Hosting Hollywood in South Philly

Two blocks of South Philly were turned into movie sets last weekend as locals, making a name for themselves in the film industry in Los Angeles, came home to make “Turkey’s Done” starring Cheri Oteri. The 1900 block of South Jessup Street and the 1200 block of McKean Street became the fictitious home block for characters cooked up by Monique Impagliazzo, Jennifer Tini, and Krystal Tini — characters imbued with the quirks and charms that the Tini sisters and Impagliazzo are all too familiar with.

“We look forward to making a film with local cast and crew about growing up in our hometown and sharing it with the rest of the world,” Jennifer Tini said in a press release. They crowd-sourced funding for this short film, collecting $25,000 of the requested $22,000 by way of the website Indiegogo, with a campaign that ended May 22. “The hope is that this will sell ‘Shenanigans’ and we can bring $6 million back to South Philly,” Impagliazzo said. They’ve already got a major feature in the works, so one could see this short film as a hilarious glimpse at what these three filmmakers can do.

“This was the first production that we self-produced, and this has been the week from hell,” Impagliazzo joked. “We’re sitting here on Monday and we produced something that’s entertaining with real actors and actresses, and it’s legitimate.”

The three aspiring film professionals have familial connections to the 1100 block of McClellan Street, the 1500 block of Forrestal Street, and the 3200 block of South Juniper Street.

In 2009, they wrapped “Standing Ovation,” a children’s musical that Jennifer helped to produce. The Tini sisters sing the praises of the Mary Anne Claro Talent Agency and Claro, they say, introduced them to Diane Kirman, a producer and the spouse of Stewart Raffill, the writer and director of “Ovation.” The Upper Darby agent “is one of the hardest working women ever, she’s gotten us a lot of work,” Krystal said.

It’s been a slow build for the three South Philly moviemaking hopefuls, but they have grown from sharing a tiny, one-room studio apartment in L.A. (one that Claro helped them find).

It was in their nicer L.A. apartment complex where they ran into Oteri and her dogs.

“We’ve all been obsessed with her forever,” Krystal, who immediately ran to her sister when she came face-to-face with the Saturday Night Live legend, said.

“Every line that was written I imagined her saying,” her sibling said.

Oteri plays Peaches Bracco, “a South Philly housewife who discovers her husband’s infidelities while preparing Thanksgiving Dinner,” says a release. Her husband is Dino Brocco, played by Al Sapienza (who has credits from “The Sopranos,” “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order” and the film “Godzilla” to his name), and loudmouthed neighbor Tony DeLuca was done dutifully by comedian Vic DiBitetto.

Oteri herself has ties to South Philly despite an upbringing in Upper Darby — Oteri’s Italian Bakery, with three locations (the nearest in SW Philly, a mile and a half southwest of Bartram’s Garden on Woodland Avenue) in the area, but the three filmmakers did coach her on some South Philly-isms.

The Tini sisters rattled off some unique insults firmly implanted in the Italian South Philly vocabulary: jerk-off, crumb, strapper, camar (though as they point out, can be a good thing) and whorepig, to name a few. While Krystal attended to Oteri’s hair and makeup, Oteri picked up a few that she used in takes of shooting. The younger Tini, a former Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., dance teacher and Philadelphia 76ers dancer, said Peaches is “based on a few people we’ve known — she’s completely erratic and a little unstable.” Her one-year-older sister added that Oteri’s husband “was a womanizing bastard — this is a story that we know.”

“People from South Philly see that you’re trying to put them on the map, and they get behind it,” Impagliazzo raved. “We’re still in shock.”

As soon as the Indiegogo campaign had launched, they started hearing from locals like realtor Maria Rosetti or Pastificio Homemade Pasta Co, 1528 Packer Ave. Rosetti set the girls up with a production room at 20th and Wolf streets, where table reads and editing took place over the course of a month, and connected them to her sister-in-law, Eleanor Rosetti.

Rosetti and her husband live in the Jessup Street house where they filmed last weekend.

“It’s been a blast and I’ve met so many new friends,” Rosetti told SPR at the shoot.

There were reports of a passing-by nun blessing the production, and neighbors volunteered being an extra or offering labor.

“The crew are all local and they were so amazing,” Jennifer Tini, who’d hired nearly 35 laborers for shooting, said. “Our crew worked for close to nothing.”

“Everyone came out, they wanted to help,” Impagliazzo added.

Part of this film’s heart is de-stigmatizing Italian Americans and painting them in favorable, fun, and loving colors.

“Everybody’s family,” Jennifer Tini said of South Philly Italians and this small movie-making family. “You’re going to eat everything in an Italian’s fridge — they’re generous,” Impagliazzo opined.

Natalie Stone, a native of the 1100 block of Titan Street, a friend to the Tinis, and a Medford Lakes, N.J. resident, said she heard about a casting for “a loudmouthed, middle-aged Italian woman” and said “that’s exactly what I am!” She plays Rita DeLuca, Tony’s wife and Peaches’s neighbor, and said she loved bonding with Oteri and returning to her South Philly roots.

Jennifer Tini saw photos of Rosetti’s house and immediately knew that it was Peaches’ — especially the kitchen with oil and vinegar on the table, chachkies, plus curtains and wall art heavily wine-themed. It was fate.

It’s a treat to see motivated, talented and gifted locals earn their career in a challenging industry like film (“Everyone wants to be in the film business,” Jennifer Tini said) but the filming of “Turkey’s Done,” and hopefully “Shenanigans,” in South Philly is a perfect circle for these three women.

“The three of us being in this business, we always wanted to go back to South Philly,” Impagliazzo said, noting that tax credits are helpful to get films shot locally, more so than in New York or L.A. And that films being shot in locations means money in those local economies. “The next project will be around $6 million and that will all be spent here.”

Contact Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at or ext. 117.

Monique Impagliazzo, Cheri Oteri, Krystal Tini and Jennifer Tini took a break during filming last weekend to step out from behind the camera.

“Turkey’s Done” was shot on two quintessential South Philly blocks and stars Oteri as Peaches Brocco.

Photo by Jennifer Condo

Photo by Tina Garceau