Tony Barbieri’s “Em” is an intense and moving romantic drama about what happens after two twenty-somethings start a new life and a home together and secrets of the past begin to emerge. The film is now streaming for free on SnagFilms and at the bottom of this page.
Director: Tony Barbieri
Producers: Jim Jermanok, Jesse Biltz, Harry Gregson-Williams & Britt Napier
What it’s about: Josh Weathers is an aimless young man in his twenties who is looking for more out of life. Enter Amanda “Em” Helms, a vivacious and spirited young woman who lives life to the fullest. Instinctive mutual attraction brings them together and soon blossoms into a rich romance. But when the two decide to start a new life and a home together, secrets of the past emerge… It’s been called the most raw and authentic film about mental illness (bi-polar disorder) in past quarter century. But most importantly, it is a realistic and compelling love story.
Producer Jim Jermanok’s on his many hats: “I’ve worn a number of hats. I grew up in Schenectady, New York and clearly did not get enough attention. I first was an actor, then a stand-up comedian, than an agent at ICM, where I helped to represent Shirley MacLaine, Dudley Moore, Helen Hayes, Alan Arkin, Henry Winkler and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, among others. Now I continue to wear a number of hats professionally. I’m a writer, director and producer in narrative and documentary feature films as well as in television, theater and new media. My most famous film is the romantic comedy, ‘Passionada,’ which I wrote with my travel writer brother, Stephen. I was also fortunate to have produced the film, which is the first American film to primarily focus on the Portuguese community in America. And the first film (in over 80 years) set in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which is seventy percent Portuguese. It was released by Columbia Tri Star in over 150 countrie s and we were very fortunate to receive great acclaim worldwide. I make movies because I love making viewers feel alive and affecting them emotionally.”
Collaborating on ‘Em’: “It was a rare opportunity to work with two creative and acclaimed friends who I greatly admire, the writer-director, Tony Barbieri (‘One,’ ‘Magic of Marciano’) and my fellow producer, the exceptional composer Harry Gregson-Williams ( ‘Em,’ the upcoming ‘Total Recall,’ ‘Unstoppable,’ ‘Shrek 1-4,’ all ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ films, ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ ‘Man on Fire’ ‘Phone Booth,’ ‘The Town,’ and over 75 others). They are both incredibly gifted and great people. Harry and I became upset and frustrated at hearing about the long, six-year wait Tony had to endure to make his third film happen despite directing two previous award-winning features. We found the time and resources to make ‘Em’ a reality. I was also inspired by the subject matter, a raw and authentic look at mental illness, which usually receives a stereotypical treatment in films and television.”
On the challenges: “We made the film for way, way less than a million dollars and it is always a challenge making a high-quality film for a low budget, particularly in LA and San Francisco. We also decided to make the film with best actors we could find and not necessarily the most famous actors or names. I’m very proud of the amazing performances that our stars Nathan Wetherington and Stef Willen deliver as well as the rest of our fine cast. However, there are extraordinary barriers to releasing a film without well-known stars in today’s marketplace.”
What SnagFilms audiences can expect: “I’m very proud of the acting, directing, score and cinematography (Keith Dunkerley) of our film. I think the audience will respond most to the authentic and down-to-earth story and characters. I hope they will respond to the real-life humanity on display. I’m biased, of course, but I promise, there is not a false note in the entire film. Audience members find watching the film a very intense and moving experience. I still do and I’ve seen the film quite a few times!”
Inspirations: “Our extraordinary writer-director Tony Barbieri is the most humble human being I’ve ever met. He is inspired by other extremely authentic and humble filmmakers. Particularly European directors. Tony was first hooked on filmmaking in the early nineties while living in Paris. There, Barbieri studied under French visual artist Francois Matisse, who exposed him to the Italian Neorealists and the French New Wave, two film revolutions that continue to inspire and influence him.”
Future projects? “I am committed to several film, television and new media projects. I hope to direct ‘THE EX FACTOR’ (not the talent show) a dark romantic comedy with my brother Stephen Jermanok in the fall of this year.”