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Film In Focus from Fort Lauderdale: NY City Serenade

In an on-going trend, actor Frank Whaley (best known for his role as the put-upon assistant who turns the tables on his abusive agent boss Kevin Spacey in SWIMMING WITH SHARKS) has put on the director's hat for his latest film, NEW YORK CITY SERENADE. In fact, this is the third film the actor-turned-directed has helmed. In 1999, he debuted with the critically acclaimed JOE THE KING, starring Noah Fleiss, Val Kilmer and John Leguizamo, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and which won him the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. He was back at Sundance in 2002 with THE JIMMY SHOW, in which he starred opposite Ethan Hawke and Carla Gugino.

This time Whaley is strictly behind the camera in a tale of two friends who stick with each other through thick and thin. Actors Freddy Prinze Jr. and Chris Klein, both trying to find their way out of teen hearthrob roles into more mature parts, play the buddies, who are struggling to figure out their lives. Ray (Klein) is a drummer in a rock and roll band, and Owen (Prinze) an aspiring film maker who spend most of their time working menial jobs and drinking. When Owen's fiancé Lynn breaks off their engagement, he finds himself spiraling, and allows Ray to come along with him to a two bit film festival he has been invited to in Kansas. Ray scams them into a deluxe suite at the local Four Seasons Hotel by posing as the son of Wallace Shawn (who plays himself in a delicious cameo), who happens to be receiving a lifetime achievement award at the festival. When they are discovered, it leads to a breakup in their relationship....until the film's coda explains how the two friends served as the catalyst for them both to "grow up" and move on. The film, which was shot on location in New York, premiered to good reviews at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film's title is a song from the Bruce Springsteen album "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle". The song is about a young boy struggling to make it in the underbelly of New York. The film's tag line ("Good Friends Are Hard To Find") is also the title to a track off of the film's soundtrack from composer Ed Harcourts' latest album "A Beautiful Lie". At only 29 years old, and with four albums out, the soundtrack album is the musician's first.

Frank Whaley was going to attend the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival but had to cancel at the last moment. The actor/director grew up in Syracuse, New York, and left home at eighteen to pursue an acting career. His older brother Robert is the lead singer of the New York based band, the Niagras, and was also the composer for Whaley's directorial debut. He has appeared in over 60 films, including celebrated turns in SWING KIDS, SWIMMING FOR SHARKS, PULP FICTION, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, THE DOORS, HOFFA, FIELD OF DREAMS and WORLD TRADE CENTER. In 2001, he won the Best Actor Award at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival for his performance in the indie drama PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. He next stars opposite Sam Shephard in the film RUFFIAN.

Sandy Mandelberger, Fort Lauderdale FF Dailies Editor

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