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Dyster hands out taxpayer bucks for local violent film

Niagara Falls Repoerter

July 19, 2011

Analysis by Frank Parlato Jr.

There are some local people who have been producing what is by today's standards an exceedingly low-budget film they call "Crimson." They formed a company called Little Sicily Productions and work out of the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC) on Pine Avenue.

Last week, Mayor Paul Dyster awarded these folks $10,000 of city cash through a so-called microenterprise grant, approved by members of the city's NFC Development Corp. Dyster sits on the board and is its leader.

The cash will be used, according to the Niagara Gazette, for "final editing and marketing" of this movie -- which, we're told, the company "hopes to sell to a major film distributor and promote during upcoming independent film festivals."

"Crimson" is a violent action movie about a comic book artist who, after a brain injury, comes to believe he is the superhero he previously created in his comics. He dons a red parka and tries to combat evil.

It is not known whether the producers submitted a complete proposal, script, story outline and plan for release and promotion before they were awarded the money.

The homegrown film may be suspected of borrowing too liberally from 2010's "Super," a $2.5 million action-comedy starring Rainn Wilson, about a cook who comes to believe he is a superhero called "The Crimson Bolt." He dons a red outfit and tries to combat evil, clearly in a somewhat light-hearted vein.

According to the Gazette, local "Crimson" producer Ken Cosentino, 21, was working as an airbrush artist at Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls "with a pipe-dream of becoming a moviemaker." His partner James Ventry, 38, is a middle-aged boxer.

Cosentino, explaining he was dead-broke and trying to finish the movie, told the Gazette back in January, "I've put about $10,000 into this."

He and his partner tried to solicit donations through a program with Amazon.com.

"But if you don't get at least $10,000 in donations, they won't process it. We don't get a dime," Cosentino told the Gazette.The team never came close to hitting the $10,000 minimum threshold, they said.

"You ever try raising $10,000?" Cosentino jokingly asked.

Well, it really isn't that hard. Just ask Dyster for taxpayer money when it's near election time.

Ventry told NFC board members that filming has been completed, but additional work is needed to address a sound glitch picked up during editing, and for marketing the film to distributors.

Ventry told the Gazette that his team has "a meeting scheduled with representatives from Paramount Pictures," and that the filmmakers "intend to show the film to audiences during upcoming film festivals as well." Since there are taxpayer dollars involved, how about some specifics? Who at Paramount? What film festivals?

"We have a couple of really great ins as far as selling the movie," Ventry said. Like what?

Has Dyster ever asked?

According to the Gazette, Ventry and another partner, Kenneth Tally, "confirmed that they received offers from several distributors in the past who wanted rights to 'Crimson,' but they decided against those deals and to retain the rights due to various stipulations, including one that would have had them replace all of the actors appearing in it."

Could we see those rejected offers? Were they in writing?

Dyster explained he supported giving $10,000 of public money to people who never made a film before because he saw the trailer and it appeared to be of "very high, professional quality."

Dyster told the Gazette, "What better than to have some young people from right here in the city of Niagara Falls growing the film industry here?"

"Crimson" has been in production for about 18 months. I find it interesting Dyster chose to finance it now, eight weeks prior to the primary -- right in time to blow smoke up their pants, tickle the NACC people and get himself some press for supporting the arts.

This appears to be yet another chapter in the Dyster "friends and family" program. These gents work out of NACC. This is Dyster turf. Indeed, Dyster's father sits on the board of directors of NACC.

Ventry told the Gazette that 65 locals worked on or appeared in the film in some capacity. Dyster has campaign contributors and helpers and friends at the NACC. For instance, the well-known NACC teacher Patrick "Gus" Posey is one of the movie's stars.

Dyster knows that, whatever the film's true probability of success, those connected to this project will be grateful to the mayor, and tell their friends and family to vote for him as well. Sixty-five votes equals $10,000? Maybe more.

I have seen the trailer, as anyone can, since it is on www.YouTube.com (simply search for: Little Sicily Crimson).

What I saw was two minutes of extra-graphic but unconvincing violence, mental illness and profanity, a lot of shouting, and a little sex performed by clearly non-professional actors.

In this age of multimillion-dollar films, it doesn't seem to me that Paramount or any other major film company will be interested in this film. Of course, I am no expert.

There is another problem: Why should Niagara Falls invest in a violent film laced with sex and profanity? When Hollywood wants to produce slick versions of the same immature themes, at least they do it with private money. This brand of Americanism may sound quaint, but if you want to make a movie, why not pay for it yourself?

Nevertheless, every taxpayer should see what Dyster has done with this $10,000. This is not Dyster's money. It's not the city's money either, and not the other guy's money. The fool who is taxed is you.

If you pay property taxes in the city -- perhaps $2,500 per year -- one could argue that you personally will pay taxes for four years to pay for this film. Now go to YouTube and see what you're getting for your money.

As for Dyster -- what can you say about his attention span? While he views trailers of what may be a film that may never be seen anywhere but on YouTube or in the producers' living rooms, a film containing graphic violence and explicit sex, for which taxpayers pay $10,000; or whether he is yapping on radio about musical acts that he books and taxpayers pay for; or spending taxpayer money to get his own street designated historic so he can reap tax benefits; or spending millions on planning a bogus Underground Railroad museum, or millions more on studies for a train station that few will ever use, he somehow cannot pay enough simple attention to the roads in this city, which are in such horrid condition that people are ruining their cars every day, if they somehow avoid dying by falling into a catch basin or pothole.

To say he has his priorities mixed up would be perhaps the understatement of the entire election season.

It is most assuredly time for a change.

 

 

 
 
 
  Copyright © 2008 Frank Parlato Jr.