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David LaRosa is a multi-talented film professional. An Actor, writer, producer and director, David is most interested in the genre her terms “entertaining realism” which gives the audience a chance to derive their meanings from specific works.

David spent many years acting in musical theaters and movies, and he even produced an off-Broadway show before forming Feenix Films with his friends Nick DeMatteo, Janine Laino and Kate McGrath. David is currently the President of the company, and he has in hands in most aspects of it including storyboarding, talent acquisition, rewriting scripts, editing and directing and producing projects.

David's most recent project is called "Clandestine, " and it focuses on the issue of drug abuse on modern-day Long Island. David wanted to make a story that would show the far-reaching effects that the current drug crisis has on addicts, police, parents and children.

David LaRosa recently spoke about the film and more via an exclusive Interview.

Background

Blasting News (BN): What prompted you to start acting and how did you expand into producing, writing and directing?

David LaRosa (DL): I wanted to get into politics and saw the school plays like a good way to get "seen" and known throughout the school. I noticed that whoever did a school play and then ran for office always seemed to win as long as they also did a sport.

So, I did that, and it worked. I ended up having such a great time doing the high school shows that I realized how "at home" I felt working on a show, discussing ideas with the director, talking to the cast and crew before and after rehearsals, and just the overall vibe was something that appealed to me.

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In my early 20s that I decided that I was much more interested in the acting world than the political one and started to take classes in NJ. I started taking classes in NYC and got heavily involved in community theater because you could experiment. If I messed up, there wasn't a reviewer or critic there to see. I started doing the NY audition scene with my manager at the time and found it to be very frustrating.

I then got wrapped up in the "pay to meet" casting director/agent thing, and that agitated me to the point that I decided I wanted to use my money to make my own work. I added up how much money I had spent on "pay to meets" along with showcases over the years and realized I could have bought my film equipment or made my low budget feature.

I had done a web-series and had a good experience on writing, co-directing, and producing it and wanted to go the DIY Indie movie route. I had started writing an indie film called "Nicky Newark, " and when myself, Nick DeMatteo and Janine Laino formed Feenix Films, we agreed that would be the first full-length feature after our initial "toe-dipping" venture called "Lock-Load-Love.” Our fourth member, Kate McGrath, came on around that time and we just really finalized the business structure of our company Feenix Films.

BN: What prompted you to start your own company and why did you choose that specific name?

DL: I had reached a point of uncontrollable frustration. I was so tired of walking into an audition and being told by someone I was paying to meet that they don't shake hands or were so busy eating lunch while I was baring my soul that they waved me on to start auditioning and then never looked at me while I was there and waved me out. It's disrespectful just from one human being to another; never sat right with me.

The founding of this company came from a strong desire to empower yourself. It was something that felt so good when you started doing it and feeling it that you just wanted more of it. You want to act, write it! You want to make it, do it! We had a lot of fervor but zero cash so when we were trying to figure out the name we liked the idea that we had all done other things prior and the Phoenix story was something that appealed to us. I remember thinking that Phoenix was so overused, but I loved the idea of Fee-nix.

We were literally "nixing the fee" as we weren't letting the money or excuses get in our way. We were doing it for the love of it and doing it for what we could afford. Hence Fee-nix became “Feenix.”

BN: How many films have you made, what were they about, and do you have any favorites?

DL: I've co-directed a web series about a moving company wanting to get into the reality television show craze. That one still cracks me up because it is just so absurd, the actors did a great job, and it was all improvised within a framework created by myself and the other writer/co-creator.

The first official Feenix Films project was “Lock-Load-Love” about the perils of online dating. That was followed by my first full-length feature "Nicky Newark" a dark comedy about a disgruntled parole officer who is struggling to be an actor and figure out his place in the world. I was a producer on our third feature film "Dealer," which is about a woman grappling with her love for her roommate's drug dealer during the financial collapse of 2008. For that film, I got out of the directing chair, and it was a different experience; still fun but different.

I then directed three shorts which fit into a larger feature story called “Requiem” which was about a young teen who turns to her Grandfather in a moment of deep despair and grief. All of those films were intended to bring us to our most current project "Clandestine” which was meant to be the culmination of our efforts since 2008.

This film deals with the invasion of meth into a small suburban town on the east coast. It is very dark and an intense character-driven study type film. I wanted to make a movie that was completely about the characters. I find that tends to be a bit more like real life. We experience things and then live with them or through them.

These types of character exploration movies were all the rage back in the 70's and 80's. They have fallen a bit out of favor, but I don't care. I like to direct what I'd like to see and more importantly what serves the specific story. Adding in character development though is something that I think is a lost art and something I'm obsessed with whether I'm writing, producing, acting, or directing. It needs to be in there, and I think that is what makes someone a filmmaker.

Movie

BN: Why are you most interested in realistic stories and what most interested you about "Clandestine"?

DL: I think people are fascinating and "Clandestine" is about people; ALL different types of people. Movies are a way for us to shine the light on what others experience in their daily life. What gets my juices flowing is when we settle down with a character who is about to experience something and go through a journey. Stories are a way for us to reflect from afar on another's life and then bring it near to us to explore our own inner workings.

With realistic characters, portrayed truthfully by actors, you can pull the audience in and make something where people can still relate to your character as someone they could bump into on the street. I think when that is done it makes a viewer more engaged in your story. They are interested and invested in getting in the car and going for the ride for the next two hours or so. You need to find a way to appeal to them so that it is real but exciting.

BN: What do you hope audiences will learn from the film or most remember about it?

DL: I hope that they will take away that these characters in this film are real. What I mean by that is that none of these characters are 100% based on any particular person, but their "types" are out there. I've met the real Jim Coopes, and the real Tom Mackenrowe's, the real Assemblyman Badas, and the real Julias.

They do exist in this world and I wanted to make sure we portrayed them as real people who are either trying to figure things out or are so far gone it's only a matter of time. It's easy to fall into labeling when it comes to the topic of "the war on drugs". Cops are bad. Cops are good. Addicts are bad. Addicts are misunderstood. What I wanted to convey as well was the cyclical nature of this topic.

The film opens with an adult man who is soon surrounded by police, fire trucks, and ambulances. The film ends with a young child surrounded by police, fire trucks, and ambulances on his pajamas. The question becomes what is the future and is there any hope? I think that message is lost on some. It may be too uncomfortable for them. I don't know. I don't like to tie things up in a nice little package with any of the films I make. I love when people have to pay attention. I love the ambiguous ending. It allows the film to be digested by the audience and they decide how they want to take it.

BN: What are the most rewarding aspects working as a professional filmmaker and what are your big goals for the future of your company?

DL: Seeing a project go from a concept or thought into a final DVD/Blu-Ray being held in your hand. There is so much hard work from your cast and crew; faith from investors; belief from supporters and all of that work is encapsulated in a rectangular object.

We have five scripts ready to go for either features or some for a TV series. In the final analysis, the goal has always been to be working with creative people, whether that is through directing, acting, writing, editing, producing, etc. Each of our next projects will push us into areas we haven't been to before; larger budget, more "name" actors, different genre, and grittier scenes.

One of the biggest goals I had was for us to be asked to speak to film students at a college. It was something that I wanted to do when we started Feenix Films, so it was a great moment to be asked to do that this past April up at Champlain College. It's very exciting to be in that process and seeing those early stages begin to take form.