On Sunday afternoon in Hastings was transformed into the set for Dobbs Ferry resident David Steven Simon's film That's News to Me, a short movie about competing reporters made specifically for Internet audiences.
And why not choose the small coffee shop in Hastings? It has a quaint European feel, arguably some of the best coffee in Westchester, accommodating owners and, oh, it's where Simon and producer met—by chance—a few years ago.
Simon is known best for his writing on TV series such as: The Fresh Pince of Bel- Air, Mad About You, Full House, Sister Sister and The Wayans Bros.
But after many years in Hollywood, Simon said he became bored and jaded; he wanted to move back East and write scripts for which he and his production teams could "break the rules" rather than follow the rigid Los Angeles formulas.
That's News to Me is a 10-to-13 minute film that will appear first on Simon's soon-to-launch movie-screening website, WIT.
"The film is about two TV reporters who work for competing networks," Zung, a Hastings resident, explained. "But they also have a strong personal relationship that has to be resolved publicly on air—it's about the juxtaposition of of two people's intimate lives broadcast for an audience of strangers."
Some might wonder why such a high-profile writer would come back to the Rivertowns and start putting together teams of professionals for Internet movies.
"I think there's a huge untapped audience of adults who use the Internet regularly but don't want to watch videos of sneezing pandas on youtube," Simon said. "The reason people make it in new fields is that they're too naive to be scared; this will be the maiden voyage for me of producing sophisticated films just for the Internet."
Simon thinks it's ridiculous that Hollywood generally makes only one film per year targeted to older audiences. "I know people 40 and up have greater discretionary incomes and use iPhones and laptops as much as their younger counterparts."
That's News to Me has seven actors (many of whom appeared in the film Newsies) and about eight active crew members.
Though the pay isn't what it would be if they were shooting under the Hollywood sun, Simon said everyone jumped on board to get involved with something creative and organic.
"For 30 years I was told exactly what to do and what not to do," he said. "This is pure. I conceived an idea, and everyone involved just wants to add to it—to make it better. They like having the creative freedom."
Simon hopes to be paving the road for Internet films to make it into big-name festivals and potentially become as large a market as movies made for television.
"One day I decided I'd had it; I wanted to do something different," Simon said. Though he still has many scripts he left in Hollywood—unabashedly admitting that it would be nice if a network or decided to pick them up—his new passion couldn't be less LA-style.
"If you live by everyone else's 'No's,' you never get the rewards of your own 'Yes,' he said.
Names associated with That's News to Me
David Steven Simon, writer, producer
Fred Blankfein, director/producer, best known for his work on Woody Allen's Manhattan and Annie Hall.