Saturday, November 7, 2009

IGU Wins 5 in AC

In a triumphant homecoming for it's East Coast Premiere, Ice Grill, USA won 5 awards at the Downbeach Film Festival's AC Cinefest. With a packed house to open the festival including stars Connor Fox, Tyler Noble, Michael Angelo Ortiz, Los Jones, Ray McKnight, Rory Dunwoody and Kevin Interdonato, the Ice Grill, USA movement rolled on with five jury awards: Audience Award: Best of Fest, Best Young Actor for Connor Fox, Best Supporting Actor for Michael Angelo Ortiz, Best New Jersey Based Feature and Best New Directors for Mark Bernardi and Greg Santarsiero. Some coverage of the weekend's events follows here:

Monday, September 28, 2009

IGU October: East Coast Premieres

Following an award winning world premiere in Los Angeles, Ice Grill, USAcomes home for its East Coast premieres.

First (oh so appropriately) in Atlantic City as the opening film of the Downbeach Film Festival on Friday night 10/16/09 at 7:30pm at the screening room at Resorts Hotel & Casino. The screening will be followed by a Q&A and a reception running until midnight. The following afternoon at 1:30pm, the IGU creators, Greg Santarsiero and Mark Bernardi, will take part in the "Independent Filmmaking in the 21st Century" panel also held at Resorts. Tickets are available now online here:

The following Friday, on 10/23/09 at 10:00pm, IGU arrives at the birthplace of the Enlightened Party movement, the setting of Rise By Sin, our home away from home--Philadelphia, PA as a spotlight screening in the prestigious FirstGlance Philly 12 Film Fest held at the Franklin Theatre at the Franklin Institute in center city Philadelphia. Tickets for this hot event are available now for presale (so get em while you can) here:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

IGU Wins Jury Prize at World Premiere in LA

Ice Grill, USA wins the Best Feature Bronze Jury Prize at the Cinema City Int'l Film Festival in Los Angeles on September 12, 2009.

After a strong world premiere screening attended by the writer/producer/director team of Mark Bernardi and Greg Santarsiero, and IGU stars Tyler Noble, Los Jones, John Antorino and Frankie DiVita, as well as IGU female lead Denise Ramirez's sister Dania (X-Men) and Napoleon Dynamite's Efren Ramirez (no relation), IGU received stellar scores being edged out by the award-winning feature Like Dandelion Dust starring Mira Sorvino, Barry Pepper and Cole Hauser.

Look for the East Coast premieres of Ice Grill, USA this October.

Monday, August 31, 2009

IGU World Premiere: Los Angeles, 9/11/09

Ice Grill, USA is set to make its world premiere as part of the Cinema City Int'l Film Festival. The premiere will be screened at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, CA on Friday, 9/11/09 at 4:45pm. Be there.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The IGU MySpace is LIVE...

The official MySpace page for Ice Grill, USA is live.

So check it out, add us, top friend us and tell your peoples to do the same.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ice Grill, USA's First Major Review

"If you're looking for an example of under-evolved hypermasculinity, you can find it in the pleasure pit of Atlantic City, NJ. In Ice Grill, USA, co-filmmakers Mark Bernardi and Greg Santarsiero, who spent their younger years near AC, craft a tale of class-consciousness, sexual favors, and underground violence in the town's ugly underbelly."

Read more of IGU's first major review which dropped today on AMC's, penned by esteemed film critic Eric Meyerson here:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Player Profile: Rory Dunwoody

This week we're going to feature one of the other critical players that made IGU the vivid, enigmatic universe that it is--Rory Dunwoody. In his few scenes, Rory stole the show as Marc "The Piss Guy" Bevilaqua, a reformed criminal who has turned to God after finding his life's calling supplying clean urine to prospective casino employees and parolees alike.

Rory has been family since day one, starring in both of our films, and on a personal level is an absolute joy to work with and a blast simply to be around. He's a witty, charismatic and extremely talented method actor who truly becomes each character he undertakes. He is a unique and authentic practitioner of his very signature brand of craft. What follows is a little info on the man behind the madness.

Rory Dunwoody grew up in Philadelphia and attended St. Joseph's Prep High School, which is known for its theater program's successful alumni. Having appeared in plays from the age of 12, Rory debuted in the Bernardi and
Santarsiero debut film Rise by Sin. While living in Japan for three and a half years, Rory co-starred in a Japanese TV Movie 'Jiku Keisatsu' (Time Police), appeared in the feature film 'Baruto no Gakuen' (The Ode to Joy), co-starred in a documentary and was featured in several months issues of 'Spymaster' magazine as a fashion model. After returning to the US, he appeared, after some consideration, in a smaller role as Marc 'The Piss Guy' Bevilaqua in Ice Grill, USA. Now back living in the NY area and settled, Rory is committed to his craft and will no doubt be leaving his mark on films for many years to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"It Takes a Village..."

Once I mused that though they say "it takes a village to raise a child, on rare occasions, a child must step up to raise a village." Though probably not fair to a couple of middle class Jersey boys, over the years we have no doubt charged ourselves with that responsibility... Much like Auggie who'd unfairly take it upon himself to save everybody until eventually everyone around him began to expect exactly that. It is motivating to think, though, that were we so fortunate to break on through to the other side, we'd hold the door wide open for all of the good and decent, talented and hungry folks we'd been so lucky to encounter on that steep ascent up life's great mountainside.

That said, we've met so many benevolent, supportive, positive people on our way to bringing IGU to fruition. These wonderful individuals proved that it does indeed take a village--to bring a dream to life. These are just a few of the many we will cast a light upon in future days from this very platform...

Andy "A-Robb" Robbins from BPG (, who we bumrushed with DVDs and biz cards at Sundance 2004 and who was hip and open-minded enough to see the hunger in our eyes and the unique voice in our words. Reading every script along the way and signing on to orchestrate the multimedia tour de force that has been the IGU marketing materials, we are forever in his debt. A man of talent, vision and honor, we've been so blessed to have him in our corner since day one. Thanks for believing in us, Andy.

Katherine "Kat" Hinchey and the ladies of Weist-Barron-Ryan. In the seminal planning stages of IGU pre-production, our lone resource was the time to meticulously put together an astonishingly talented and diverse cast. Our goal became a reality because of the efforts of a few very special ladies. Whether it was the brilliant casting instincts of Kat spending her nights and weekends filling in the gaps and finding the exact actors we envisioned in our mind's eye when we first penned the script in '06 to Ursula and Stefanie so generously opening their Atlantic City doors to us, helping us hold the auditions that would find some of our most integral characters and populating our backgrounds with some amazingly hard-working and dedicated extras. These ladies quite clearly made contributions to Ice Grill, USA that are so great they as yet are still unquantifiable.

Anthony "Tony" Vorhies. The producer extraordinaire was among the very first to believe that IGU was even possible. From the first pre-production meetings to the day we wrapped sound, AV was Ice Grill, USA's lucky talisman. Quirkily charming, immensely resourceful and connected out the ass, AV could always be counted on to make shit happen. Keeping the ship afloat when Mark & I were locked in the lab with Andy or Chen, AV was exactly the man this film needed and he delivered in the clutch every time. Much respect goes out to AV for his hustle, his heart and for having our back. Keep doing your thing, my brother.

These are just a few of the many names that turned chicken scratch on yellow legal pads into viable art. In the future we'll shout out many more stellar members of the IGU dream team like "The Mayor", "Tall Shady", "The Phenom" and "Big Rich".

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Desperate Measures"

Auggie Logan's plight in "Ice Grill, USA" is no different than the life events we've lived through. The struggles of his friends not unlike what we've witnessed first hand. In South Jersey, there are limited options on the road to success. You either become a cog in the machine or you dedicate your life to greasing its gears. To be honest, neither of those options ever much appealed to me.

Brigantine, we referred to as "The Rock", because much like Alcatraz, it was an island quite difficult from which to escape. A great place to grow up, a safe place to raise your kids, but very much a world unto itself. A world where it is easy to lose a decade or two in the blink of an eye if you aren't always fully aware of its grasp. Sometimes an exodus would take extreme measures, like spending 4 hours in a two hundred mile daily commute (been there, done that) or heroically signing your life over to Uncle Sam (much respect to PFC Jon, Angry).

One easy, safe venture off of The Rock was to work at a casino. Corporate enough to feel like you were doing something business-like, but close enough to stay in the loop. I know this intimately, as through college and for a few years beyond I worked as a bouncer at a casino nightclub. I saw my share of shit during that time, enough to belly up to the underbelly and be able to look back and proudly proclaim my survival. I saw the rampant drug abuse and alcoholism, the infidelity and immorality, the hustlers in their mink coats and rental cars. I also encountered and observed many decent, hard-working folks with hearts of gold, doing what they had to do to get by.

It was in fully considering both sides of that poker chip that we approached first writing "Ice Grill, USA". To pay homage to the folks that spend their lives raising their kids right in the face of vice, to show love for the good cops like Haberkern and Julie Cash, to forever memorialize the casualties of that world like Rocco, Learn and CW. It was to call out those that have lost their way, steering their whip recklessly down the wrong street, with no regard for their own safety or that of those innocent pedestrians that surround them on the road that is their runaway life. That goes from our close friends that got caught up in a game they couldn't win, to doctors moonlighting as drug dealers slinging pharmaceutical grade heroine to junkies posing as patients. This movie is dedicated to all of them--the wicked and the virtuous, the lost and the found and all of those that operate in the vast gray expanse in between.

IGU is the story of that shadowy middle realm and the people who live their daily lives there. It is an ode to the South Jersey working class, a love song to the good folks--both those doing their dirt and those keeping it clean, who keep the big Atlantic City roulette wheel spinning.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"IGU Slanguage"

Here's a few words unique to "Ice Grill, USA" and the Atlantic City area in general. Feel free to use them at your discretion...

shoobies- out-of-towners vacationing in Atlantic County. Named as such for bringing their belongings to the beach in a shoe box.
bupies- Buprenex aka buprenorphine. Preloaded syringes of synthetic opiate painkiller. Similar to morphine.
B-More Greasy- Tony's Baltimore Grill. Iconic Atlantic City restaurant. 2800 Atlantic Ave. Home to some of the best pizza in the known world.
safe boy- non-threatening male trusted to keep tabs on your woman.
tweaker- one addicted to painkillers or recreational drugs.
geebers- GHB or gamma butyrolactone. Date rape drug originally popularized by bodybuilders.
axe wound- derogatory term for female genitalia.
the god's staff- self-aggrandizing term for for male genitalia.
roxies- Roxicet. Opiate painkiller pills chemically similar to percs.
Ho Spit- nickname for major Atlantic County Catholic high school.
percs- Percocet. Opiate painkiller pills combining oxycodone and acetaminophen.
back of the house- employee-only access portions of a casino. See also the female anus.
math- Private phone numbers and contact info.
ganked- Stolen by force. See also jacked or vicked.
dirty rottens- Negative term for female club-goers. Term coined by the late John Rock.
vikes- Vicodin. Opiate painkiller pills chemically similar to percs and roxies.
wolves- predatory males.
Men's Wearhouse- Male casino executives. See also Today's Man.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Ghost Dog, The Wrestler and IGU"

Every so often films come around that just have that special undefinable thing that speaks to your soul. They are so different and authentic and unique, that you feel that the auteur behind them is speaking directly to you... That the film was made with you and your tastes and life experiences in mind. I cherish these films and I only come across them rarely, but as an artist, ultimately I aspire to create something for somebody out there that has a similar intimate impact.

I know these films are of those sort even before I see them. I get that little shooting pain in the pit of my stomach--that authentic envy that turns you a couple of shades of green when it envelops you. To know that somebody out there beat you to the punch and made a film you wish you made. That feeling, to me, is what separates a great film from the films I truly love.

I remember feeling that way when Jarmusch came out with "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai". It was so strange and beautiful. It touched on antiquted themes like code and honor. It depicted the journey of a solitary hero and Rza laced the whole thing with what was at the time a revolutionary score (pre-Kill Bill).

When Darren Aronofsky came out with "The Wrestler", I again was given pause (Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei in the real Jersey? Are you fucking kidding me?). It had these similar themes with an East Coast gladiator of old hanging on to an era and a life that had passed him by. Both films depict these damaged warriors in a sad and sympathetic light, and in a manner that many may find depressing--but not me. To me there is nothing so righteous and noble as to die in the arena; for the gunslinger to meet his end with his boots on.

"Ice Grill, USA" is a very personal story for us and one that I feel, though on the surface very different than the films I've referenced, has a gritty and genuine, melancholic soul that is brave and feels true and honest. My only hope, is that for some blue collar kid out there, "Ice Grill, USA" can strike a chord. That IGU could be anything close to them what these films have been to me... That it can remind them of who they are and where they come from or at the very least leave an impression that lasts. I can only dream that IGU could someday make another young Jersey filmmaker envious, inspiring them to tell a story of home in their own unique and authentic voice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Hip Hop and the EP Experience"

It is amazing how embedded in my gray matter and in our creative aesthetic hip hop music will forever be. I've always loved music, with stacks of vinyl when I was 7 yrs old, but my life definitely changed when my pops bought me Run DMC's King of Rock cassette at a ticket broker/bookie in Scranton in the 3rd grade. I listened to it over and over again and "let the tape rock til the tape popped." My boy Mark Michalczyk had his big brother Joey's bootleg Memorex 2 Live Crew tape that was banned from stores--we smuggled that tape like it was weapons grade uranium.

Moved to the Jersey shore at 10. By 6th grade my little catholic grade school was deep into rap. NWA, Naughty by Nature, Cypress Hill, House of Pain... Classic. One of the earliest common interests that bonded Sko and I was our love for this angry, poetic, misunderstood artform.

Equally balanced by how my mom raised me and the multiethnic, multicultural experience that was running the streets and playing ball as a kid on the South end of Brigantine, Public Enemy's music so influenced my views on racism and social equality in modern America. I'm so thankful for the lessons taught by Chuck D, Flav and Terminator X.

I remember me and Sko hitting up the spots at the Shore and Hamilton Malls to scoop up tape singles and going to Rainbow Records on Atlantic Ave with Jerry to get the new mixtapes from New York. I remember being a white kid at Holy Spirit and being one of the only freshmen (Joey Mac too) that openly listened to hip hop. By the time I was a senior, everybody was so burned out and kumbaya that I had rich white girls borrowing my Raekwon and Mobb Deep CDs.

Even the videos on BET, The Box and Yo! MTV Raps back in the day had a profound impact on me as a visual artist... Gritty realism, frenetic editing, rich colors a female curve or two... They are part and parcel of what is constantly evolving and maturing into the EP look ("Glam Grit" as Gus would say).

I've long found myself defending hip hop to people of all walks of life who just don't get it and probably never will. That said, I've also opened many a heart, mind and ear to the music we love and can boast many a hip hip conversion in my day. This minor missionary work, and the words that flow from our pens and the images we put on screen are a small way of paying back this music form that has contributed so much to our lives. Thank you, hip hop. I owe you.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Turning Points"

Life is nothing, if not a series of turning points. Some positive, some negative--all designed to test your mettle, to help you find yourself, to shape your identity as an individual. 2006 was a rough 365 on the personal, the daily grind a scenario that found getting out of bed in the morning a triumph. You let such dark days crush you, or as Mr. Logan would say "you break them."

Instead of being broken, I did the only thing I knew, I retreated inward, lost myself in the process. Went back to family, back to my training, back to the lab, back to the dream. The first 50 or so pages of "Ice Grill, USA" were written piecemeal under these ideal conditions... Get up at 6am, make my hour+ commute to work, work all day, scoop Sko up at the Jersey Ave NJ Transit stop, stop at Subway on the way home if we were lucky enough to be able to scrape together the skrilla for a sandwich and a Diet Dr. Pepper. (Double meat? Maybe someday.) Get back to the crib in PA, go up to the loft and scribble on the yellow legal pads until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore, pass out, wake up, do it again. It was all coming together slowly and sporadically, a page here, a scene there--as life's responsibilities would permit. At times, it felt as if it may never get done, as if it would all just kinda drag on forever until the enthusiasm for it all would just eventually fade.

Having a few vacation days to burn as December came around, depressed, lost and unsure of what the next day would bring, I made a choice. I took a 48 hr block and started a cycle of writing a scene, sleeping for 2 hrs, writing a scene and so on. A couple of days later, I would pick Sko up at the train station and drop thirty odd pages of yellow legal chickenscratch into his lap. That was all the motivation either of us needed to get the ball rolling for real. From that point on IGU kind of took on a life and momentum all its own. That was just the first of countless turning points of this saga, but it is one I'll never forget and is one I'll forever be thankful for...