In releasing his new film “The Attic,” local filmmaker Fred Muntzner had several motives in mind.
While he wants people to leave the theater feeling good, he also wants them to think about what they saw.
In some ways, he hopes having seen his film will change people, and many will learn a valuable lesson on life.
While “The Attic” is his first feature-length film, it won’t be the last, Muntzner promised. In fact, using what he learned in making this film, he intends to develop another even more emotionally powerful film.
That is saying a lot, since those who saw the film at the Tribeca Film Center in Manhattan on Jan. 10 said “The Attic” is a very influential and very moving film.
During an interview that included Muntzner and members of his movie staff – Joe Lizza and creative consultant Roda (who only uses one name) – Muntzner talked about his hopes for the film.
The film was shot at various locations throughout Bayonne took three and a half years to complete.
“This is a story about how difficult it is to be a cop,” Muntzner said. “But it also about how difficult it is growing up in the inner city.”
The film is about the clash of these two elements, and how both a prejudiced cop and a desperate drug addict are forced to listen to each other and in the end come to an understanding about each other’s worlds and problems.
Muntzner is something of a one-man band since he produced, directed, and starred in the film.
“I wanted the film to be about life,” he said.
Muntzner, who grew up in Hoboken and currently resides in Bayonne, said it is based on what he has seen everywhere in Hudson County, including on the tough streets of Jersey City.
Personal relationships and observation allowed him to develop the characters, he said.
“There is tension in this film,” said Lizza. “That makes the ending more powerful. People take things for granted, and it isn’t until something happens that they see things differently. There is one scene in this film where the junkie gets to look at the cop’s family photos. It is a very moving scene.”
Muntzner said part of his motivation in the film was to bring together the cop and the drug addict so that they might see each other’s side.
In some ways, Muntzner sees himself as rebuilding a bridge of communication between the cop’s world and the world of the drug addict.
“The problems in the inner city exist and they can’t be ignored. They must be repaired,” he said. “Being a cop is hard, but so is being an inner city kid. The cop is ripped apart by life, but has to stand up under the pressure. But he doesn’t really understand how hard it is to grow up in the inner city until he meets the kid.”
The film brings these two characters together in a way that forces them to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s troubles.
While a huge portion of the film was shot in a room on East 11th Street in Bayonne, Muntzner said other areas of the city were also used as backdrop for the film.
The name of the film, “The Attic,” is based on the room where the cop and the junkie are trapped together.
This is not a big budget film, but it has three ingredients Muntzner said all great films must have: a great script, great acting and great directing.
Actors came from all over Hudson County, although Muntzner made good use of his family, such as his daughters, Denise Feely and Jacqueline Torres; Jacqueline’s husband, Richard; Muntzner’s wife, Margaret, and his son, Fred, all of whom are from Bayonne.
Actor Buddy Woodson joined the film from Union City, while Muntzner reached into his roots to draw actors from Hoboken such as Lizza, Rosemary Grogan, and Jamie Bosworth. He also brought in Candice La Guia Lenoir from Jersey City.
This film tested Muntzner’s ability to bring together people for a common purpose, a skill he will likely need when he broaches his next project, the adaptation of his own book, “A Flower in the Mud.”
A former drama coach, Muntzner has written for newspapers throughout northern New Jersey. His movie production company, called The Hoboken Boys Productions, is based in Hoboken.
“I needed to do this movie so I could show what I could do as a director,” he said.
He is currently working with several distribution companies for a potential wider theatrical release.
Nick Taylor, a Bayonne film director who played a small roll in “The Attic,” called it a brilliant film.
“In all honesty, I thought it was truly brilliant,” Taylor said. “I was so impressed with what he did with a small amount of money. It was lit and shot well, but the acting was superb. I’m not usually generous with my complements. But he hit this one out of the ball park and he deserves success.”