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

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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.


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