMES TO 6TH ST.
from the reel new york site
Mark Kitchell was a film student at N.Y.U. when he shot THE GODFATHER COMES TO 6TH ST. on the Lower East Side block he called home at the time. The piece shares the chaos, excitement, and disappointments that came along with the film crews who descended upon his neighborhood in 1974 to make THE GODFATHER, PART II. Prevailing over Paramount's attempt to ban him from filming, Kitchell highlights locals who were cast as extras and the efforts of a community group who protested the presence of the film crews and were eventually awarded additional money for use of their territory. THE GODFATHER COMES TO 6TH ST. garnered awards from the American Film Festival, the Chicago Film Festival, and the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto Film Festival) and was nominated for an Oscar.
Q: What inspired you to make this piece?
A: I'd come to NYU film school, fallen in love with documentary, and was looking for a subject to make a film when representative of Paramount showed up on my block on the Lower East Side, saying they wanted to shoot THE GODFATHER, PART II there. I was reluctant at first, not wanting to make a film about a film; but my teacher George Stoney urged me to go ahead, certain that I'd find a story. So I set out to chronicle the filming through my neighbors' eyes. It was meant to be a portrait of the community caught up in the drama of being center stage, for THE GODFATHER no less.
Q: Do you have any interesting and/or amusing behind-the-scenes stories about the making of this particular work?
A: I had a long battle with Paramount over the making of this film, which they tried to stop. Ron Colby, the local unit production manager, was supportive; and I had no trouble until the time of filming drew near. Then the treats began and I prepared for guerrilla filmmaking. On the first day of filming, the production manager kicked me and my crew off the street; so we took to the fire escapes and I asked to talk to Coppola. The next day he gave me his blessing, and from then on we had freedom to shoot whatever we wanted. When the block called a protest meeting, the prodcution manager again tried to exclude me; but the block association insisted on admitting me since I was a member and on their side.
Finally, when the film was done and THE GODFATHER II was about to be released and I wanted to release my film, Paramount's lawyer threatened to get an injuction. I appealed to Coppola. He agreed to see me, and screened the film (at the Rizzoli, while a limo waited to take him to Cannes); but there was nothing he could do. So at last I gave up, and told Paramount's lawyer, Norman Flicker, that he'd got me -- but all I wanted to do was show it, not make money. A few months later, when NYU wanted to submit the film for the student Academy Awards, I got Flicker's okay; after it was nominated, he dropped his opposition to showing it. But not until he'd made his point. Still, I got around his ban, and got the film made.
Q: Is there a relationship between your work as a video/filmmaker and life in the New York metropolitan area?
A: My film was meant to be a portrait of the community most of all, and used the filming of THE GODFATHER II mainly as a means to reveal it going through change. I don't know that I succeeded in that intention. But at least the focus is on the people of Sixth Street. And it turns out to have captured an era on the Lower East Side that's pretty much gone forever, so it has historical interest.
Q: How did you fund this particular film/video, and what is your general experience in seeking funding for your work?
A: I funded this film by hacking, driving a taxi forty hours every weekend and then going to the lab Monday. We edited all night for a summer, while I drove days. Most of the finishing costs came from NYU. Arthur Mayer, bless his heart, gave a modest donation. But that was all. I got very good at cadging a camera here, a tape recorder there, an editing room everywhere.
Q: How do you define an independent film or video?
A: The definition of independent is pretty slippery -- and that's sometimes a good thing -- but in the documentary ghetto it's easy to tell the difference. We're the ones who beg, borrow, and steal, go thru blood, sweat and tears to make our babies; and then hope someone wants to see them.

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