Home Arts & Entertainment South Philly natives produce award-winning short film starring big-name comedians

South Philly natives produce award-winning short film starring big-name comedians

Graduates of Saint Maria Goretti shot “Turkey’s Done” in South Philly. Three years later, the short, which features stars Cheri Oteri, Vic DiBitetto and Al Sapienza, will screen in Center City on May 10.

During July 2016, “Turkey’s Done,” which stars Vic DiBitetto, Al Sapienza and Cheri Oteri, was shot along the 1900 block of S. Jessup Street and the 1200 block of McKean Street with a crew of more than two dozen members. (Photo special to SPR)

It’s often suggested to write what we know.

For filmmakers Monique Impagliazzo and Jennifer and Krystal Tini, the visionaries knew hanging on street corners, treating neighbors like family and saying local slights like “strapper.” 

Dreaming of moviemaking two decades ago while students at Saint Maria Goretti High School, the trio didn’t realize that such provincial knowledge would one day land them in Hollywood.

Twenty years later, Impagliazzo, an East Passyunk Crossing native, along with the Tini sisters of Packer Park, have recently released their first short film, “Turkey’s Done,” featuring renowned stars such as former Saturday Night Live cast member Cheri Oteri, stand-up comedian Vic DiBitetto and actor Al Sapienza, whose credits include “The Sopranos” and “House of Cards.”

Set to screen at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival on Friday May 10, the project was filmed three years ago in a little corner of the universe that concurrently served as its inspiration – South Philadelphia.

Comedian “Vic” DiBitetto, former Saturday Night Live Star Cheri Oteri and renowned actor Al Sapienza of “The Sopranos,” starred in “Turkey’s Done,” which was written, produced and filmed in South Philly by three graduates of St. Maria Goretti High School. (Photo special to SPR)

We always wanted to shoot in South Philly, too, and bring it back home…So, it’s something that’s always been important to us, too,” said Impagliazzo, who’s a writer, producer and director of the film. “We want to show the world what it’s like to grow up there and live there – to put it on the map, basically.”  

Impagliazzo and the Tini sisters relocated to Southern California over the last decade where they all lived the L.A. dream – sharing a studio apartment in West Hollywood.

While working on the 2010 children’s musical movie, “Standing Ovation,” which was filmed primarily at the Jersey Shore, the team gradually sparked their joint venture of Big Sis productions.

“Since then, we had this vision of just continuing with scripts and films,” said writer, producer and director Jennifer Tini.

Initially, the writers worked on getting a feature film, “Shenanigans,” which is also South Philly-centric, off the ground.

But striving to catch the eyes of producers and investors first, Big Sis productions instead tried their hands at a short film derived from the feature.

Along the way, the women serendipitously crossed paths with Oteri, who was their neighbor at one point in Los Angeles. One day, when Jennifer was speaking outside, she says, Oteri, an Upper Darby native, immediately noticed a familiar Philly accent.

Monique Impagliazzo, SNL star Cheri Oteri and Jennifer and Krystal Tini of “Turkey’s Done.” (Photo special to SPR)

It wouldn’t be long before the SNL celebrity, whose credits include “Scary Movie,” “Liar, Liar” and “Shrek the Third,” was on board to not only help write “Turkey’s Done,” but even star as the lead.

“With just the Philly connection, we became instant friends,” Jennifer Tini said. “…That’s the thing about Philly, even 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, people come together from the East Coast.”

That lead character is named Peaches Bracco, a sassy South Philly housewife who decides to stuff a Thanksgiving turkey with evidence of her jailbird husband’s affair.

“We wrote around those characters,” Impagliazzo said. “Obviously, some of the personalities that the three of us knew growing up.”

During July 2016, the 17-minute cut, which eventually picked up stars DiBitetto and Sapienza and scoring from film musician Adam Melka, was shot along the 1900 block of S. Jessup Street and the 1200 block of McKean Street with a crew of more than two dozen members.

Across Broad Street, their production office was located at 20th and Wolf streets – a donated space from Mark Leuzzi Plumbing.

Along with Leuzzi, the team attributes several South Philly businesses, locations and individuals to making the film a reality, including Pastificio deli, “Rowhome” magazine, the East Passyunk Community Recreation Center, Councilman Mark Squilla, Realtor Maria Rosetti and Scott Keenan of Keenan’s Irish Pub in Wildwood.

Comedian “Vic” DiBitetto, former Saturday Night Live Star Cheri Oteri and actor Al Sapienza of “The Sopranos,” starred in “Turkey’s Done,” which was written, produced and filmed in South Philly by three graduates of St. Maria Goretti High School. (Photo special to SPR)

Funds from the production itself were raised over the course of a month in the spring of 2016. Through an Indiegogo page, more than $25,000 was raised, which the team says was mostly from generous friends and family of South Philly.

In return, the team intends for revenue to be put back into South Philly through the filming of “Turkey’s Done,” as well as, “Shenanigans,” in the near future.

Everybody just came together…We know we wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Jennifer Tini said.

Beyond South Philly boundaries, “Turkey’s Done” is getting laughs and touching hearts on an international scale, as the film has been featured in a handful of film festivals and has already clinched two prizes so far.

In February, the film placed third in Vancouver’s Just for Laughs Festival’s short film category, contending with dozens of shorts from across the world. Then, in March, it was given the juror award for Best Comedy in the Women’s Film Festival at the Kimmel Center.

The film was also submitted to the Burbank International Film Festival, which takes place in September.

But, on May 10, the film will once again be returning to its roots, as it will screen during the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival at 6:30 p.m. at Gershman Y, Levitt Auditorium, 401 South Broad St.

While “Turkey’s Done” offers a South Philly specificity, the writers say it offers a certain universal appeal.

“The film is about her neighbors coming together as her family,” Impagliazzo said. “And not just South Philly, but, I think, all over the world, friends and neighbors act a lot of time as your family. And, that’s what was most important for us growing up in South Philly – our family and our friends and our neighbors, because we’re all woven together on top of each other.”

Looking ahead, Big Sis productions continues to work on the full-length feature of “Shenanigans,” a coming-of-age comedy surrounding a group of teenaged girls.

And just like “Turkey’s Done,” the motion picture will seek its wellspring of ingenuity from the streets of South Philadelphia.

“I think people want to live in this world a little longer with these characters,” Impagliazzo said. “Because they are so funny, and they want to see what they’re going to do next.”  

For tickets to the screening, visit https://filmfreeway.com/piffFilms/tickets.

To learn more about the film, visit www.facebook.com/turkeysdone/.

gmaiorano@newspapermediagroup.com 

Twitter: @gracemaiorano

Exit mobile version