By DANIEL KITTREDGE The story may involve a journey across the globe, but for the many of the cast and crew members, shooting the independent film "Poor Paul" has been a celebration of home. "I don't need to be anyplace else . All I need is between the
The story may involve a journey across the globe, but for the many of the cast and crew members, shooting the independent film “Poor Paul” has been a celebration of home.
“I don’t need to be anyplace else … All I need is between the W’s, Westerly and Woonsocket,” said Cranston’s Stephen O’Neil Martin, who plays the role of Leonardo.
There are many other familiar local faces taking part in the production, which was at the Sprague Mansion on Cranston Street for four days starting last Thursday.
They include the accomplished Sissy O’Hara, who has dozens of credits both behind and in front of the camera, and comedian Brian Vincent.
Then there’s Adam Carbone, likely familiar to many Cranstonians for his 2020 mayoral campaign – a run that saw him arrive to a debate dressed in a hot dog costume, all while trumpeting his plans for a new “Bagel & Cream Cheese Party.” He co-wrote “Poor Paul” with the film’s director, Sean Michael Beyer, and plays the title character.
Carbone’s brother, David, is among the film’s producers. Courtney Danforth, who was born in Rhode Island, makes her feature debut in the role of Lucia.
Kristen Falso-Capaldi, an artist, author and filmmaker who teaches in Cranston Public Schools, serves as the film’s production designer.
Joining the Rhode Island talent are a number of veteran performers from the world of movies and television. Richard Riehle, whose hundreds of credits range from “Glory” to “Grounded for Life,” plays Grandpa Paul, the namesake of Carbone’s character. Others include Michael Emery, Abhi Sinda and Nick Pasqual.
“Poor Paul” has been years in the making. The script dates back to 2012, and pre-production work has been ongoing for roughly a year.
It’s the latest collaboration between Carbone and Beyer, who starred in and directed, respectively, 2018’s “Randy’s Canvas.” That film, which tells the story of a young artist with autism, was also shot in Rhode Island, and many of the same actors and crew members have returned for the latest production.
As Carbone puts it: “We try to keep our core team.”
Beyer describes “Poor Paul,” which is based on a 2008-11 web series of the same name, as a “romantic comedy adventure.” Carbone, as Paul, plays a “quirky gentleman” who inherits 500,000 frequently flier miles from his late mother.
Paul decides to use the miles to bring his roommates on a journey across the world. When they stop in Italy, however, their trip is derailed by Martin’s “crazy” character, who kidnaps the group. His plan? To marry his daughter, played by Danforth, to Carbone’s Paul, an American.
“But things don’t go as planned,” Beyer said. That’s because Paul, when stressed, “goes into hero fantasies where he saves the day.”
“He’s Captain Kirk from ‘Star Trek,’ he climbed Mount Everest in an hour, he’s Don Paul, as in Don Corleone,” Beyer added. “Just lots of fun things. It’s a very over-the-top … Kind of like ‘Ferris Buehler’s Day Off,’ where we do talk to the camera occasionally.”
Beyer, a native of California, said returning to the Ocean State for “Poor Paul” was a natural fit. He spoke highly of Steven Feinberg and Carol Conley from the Rhode Island Film & TV Office, calling them “great to work with and very helpful.”
“I love shooting in Rhode Island … Rhode Island is so film-friendly,” he said.
Even more than that, the state’s diversity of locations – all within close proximity – fits the needs of “Poor Paul” perfectly. After all, the script calls for a journey that spans multiple continents.
“We’re faking all around the world right here in Rhode Island – Iraq, Italy, Germany, France, England, and Rhode Island … It’s such a great place to shoot,” Beyer said.
Carbone said other destinations and attractions to be utilized in the production include the sand dunes in East Greenwich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the same town, Providence’s Café Nuovo, the Venetian gondolas in the heart of the capital city, Newport Vineyards, and Battleship Cove in nearby Fall River.
The Sprague Mansion was also chosen as one of the filming sites, at Carbone’s suggestion. During visits to the set Friday and Saturday, an indoor dining room scene and an outdoor wedding – complete with a vintage car – were being shot.
Meanwhile, in the mansion’s carriage house, a set was created for a scene meant to take place in Iraq. It’s not the first time the carriage house has been used in that way – for 2016’s “Bleed for This,” a biographical film about Cranston native Vinny Paz, it was the location of a mock boxing gym.
“We’re really trying to sell that we went around the world,” Carbone said. “It’s tough, it’s ambitious … This whole project is ambitious, but we’re having a lot of fun, and we’re achievement what we set out to do so far.”
“Poor Paul” is being produced by Silverwind Films. Executive producers Tania and Bradley Burt, who are based in the Midwest, echoed Beyer in terms of Rhode Island’s appeal.
“One reason we came here is because there’s so much talent here … and there’s a lot of great, historic places that we can film in,” Tania said, adding: “We’re thinking about developing a couple of other feature films here.”
She continued: “We love it. If we didn’t have our grandkids in the Midwest, we really might [move here].”
Bradley praised the production’s cast and crew, noting the benefits – both financial and intangible – of utilizing local performers and film workers.
“They know each other. There’s a lot of camaraderie … It’s just a fun group to do this,” he said.
Carbone said the plan is for post-production to commence “right when we’re done filming,” and “Poor Paul” is scheduled for release in spring of 2022. Tania said the film will be distributed worldwide, although a company has not yet been chosen as the producers explore their options.
“It’s a very, very funny script, and we’re tickled … We have high hopes for the product,” she said. “We think it’s going to be really successful.”
Tania and Bradley both spoke glowingly of Sprague Mansion and its resident caretakers, Mary and Gregg Mierka, for welcoming the production.
It’s the historic home’s latest brush with the entertainment industry. The mansion has been the site of other film shoots over the years, and Gregg – who got a chance to play a small role in “Poor Paul” – has several film and television credits, including “Gettysburg.”
For cast members of “Poor Paul,” shooting the film has been a sort of reunion – a chance to reconnect with others who have found a home in the entertainment business, even in some cases without being based in Southern California.
Martin, who first began performing in 1972, took part in tours early in his career before starting a family. He spent 30 years working for the state, but all the while, “I stayed in the business.” Also a writer, he first connected with Carbone when the two played father and son in a short film he’d written.
“It’s a different world now,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to live in Los Angeles to work.”
Riehle, who was also in “Randy’s Canvas,” said he has family in the Providence area and visits periodically.
“It was nice to come back … It’s fun to be back with a lot of the same people to do another crazy adventure,” he said.
Riehle – whose credits include numerous comedic films and shows, including Office Space” – specifically spoke highly of Carbone. The two shared a laugh while discussing Carbone’s run for mayor.
In “Poor Paul,” Riehle said, the focus of Granda Paul is “trying to prevent [Carbone’s character] from getting into more trouble.”
“That’s definitely a tall order,” he added with a smile.
Sinda and Pasqual, childhood friends from Pittsburgh, both spoke of their excitement to be part of “Poor Paul.”
“This film’s really, really ambitious. But when you’re going to do a film and do something creative and have goals, you want them to be lofty and ambitious,” Sinda said. “Adam and Sean have definitely set the bar very high for this.”
Pasqual, who is one of the producers and has been helping with pre-production work, said it was “very surreal to finally be filming here after prepping for so many months.”
“It’s been a blast so far,” he said. “You see an independent film and you realize, it almost feels like a miracle when it all comes together, you know? We really have a fantastic group of people.”
“Everyone,” Sinda added, “feels lucky to be here.”