‘The Dunning Man’ Screens At Art of Brooklyn Film Festival 2017

The 7th Annual Art of Brooklyn Film Festival (AoBFF), took place from the 3rd to the 11th of June. On the 10th of June, there was a screening of The Dunning Man, a movie directed by Michael Clayton.

The movie explores the journey of Connor, a man who needed to start a new chapter in his life. So, he moved to Atlantic City and became a landlord. He goes through a lot and sees a lot (more than he should) as he deals with many eclectic personalities that rent out his apartments (and don’t pay him on time). He interacts with a rapper, a mother and even people wearing furry animal costumes (who are out to get him).

The two producers of the film are Brent Butler and Kevin Fortuna and they were present during the screening and had an open conversation with the audience and the Executive Director of AoBFF, Joseph Shahadi. 

During the conversation Kevin Fortuna discusses that one of their biggest challenges was that this was a first person narrative short story adaptation that Fortuna himself, wrote. He seemed happy with how it all came together though, mentioning that “Clayton did an amazing job making it work as a movie.”

In discussion, Shahadi made an interesting point and said:

“This is someone who is having the worst moment of their life, without making you hate them or depressed. How do you keep it engaging and likable as the main character is someone who’s just spiraling like that?”

Fortuna responds:

“He’s trying to be a better person, he’s trying to find himself. It’s a coming of age type of story.”

The movie included many archives of Atlantic City that were definitely a great cinematic touch. Fortuna commented on the archives and said:

“We had a screening in LBI, which is 40 minutes from Atlantic City. For people who know Atlantic City, all that exterior footage is really its own. It strikes a chord.”

When it came to the casting, it made for a very interesting conversation between Shahadi and Fortuna with a lot of insight into the actors and their approach as well.

Shahadi: “It’s cast so beautifully this movie. The acting in it is so great. I actually thought the friendship was a very unlikely friendship between these two guys. I bought it totally. It seemed like they would be enemies at the beginning but then they were like “eh”. I totally got that they were coming from completely different places in life and that they found this place in the middle. A lot of that is obviously the source material, the way it was adapted into the film and the way he approached it as a director, but it was cast so well.”

Image From TDM Productions

Fortuna: “Christian Slater’s mom, Mary Jo Slater, held open casting calls in New York and that’s how we got Tom Kemp who played the uncle. That’s how we got Carpinello. We also got Gbenga Akinnagbe, he would’ve been a great Stryker I think. He had to pull out because he got a big part in Independence Day 5. So, that was a happy accident in the lab because that lead us to Nicoye Banks who plays Stryker. He just owned the role, steals every scene I think.”

Shahadi: “Well, I think the secret to that guy is that he really is a star. He’s playing a guy who is charismatic and he really is that charismatic.”

Fortuna: “We filmed the interiors in New Orleans and Nicoye actually grew up right near where I grew up in New Orleans. He’s a native New Orleanian, refuses to leave. I keep telling him if he moves to New York or LA, he’s Jamie Fox. And there aren’t that many great roles for African Americans, he deserves those roles I think. This is almost a leading role. One of my hopes for the movie is that it helps him out.”

Shahadi: “James Carpinello is a broadway actor but also done tons of stuff that you see on TV, The Good Wife and he was on Gotham just recently. He’s such a good actor. He was in every frame playing the straight arrow guy who’s in the center of everything. On the page, it can seem like the less interesting part, but he never seemed like he approached it like it was the less interesting part.”

Fortuna mentioned that the rough cut of the movie was 2 and a half hours long and they made a choice to cut many of the “deep” parts and “just drive the caper side of the story”.

Despite the choice to make the story fast-paced, Shahadi emphasized how the deepness was not lost. It was echoed through the relationships that the plot carried.

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