Director Alyssa Rallo Bennett and I met at Stonestreet Studios in Manhattan before she traveled to the Woodstock Film Festival for the premiere of her new feature ReRun.
About the Producers/Creators
Director/writer/producer team, Alyssa Rallo Bennett and Gary O. Bennett, have garnered a reputation for their socially provocative and character-driven content that ranges from television pilots to web series to feature films. ReRun marks the Bennetts' third feature film collaboration. The Pack, which they co-wrote and was directed by Alyssa, was accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival and a dozen other film festivals, winning multiple awards. It was released theatrically in NY & L.A. and distributed by FilmRise. The Bennetts' first collaboration, Rain Without Thunder, has become a cult classic. The film stars Jeff Daniels, Linda Hunt, Betty Buckley, Frederick Forrest, Graham Greene, Ming Na Wen, Austin Pendleton, and Steve Zahn. Rain was theatrically released and distributed by Orion Classics, featured in over a dozen major international film festivals from the Berlin Film Festival to the Toronto International Film Festival and now available on Amazon Prime.
As a writer/director team, the Bennetts just completed a new pilot, Leading Story, and are in development with the new pilot DOT, an anthology series about women’s rights in 50 states that Danny Ramirez (Assassination Nation, Top Gun: Maverick) and Vanessa Marano (Switched at Birth) will star in. Many of their shorts have been been featured in festivals and distributed by HG Distribution and ShortsHD.
In a modern day twist on It's A Wonderful Life, George Benson, played by Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) is haunted by tragedy—the loss of Violet, the ‘wayward girl’ who he had a soft heart for, due to an accident he may have been able to prevent. Humoring what he thinks is the youthful imagination of his grandson, George stumbles into an invisible portal hiding in his closet. Falling ‘to the other side’ into his younger body, he is able to face his conflicts and troubles with new light along with a temptation to try to change the past or possibly re-envision it.
Alyssa and I began our conversation by talking about Stonestreet Studios.
RALLO BENNETT: My partner and husband, Gary Bennett and I have had Stonestreet, an indie film studio for 25 years. He is the writer half, and I am the director. We create and develop projects together and produce them. We also run the conservatory that happens within the film studio. Miles Teller, Rachel Brosnahan, and Francesca Reale, came out of our program; Reale did her first series here, Paradise by the Dashboard Life.
SUSAN KOUGUELL: How did ReRun come about?”
RALLO BENNETT: Gary had the wonderful idea for the script—a very modern-day twist on It's a Wonderful Life. ReRun was a labor of love. It is my second feature collaboration with Gary; we’ve also collaborated on a few pilots. Our first feature was The Pack—Gary wrote the first draft. It’s an homage to Twelve Angry Men. I was a co-writer on it, and it starred Lucie Arnaz and Elisabeth Moss.
KOUGUELL: What is it like to collaborate with your husband?
RALLO BENNETT: We are very committed to working together. He wrote ReRun for me to direct and with specific actors in mind.
KOUGUELL: Is Gary also on the set?
RALLO BENNETT: (Laughs) Never. He is also a director himself, and he’s very opinionated. He prefers to be the writer of the two of us. Because I’m his wife, and I’m so open, I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder. In those rare moments where we don’t agree—because we’re very much on the same page about a lot of things—it can be rough. I always like to resolve things right away.
KOUGUELL: Let’s talk about the casting and shooting.
RALLO BENNETT: We produce projects here at Stonestreet and try to involve many of our actors in our projects. We cast ten of those actors out of our conservatory and cast the other roles from our community.
We shot ReRun in just over 10 weeks between 3-5 days a week, on a very tight budget and that was the present day part of the film. Then there’s the future part of the film—we shot that one year later because we were waiting for the right person for the role of George. Our wonderful casting director, Angela Mickey from Liz Lewis Casting—we worked with her on other projects, including the pilot, Videola that just sold in South America as a series—she suggested Christopher Lloyd.
Christopher read the script and loved it. Christopher’s in the future part of the film, and he was enamored by what we did and how we did it. He’s so wonderful and so positive, and zen to work with.
KOUGUELL: Do you have a specific approach to directing?
RALLO BENNETT: My background is as an actor. I come at it from getting a performance from actors. It’s very helpful, I love it in that I enjoy being present with actors and helping them have an arena to surprise them, and us, with their performances.
KOUGUELL: Did you stay close to the script?
RALLO BENNETT: A couple of scenes were improvised, but mostly, I stuck to the script. I always pay great homage to the script because Gary cares about his words. But, every actor is different, and I give actors some room, so a few words might be improvised. Gary gave me a great script to work with. A director needs to have that leeway, and actors like to have that, too, but a lot of times it can get indulgent, so as a director you have to know the difference when you’re giving room to an actor and when to find freedom. To me, a lot is about a subtext; it’s what you don’t say.
KOUGUELL: What’s next for ReRun?
RALLO BENNETT: We were asked to do the Big Apple Film Festival, and we are starting the festival circuit and looking for the right distributor.
KOUGUELL: What’s next for you?
RALLO BENNETT: We have two new projects we’re developing: Who Killed Juliette Matlin—about a film critic who gets killed by her own typewriter—it’s a thrilling murder mystery with action and real satire about the media industry that came out of a genuine experience, and Mentor a psychological thriller.
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