Shaina Feinberg’s Films Are a Family Affair (Interview)

Shaina Feinberg

Shaina Feinberg

A lot has happened since Shaina Feinberg’s first feature film, The Babymooners, won the Audience Award at the Lower East Side Film Festival in 2016.  Not only is her second feature, Senior Escort Service, slated to kick off this year’s festival on Opening Night, but she’s since made the short film, Shiva, which screened at Tribeca in 2017, and a breakout six-part web series, Dinette, for BRIC TV. Not to mention an original series for Audible, plus Feinberg directed some shows for Refinery 29 and an IFC series, and she’s currently putting final touches on her third feature, Blunderpuss.

And yes, Feinberg had that baby that she was carrying at the time she made The Babymooners.

The Babymooners was an angst-ridden, but warmly hilarious, video letter created for her unborn son, two weeks before his birth.

A writer, director and comedic performer, Feinberg introduces herself on her website as: “Woody Allen + Salma Hayek – Penelope Cruz = Shaina Feinberg.”

In a recent phone interview, Feinberg explained how she manages to juggle it all.

“I’m a crazy workaholic,” she said.  “I just work all the time and my poor husband has to help me – I mean he’s my partner, (they own their own production company) but I think he would like to take a little more time between projects than I do.”

Feinberg added, “It helps that all the work I do is with my friends, so now I’m mainly just hanging out with you if we are working together. Basically, I concoct projects with the people I love.”

Feinberg frequently works with her longtime collaborators and friends from the improv comedy world. Their projects are shot on shoestring budgets, usually incorporating her own home, or the homes of friends and family, for the sets, and the focus is always on the very real things that are happening in her life.

Feinberg’s core crew makes up the comedy collective, Bankrukt, which includes her husband, Chris Manley, and performers Chris Roberty and Jeff Seal. The team has produced over 150 videos together.

Along with acting, Manley wears many hats. He serves as a producer, often is a co-writer and he edits the films.

Feinberg tries to work with the same cinematographer, Zachary Smithers, on most of her projects.

Senior Escort Service

A still from Senior Escort Service

She describes Senior Escort Service as “a hybrid documentary with archival footage and some doc stuff and fictionalized stories, or dramatizations.”

The film is a poignant memorial to her father, Paul Feinberg.

“It’s my container for grief about my dad dying, but it’s funny too – well, I think it’s funny,” she said. “The whole movie is out of order and kind of schizophrenic, which was also my experience of grief — because when it first happens, you’re just devastated and then you kind of mourn for a while and then you think ‘Oh, I think I’m over it,’ and then, [you realize] ‘no, I’m not over it at all, this is terrible…’ so it kind of comes in waves.”

A few months after his death, the first thing she shot was a large dinner party with friends she collaborates with. She asked them to tell true stories about traumas from their own lives. The stories act as a thread throughout the film.

The title, Senior Escort Service, comes from a funny web series idea her father pitched her. (Not the type of escort you’re thinking of.)

Feinberg utilizes real items that belonged to her father, including a journal he kept, and various footage she shot with her parents for other projects, along with a “bad” version of the imagined “Senior Escort Service” web series, that she created for this film.

Of course, Feinberg’s fourth feature, Mary’s Third Act, is also in the works. This one is about her mother, who is in everything she creates. “She’s a trained singer who moved to New York to be a jazz singer, but things kind of got away from her, so this is about…trying to get her fulfilled before she dies,” she said.

For this one, though, she’s trying a more conventional route.  “It’s hard to make a movie for $15,000 and I’ve made three of them,” she said, “This time I’m going about it differently…applying for grants and looking for some actual funding.  I mean, it would be great to make a film for, say, $90,000.”

Senior Escort Service screens on Thursday, June 6 at 8pm at Cinema Village East. The cast and crew will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening. You can find more info here.


Lower East Side Film Festival 2018 Debuts Tonight

Photo: K. C. Bailey/Sony Pictures.

Photo: K. C. Bailey/Sony Pictures.

Here’s a reminder that this year’s version of the Lower East Side Film Festival debuts tonight at Village East Cinemas with “Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story.” The documentary directed by James Lester explores the “neo-burlesque” scene in New York City (much of the filming took place at the Slipper Room).

If you can’t make opening night, there are lots of great films and after-parties coming your way in the next week. Tomorrow night, for example, the local film fest celebrates the 10th anniversary of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the Michael Cera cult classic set on the Lower East Side.

Also on Friday, it’s a special screening of Papillon, starring Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) and Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy). The remake of the 1973 classic tells the story of a Parisian safecracker framed for murder and condemned to life on Devil’s Island. [The film doesn’t open nationwide until late summer.]

On Saturday, there a Ladies Night Shorts Showcase and the New York premiere of The Outdoorsman, a romantic comedy. Then on Sunday, you can channel your inner-activist self at a screening of Show Me Democracy, a documentary that follows seven college students on the front lines of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.

All festival tickets include beer and wine before the screenings. For more info and the full lineup, visit their website here.


*Editor’s note: The author of this story is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lower East Side Film Festival.


It’s Here! Lower East Side Film Fest 2016

Photo: Siouxside - Korben Dallas, courtesy LESFF.

Photo: Siouxside – Korben Dallas, courtesy LESFF.

The always fun and fabulous Lower East Side Film Fest is gearing up for their 6th annual festival, which kicks off this Thursday with the opening night feature, Art of the Prank. After the film, they’ll host the biggest party of the festival, with live music by Shareef Keyes and the Groove, special guest performers, appearances by friends and filmmakers, and an open beer & wine bar all night long at Drom.

This year’s lineup offers screenings at the Sunshine Cinema (including a special 25th anniversary midnight screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, The Secret of the Ooze), the beloved “Gay Night Pool Pary and Dive-In Movie” at  Sixty LES, and a Horror & Suspense Screenwriters Panel at the newly opened Ludlow House. Not to mention their unusually great lineup of themed short films.

Co-founders Roxy Hunt and Tony Castle tell us this year’s theme is “Lowkey Highbrow,” because, “We’re not gonna kid ourselves, we’re not Tribeca (film festival), but we still support really great independent filmmakers, (and take a huge amount of time and effort to curate a great lineup) but we don’t do elaborate ‘V.I.P.’ events,” Hunt said.

And, they promise “no Virtual Reality” at their festival this year. “That’s fine for a tech conference,” Castle said, “but film festivals are about people coming together to watch a movie in a theater, and we supply the drinks to make it even more fun.”

Highlights for the two of them include their opening night film, Art of the Prank, which is about the original hoax artist Joey Skaggs, who will be in attendance. “It was one of those films where, when we were watching it, we thought, ‘this is amazing, it’s so fun and so captivating,’ and we knew people would love it,” said Castle. And the duo is very excited about the midnight “retrospective” screening of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.  Director Michael Pressman will be in attendance and pizza, wine and beer will be provided.

“I think our features are always really strong,” added Castle, “but this year we have a lot of really good films that define the kind of spirit we always try to capture.  True independent films that deserve to be seen and probably will get distribution if everyone fights hard enough.”

Closing out the festival is the world premier of The Babymooners, which features New York actors from the PIT (People’s Improv Theater), about a couple who are having a baby. The film was written and directed by Shaina Feinberg and Chris Manley, who are a real life couple and were having a baby at the time.  “It’s very personal, very funny and sweet – it’s not a documentary, it’s a narrative film, but they used what was going on in their life (including Feinberg’s real life parents) to tell their story,” said Castle.

The Lower East Side Film Festival opens Thursday, June 9th at the Sunshine Cinema and runs eight nights straight, through Thursday, June 16. Visit the website here for more details and the full schedule. TLD is the proud local media sponsor of the 2016 Lower East Side Film Festival.