Walt’s Rotating Phone and Movie Magic

Walt Disney (Thomas Ian Nicholas) calls home after being evicted.

Walt Disney (Thomas Ian Nicholas) calls home after being evicted.

Walt Before Mickey had an incredible production design department who gave the movie that authentic look. From picture cars to furniture to the artwork to the period cameras, WBM has a look that is rarely found in a small budget feature.

With that small budget often comes the need for creativity and improvisation, especially when you need multiple locations that are in need of similar props and furniture. This was definitely the case when it came to our period phones of the era. Specifically, we had an old fashioned wall phone that kept being needed – the equivalent of a payphone. Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has one in his first studio in LA which Bridgit (Ayla Kell) answers, George (Frank Licari) needs one to call Mintz (Conor Dubin) and then Walt again needs one outside of his studio in order to call home when he’s evicted. So, what do you do? After all, a phone is a phone, right? I mean, most cellphones these days can look a like, certainly most home phones and definitely most payphone.

So, when all else fails, use the same exact one, in all three scenes and no one will ever question it. Such is the case with Walt. That same phone was used in three separate locations and it doesn’t upset the continuity or integrity of the picture at all. AND it saved our crew from having to look for or build three – four separate phones. I mean, in modern movies, we never question the same brand and make of cellphone being used by two separate characters, right? Why should it be any different in a period piece?

The fun part of movies, theater and TV is that we get to suspend disbelief while still being transported into another world or another era. We certainly were able to accomplish this in Walt Before Mickey. Thanks to our wonderful production design team (Joe Stone, Jay Weber, Mike Margulies) and our talented director (Khoa Le), DP (Ian Dudley) and Gaffer (Guy Morgan) Walt Before Mickey looks like ten million bucks… even if it was made for a lot less.

George Winkler (Frank Licari) calls Charles Mintz (Conor Dubin)

George Winkler (Frank Licari) calls Charles Mintz (Conor Dubin)

Brandini is Finished and Walt Premiere’s in 3 Weeks!


A few milestones were reached this week. Brandini, my latest film, a collaboration with Kvibe Productions, LLC is now complete and our developmental reading went unbelievably. The actors all did a fantastic job and it gave me the opportunity to put the finishing touches upon the 2nd draft. We are now ready for the financing stage and will begin attaching names shortly. Please check out the Facebook page and join us on the journey to making our next film. Our wish list includes Danny Glover and Ariana Grande. Lofty goals indeed but definitely doable.

AND, we just found out that Walt Before Mickey will be premiering in Miami on June 11th! The next day we will be premiering at the Skyway International Film Festival in Bradenton, FL. Obviously, to premiere a film about Walt Disney’s life in Florida makes perfect sense, specifically in an area around Orlando where we not only shot the movie but a place that Walt, indirectly, made famous. It’s going to be a real treat seeing our little film on the big screen for the first time. I will be very interested to see how the public receives it. Obviously, with a film like this, it’s quite a responsibility to get it right. There are so many Disney fans both young and old, American and Foreign that will be looking forward to this. I have always felt a great responsibility to make sure that we make a good film that people can enjoy. I hope that we accomplished that goal. This team worked very hard for this moment and now it’s finally here. Kudos to the executive producers, producing team and all the folks responsible for the post production including our sound/music designers and editors and each and every cast member. Khoa and I couldn’t be happier. We did it!

Walt Before Mickey – Single Coverage

Roy (Jon Heder) and Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) argue over the name of the studio.

Roy (Jon Heder) and Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) argue over the name of the studio.

So, in filmmaking, it is always said that you want as much “coverage” as possible. To a lay person, what does that mean? Well, it means that you’d like as many angles of the scene you are shooting as you can. Wide Shots, Medium Shots, Close Ups, Two Shots, Single Shots, Establishing shots, Medium Close, etc. As much as you can give a director and an editor, the more they have to work with come editing time. This gives the storytellers, more ways to actually tell the story on film. It keeps it interesting.

Well, when you are working on a “Smaller” budget project, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of shooting for 30, 60, 90 days on a film. No, sometimes, you only get 18-23 days as was the case on Walt Before Mickey. Khoa and I were faced with budget constraints. So, how do you save yourself time when you need to? How do you make sure that your executive producers “i.e. the money guys” are happy? Well, you find ways to do less coverage, thus taking less time, thus spending less money, thus getting the project done in the time allotted.

In the film, you’ll notice that there’s only one scene in the film that is shot with only one camera and one angle. It’s the one above. In this scene, the Disney brothers debate on why the company should be called “Walt Disney” as opposed to the Disney Brothers. Walt argues with Roy, telling him that people call the studio who do they assume is in charge? The older brother, of course. He also states, “they’ve taken the rights to everything else I create (meaning Mintz and The Winklers), at least let me have my name on the films.” Roy relinquishes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This was the only scene that Khoa decided could be handled with only one angle. In doing so, I believe that Khoa was able to convey a classic show down where no one has the upper hand. The camera doesn’t favor either brother. It also shows them isolated from the others and that brings out the true tone of the scene.

Don’t expect anymore of these types of one shot scenes but when you watch the film, I think you’ll appreciate why this was the only one! Enjoy.

Brandini and Tom Cruise

This was a busy last week. Last Tuesday I auditioned for the latest Tom Cruise movie called MENA. It was a small part… a very small part. BUT, last Friday I was informed that I booked the part. Hey, it’s a Tom Cruise movie, right? Directed by Doug Liman, the man behind Swingers, Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow. He actually cast me himself. Pretty cool. So, June 5th I’ll fly to Atlanta to shoot the film. There were only small parts available and I got one of them so I consider myself lucky.

The greater accomplishment was that last Friday, I officially finished the first draft of “Brandini” – my latest screenplay that I wrote with Kvibe Productions newly formed developmental team that I’m the head of. We originally workshopped the idea for three weeks and I guided the group through the writing structure of a screenplay and then I went away for three weeks and wrote the screenplay. Now that we’ve greenlit the script, I will work on a new draft with some tweaks and changes. The goal is to get to a 2nd draft before May 12th where I’ll be traveling to NY. I’ll be there for two weeks at which point I’ll schedule a read through with some actors. That’s when I’ll see what I really think of the piece. All in all, it’s a very exciting time. Heck I even raised the first $15k for development of Brandini. Khoa and I are very excited to see where this film takes us.

Like I said, it’s been a busy week.

From the team that brought you Edge of Tomorrow, comes the next film starring me (and Tom Cruise)

From the team that brought you Edge of Tomorrow, comes the next film starring me (and Tom Cruise)

George Plots Walt’s Demise – Walt Before Mickey

"George Winkler eyes Fred Harmon, the first of Walt's animators to fall for George's enticing offer"

“George Winkler eyes Fred Harmon, the first of Walt’s animators to fall for George’s enticing offer”

More behind the scenes from Walt Before Mickey, folks.

In this scene, George Winkler (me, Frank Licari, is in the midst of persuading one of Walt Disney’s main directors, Fred Harmon, to join him and Charles Mintz over at Snappy Comedies. Mintz’s plan is to sign all of Walt’s animators over to his company and force Walt into working for him. He sends in his brother-in-law, George (me), to infiltrate Walt’s company and slowly steal the animators, not to mention the work. The look you’re seeing here is George reacting to Walt not letting him “help” Hugh with the first drawing of Oswald The Rabbit.

Oswald The Rabbit was eventually owned by Margaret J. Winkler and Charles Mintz who, at the time, had the largest animation studio in the country. Oswald was later sold to Universal Pictures. As a matter of fact, Walt Disney Studios only got the rights for Oswald back from Universal in 2008 after more than 70 years.

When you watch this scene in the film, there is a bit of a continuity issue that I never caught (bad actor). In one shot, my cigarette pack is sticking out of my vest pocket and then, in another, it is gone. Yes, sure, I suppose I could have tucked it back in quickly BUT it comes back again later. Oops! Sorry Khoa Le for ruining the continuity of your scene but none of my props or continuity people caught it either. So there!

You can also play a game called, “spot the filing cabinet”! Directly to my left is a green cabinet that you’ll see again later in another room in an another scene. It’s called Independent film making people! And Khoa and I loved every minute of it.

Behind The Scenes of Walt Before Mickey

As we get closer to the release of Walt Before Mickey, Khoa (Director) and I are going to start to share some behind the scenes footage from our experience on set. We had such an amazing time working on the film together. From the lows to the highs, it was fun to see this through all the way to the finish line. And, of course, these pictures bring back so many great memories.

This first picture is Khoa and I working with our lead actor Thomas Ian Nicholas (Walt) as he prepares for his scene where he confronts the owner of Newman Theaters for the backpay that is owed him. At this point in the story, Walt is at a very precarious place and needs the money badly to avoid certain bankruptcy.

Not only was Walt in a precarious situation but so was our lead actor, Thomas, because during this shooting day he had come down with a bad flu and was forced to perform all of his scenes under the weather. Of course, like the true professional that he is, Thomas, performed admirably and you’d never be able to tell that he was sick from watching the film. A real pro and a fantastic guy. I’m proud to say that Thomas and I (and Khoa) have remained friends long after the picture wrapped.

Of course, Khoa and I, were probably on three hours sleep by this point in production after spending the night before hammering out wrinkles in the shooting script which, by this point, I had re-written more than five times. Great memories. More to come.

Khoa, Thomas and Frank collaborate on last minute script changes for Walt's plea to Newman scene.

Khoa, Thomas and Frank collaborate on last minute script changes for Walt’s plea to Newman scene.

1992 – My first film / 2015 – My latest film

Sometimes life has a way of reminding you how far you’ve come and how far you still need to go. Just a few days ago, I was surprised on Facebook by an old director whom I haven’t spoken to or seen in over 20 years. She private messaged me and told me that a film that I acted in 23 years ago is receiving a screening in NYC next month. It was a crazy thought. To this day, I have never seen the film and she posted a picture of me along with my co-stars and I started tearing up. This business is rare in that you get to see your life “chronologized” through still images, video and film clips, on the big screen, on the TV and now on computer, tablets, phones, etc. However, I had never seen a picture from this film and seeing myself that young in that costume was a real treat. It brought back so many memories. The film is called Red Lipstick and its a Drag Queen Bonnie & Clyde adventure movie that we filmed in the city. I actually got to drive a tank down 6th Avenue. Pretty cool for a twenty year old right out of drama college.

So, I can’t wait to see the film next month, as I’ll be in NY working with my new partner Khoa Le and Kvibe Productions. We’ll be starting to create packages for my latest screenplay that we just green-lit for production in the fall. It’s very exciting.

23 years later, I’m still in the business and still making films. Not bad for a little Italian kid from Canada who just wanted to make people laugh and be the class clown. Looking forward to the next 23 years.

This is me 23 years ago... Crazy!

This is me 23 years ago… Crazy!

ABC’s Nashville, Next Feature Length Script and more…

So, it’s been quite an eventful few weeks. Last week, I was fortunate enough to get cast in ABC’s Nashville in the season ending cliffhanger. It was a treat to be on a network set again. People were great and my fellow actors were amazing people. Real fun time. Watch for me on Wed May 13th at 10pm for the season ending episode.

And I’m excited to announce that after 3 weeks of concept development and 3 weeks of straight writing, my first draft of “Untitled Music Project” is finally complete. I just did a reading for the development/production team in NY today and everyone loved it. I’m really proud of this one. The short pitch is, “Fighting against a strict and rigid upbringing, a classical music prodigy struggles to establish himself in the pop music world.” In the story, he faces rejection, abandonment, homelessness and death which in turn allow him to find the true passion that he was missing. My director/partner, Khoa Le and I couldn’t be more excited about a project and we can’t wait to get started. I’m traveling to NYC in two weeks to get the ball rolling. It’s going to be an incredible followup to our “practice” effort, Walt Before Mickey. This one truly feels like it will be our vision and our execution. Stay tuned.

And lastly, I’m also excited to have been asked to pen a new screenplay about a true life story of the drug trafficking trade in the Bahamas. The story will chronicle a young man’s struggle to get out of the “hood” and make it to America. It tackles the gritty and dirty world of the drug channels from Mexico and Colombia into the Bahamas and on to Florida’s east coast. I’m very excited to start the research into that world. It’s being co-produced by my friend, Ty Johnston, with whom I worked on BTC Starmaker in the Bahamas. Of course, it will be a Kvibe Production directed by my partner Khoa. It’s going to be another fantastic project.

All in all, there are a lot of things approaching…
P.S. Big shout out to my buddy Khoa for being nominated for Best Cinematography at The Madrid International Film Festival for the film, “Lords of BSV.” Congrats my man. Another job well done!
Till next time.

"Deacon" and Frank on the set of ABC's Nashville.

“Deacon” and Frank on the set of ABC’s Nashville.

Star Meter

Sure, it’s not the most important thing in an actor’s life. I would put great training, a ton of theater experience and a constant desire for self discovery ahead of it. But, these days, having a high profile on the IMDB page is getting up there. Supposedly, prospective employers use it to “check” your heat level or, as they call it, your star meter.

Well, when I first started, my star meter was literally in the millions. Not that much heat, huh? Well, in the past year it’s hovered anywhere between 29,000-95,000. Not horrible. I’m no Jennifer Lawrence but it’s climbing. For that, I have two feature films and two major network and cable shows to thank, not to mention a few web series.

My last 12-15 months have been pretty busy. A recurring role on USA Network’s Graceland opposite Aaron Tveit, a guest starring role on ABC’s Nashville opposite Chip Esten, a supporting role in a film, Papa, opposite Giovanni Ribisi and a supporting role in my own film, Walt Before Mickey, opposite Thomas Ian Nicholas and Jon Heder. More than credits of course, it has been good fun work. I could always use more of it but I’m grateful for what I’ve gotten.

Looking forward to acting in more of my own projects thanks to my new partnership with Khoa Le at Kvibe Productions, LLC. It should be an even more exciting next year. Till then.


Excited To Join Kvibe Productions

I’m very excited to announce that I have joined Kvibe Productions, LLC, an award winning Film, TV and Commercial Production Company located in the NY/NJ area as their Director of Development. I will be taking on Head Writer, Producer duties as well as Creative Direction.

Kvibe Productions has won numerous business awards along with their sister companies, Live Picture Studios and Climb The Search. To that end, I’ll be lending a hand in their corporate development side as well.

This has been a natural followup to my creative partnership with their CEO and Founder, Khoa Le. As most of you know, Walt Before Mickey, a film that I worked almost a full year on in the capacities of producing, writing, casting and acting is almost ready to be released to the world.

I can’t stress how much director, Khoa Le, should be commended for his work on this project. Not only did he direct the film… he took on an executive producer role and he and the Kvibe Production team took on all post production duties. Kvibe oversaw the editing, coloring, audio design, musical scoring and trailer creation for the entire film. I was able to work closely with Khoa and Kvibe during the post production process and we are very excited to release our first full length feature together.

Walt Before Mickey stars Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jon Heder, David Henrie, Jodi Sweetin, Ayla Kell, Taylor Gray, Hunter Gomez, Natasha Sherritt and yours truly, Frank Licari. It’s been a labor love for Khoa and I and we are very proud of the work that we were able to bring to the screen.

Khoa and I are already developing our next three film and tv projects together and I’m very excited about what the future holds for our partnership.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my very good friend, talented director, Ari Taub. Ari had the unfortunate opportunity of starting off as the original director on this project but due to clashes with the executive producers (for good reasons), he was unceremoniously let go. I commend him for his work on the project and although he will not get credit on this film, his work can be seen in all of the flashback scenes. Despite the circumstances, it was wonderful to work alongside him for the little time that we did.

For more information on all my upcoming projects, please visit my IMDB page, like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

Director, Khoa Le, let's Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and George (Frank Licari) in on his master plan for the scene.

Director, Khoa Le, confers with Walt (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and George (Frank Licari) on his master plan for the scene.