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Sheepshead Bay lobster distributor is inspiration for new indie flick

GO Brooklyn Editor
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Before opening in theaters this weekend, Kevin Jordan’s indie film "Brooklyn Lobster" has already garnered both the "Audience Award for Best Long Island Film" at last month’s Hamptons International Film Festival and the heart of Borough President Markowitz, who proclaimed Nov. 1 to be "Brooklyn Lobster Day."

Rising above Markowitz, Jordan and the film’s star Danny Aiello (who plays the role of lobster farm owner Frank Giorgio) at the proclamation ceremony Tuesday in the waterfront park adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge, was an enormous, inflated Santa Claus riding one of the crustaceans. The gigantic balloon was a prop from the film in which Aiello portrays a stubborn man who’s grappling with the imminent loss of his family business and the dissolution of his marriage.

Although the movie is loosely based on the financial difficulties of Jordan’s father, Bill, Aiello told GO Brooklyn his performance wasn’t intended to be an exact impersonation of the real Bill. Yet Bill did help the actor to understand the real-life anguish of some of the actual events.

"There’s a scene in a courtroom that’s really quite sad," recalled the Academy Award-nominated actor, who shot those frames while Bill was on the set. "Out of the corner of my eye, I see him so sad, then I started crying.

"Bill is Bill, and I put a lot of myself into the role, but for those who don’t know Bill, I hoped they would love him through me."

In addition to being the director of "Brooklyn Lobster," Jordan is also its writer and producer. His script captures aspects of his family’s struggle to keep their Sheepshead Bay business, Jordan’s Lobster Dock, afloat after City Trust bank defaulted on a loan intended to help them build an extension.

The Jordan family was confronted with the loss of their livelihood which took three generations to build. Bill said it was his father who moved the family’s lobster business from Bleecker Street in Manhattan to Brooklyn in 1966.

"We were able to grow into the single largest distributor in New York of Maine and Canadian lobsters," said Bill. But Jordan didn’t see seafood in his future; he enrolled in film school.

"[Kevin’s] a creative genius, and he’s one of your own," Aiello said to the crowd of reporters and photographers gathered around the inflated lobster, but the actor isn’t the first to acknowledge the young filmmaker’s talents. Jordan, a New York University alum, received the inaugural Martin Scorsese Young Filmmaker Scholarship and NYU’s Continued Excellence in Directing Award, and after graduation, he was invited by Scorsese to spend two months observing the filming of "Kundun" in Morocco.

So when Jordan got in a jam, he turned to his mentor for help.

Jordan told GO Brooklyn that when "we ran out of money at a certain point, I sent [Scorsese] a rough cut, and he enjoyed the film. He thought there was a very natural flow to the film, and he offered to put his name on it."

The filmmaker said he hopes the "Martin Scorsese presents" tag on "Brooklyn Lobster" advertisements will get people’s attention when they’re deciding which film to see this weekend.

Jordan said he and his brother Darren will attend as many screenings as they can in Manhattan and at the United Artists theater in Sheepshead Bay during the opening weekend, which began Nov. 4.

"We want to give it a film festival feeling," said Jordan. "People are interested in the actual events behind the film."

"Brooklyn Lobster" is Jordan’s second feature film; his first was "Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish" which won the "Discovery Award" at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival.

According to Aiello, "Brooklyn Lobster" received a similarly warm welcome at its premiere at this year’s festival.

"The film was a smash at Toronto; it sold out every performance," he recalled.

Aiello was an early fan of "Brooklyn Lobster." He said he was "so enamored with the script" that he called Jordan at his home - at 3 o’clock in the morning - to tell him he was on board.

"I’m impulsive when I like something," he explained. "Money wasn’t an object to me. I knew I wouldn’t make anything on this indie film, but it’s not often you’re offered a character-driven project - not a commercially driven one."

Aiello’s "Brooklyn Lobster" role echoes his similarly heartfelt performance in Spike Lee’s "Do the Right Thing" set in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in which he also played the proprietor of an Italian-American, family-owned business.

Although Aiello is a Manhattan native, several of his career’s most memorable scenes have been shot in Brooklyn.

"In ’City Hall,’ I blew my brains out in Borough Park," recalled Aiello with a laugh.

The diverse casting of "Brooklyn Lobster" reflects multicultural New York City, while its primary location, Sheepshead Bay in winter, captures the hardships of the lobster men battling nature’s elements in an urban setting.

"[’Brooklyn Lobster’] is a film I’ll always be proud of as the years go by," said Aiello. "It’s a beautiful movie. No one looks like they’re acting. They’re just behaving and reacting."

In the film, Maureen, Aiello’s character’s wife, is played by Emmy Award-winner Jane Curtin ("Saturday Night Live," "Third Rock from the Sun," "Kate and Allie"), whose character is written by Jordan with as much affection as the character Frank.

"I thought the cheese was slipping off my cracker for a while," says Maureen, in one of her typical grin-and-bear-it lines.

Frank and Maureen’s well-meaning - but meddling - grown children are played by Daniel Sauli as Michael and Marisa Ryan as Lauren.

But again, "Brooklyn Lobster" is truly just "loosely based" on reality, because Jordan’s real-life siblings (and the film’s co-producers) are not sisters at all but his brothers Darren and Brian. And while in the film Frank adamantly rejects his son-in-law’s offer to connect him with a restaurant franchise to rescue his lobster farm ("I don’t want to turn my restaurant into a burger joint"), in real life, Bill Jordan is ecstatic about his partnership with TGI Fridays.

"It was the best thing I ever did," said Bill. "Now they are one of the top-grossing Fridays in the United States."

 

"Brooklyn Lobster" opened at the United Artists Sheepshead Bay 14 theater (3907 Shore Pkwy at Knapp Street) on Nov. 4. Tickets are $9.75, $6 children and seniors. For showtimes, call Fandango at (800) 326-3264 (express code 614). For more information, visit the Web site www.brooklynlobster.com.

Jordan’s Lobster Dock is located at 3165 Harkness Ave. between Knapp and Emmons avenues in Sheepshead Bay. For more information, call (718) 934-6300 or (800) 404-CLAW.

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