Elika Portnoy’s AMERICAN DREAM Becomes Samuel Goldwyn Films’ OBSESSION

By Carol Patton

Over the summer Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired OBSESSION, a dramatic thriller directed by Goran Dukic and produced by Boston’s Elika Portnoy’s company Mutressa Movies. The movie hit the festival circuit under the title of AMERICAN DREAM, which really was a very tame title for this story which tangles and untangles two very different personas from backgrounds no one wants or understands. AMERICAN DREAM screened at the Boston International Film Festival in April.

This week OBSESSION (Goldwyn changed the name) gets a theatrical and VOD release. The film will debut in our area at Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond 10 on Friday, September 26th and will be available online as well.

Here’s a quick synopsis of OBSESSION: Before meeting George Good (Brad Dourif), Sonny Jordan (Mekhi Pfeiffer) was just a lost drifter with a troubled past floating from town to town, looking for work. As fate would have it, Sonny ends up saving George’s life from a murderous back-alley mugger. As thanks, George gives Sonny a home and a job as a mechanic on his farm in the lonely Louisiana Bayou. Sonny quickly settles in and makes himself useful around the place but then Sonny meets Larissa (Elika Portnoy), George’s alluring wife. She has a mysterious past and the two are irresistibly drawn to each other. The two begin a passionate affair leading them to construct a twisted plot to take George’s life in cold blood in order to be together. As their despicable plan unravels, they learn how far they are willing to go to cover their misdeed.

This story will thrill you and turn you around in your seat several times before an extraordinary unexpected ending is revealed. Be prepared to be entertained. OBSSESSION radiates with passion and physical sex so much so that the sex scenes between Elika Portnoy and Mekhi Pfeiffer were strategically choreographed. The script is electric and the actors hit their stride in the first moments of
the film.

Mutressa Movies is a production and finance company with offices in Boston and Los Angeles. Mutressa was founded by Elika Portnoy in 2008 to tell inspiring, thought provoking and entertaining stories, which she has been very successful in doing from her first film TRICKS OF A WOMAN (shot in Boston) until now.

If you wonder how this film project came to Elika, I can tell you. Producer Jeremy Wall of Polaris Pictures put the film together – he brought the writer, director and Elika together….Elika says, “he liked the idea of me being the Russian.” That would be the mysterious Larissa whose unseemly background would set her on a path to murder. Mutressa Movies funded the film. Elika would star as Larissa in the movie.

I reached out to Jeremy Wall about his cinematic matchmaking and here is what he said, “I can tell you that Elika is a fantastic producer – she gets it done and cares about the product. She is collaborative and team based and a pleasure to work with. I’d love to make more movies with her.

“She understands the work from behind the camera and in front. I was confident that bringing a quality director like Goran Dukic
to the table as well as the screenplay that all parties would be treated well and equitably. This played out. I could go on about Elika.

In OBSESSION, Elika had mixed feelings about portraying a murderer. She expressed that, “Honestly the hardest is to comprehend how
you could murder. “But,” she said, “we had an amazing acting coach that gave Larissa such a background story that I could understand why she wanted to murder…

“The actual murder” said Elika, “was the hardest scene. It took a whole day and after, I felt like I had been run over by a train.” Crime dramas can be difficult for actors if they are playing the murderer or perpetrator. And so it was for Elika, to say nothing about shooting in the Louisiana Bayou and being eaten alive while in scant clothing by mosquitos while the rest of the crew were covered head to toe including mosquito net face coverings. including mosquito net face coverings.

Mutressa has produced ten features including BEASTS OF NO NATION (directed by Cary Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah), LOVE IS STRANGE (directed by Ira Sachs and starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, and Marisa Tomei) and THE VOICES (directed by Marjane Satrapi and starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver). Her films have been in the official selection of Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, Tribeca and have also received Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Actor, and Best
Supporting Actor for BEASTS OF NO NATION.

Alex Orlovsky joined Mutressa Movies as President of Production in January of 2018. The duo’s shared credits include BEASTS OF NO NATION, LOVE IS STRANGE, BLUE VALENTINE, and PLACE BEYOND THE PINES among others. Their next project Eliza Hittman’s NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS will be distributed by Focus Features. Elika is a learner at heart. She has a finance degree from George Mason University. Shestudied financial derivatives at Georgetown University, and international trade and policies at St. Peters College, Oxford University in England.

Her finance experience includes managing $220 million of private equity funds in Latin America and Europe for the International
Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, in Washington DC. This included investments and structuring of new funds, restructuring problem funds and making co-investments alongside other investors. She organized IFC’s first private equity conference, which created a network of investors, entrepreneurs and fund managers. While at the IFC, she also separately started a
biotech company that she ran and sold within a year of its formation.

Since moving to Boston ten years ago she studied singing at Berkelee School of Music and studied modern ballet at the Boston Conservatory.

And I have to add, she is fluent in Bulgarian, English, German and Spanish and has a good command of Portuguese, Serbian, Russian, Italian and Greek. And a member of Mensa.With brains, beauty and talent Elika decided she wanted to learn filmmaking first hand.
“I’ve always wanted to expand my knowledge by learning” says Elika, “And I have had an incredible learning curve with film production” instead of going the academic route as I did with my finance background, I wanted to learn film through hands on experience”.

Portnoy considers her first film, TRICKS OF A WOMAN as her best learning experience. “It cost me about the same as going to graduate school,” she says.

Born in Bulgaria, Elika Trifonova Portnoy was raised in the capital city Sofia. She is a member of the AFI National Council and
she is a member of the Board of Governors for Tufts Medical Center and the Tufts Floating Hospital for Children in Boston. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children. For more information visit www.mutressamovies.com.

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About our October 2019 Issue

Imagine News 2019 issue Andrea Lyman

Our cover star is Andrea Lyman. She is well known and well-loved in our marketplace. We extend our congratulations to her for being elected the new President of New England’s SAG-AFTRA.

Andrea possesses many talents. She is a singer/actor/producer working in film, on the stage, in voiceover and print. She has produced several films seen in various film festivals. Her award winning film, THE DONOR, was seen in the Pan African Film Festival at Cannes as well as The Roxbury International Film Festival, Boston Underground Film Festival and more.

She and her film team generally produce at least one short film every year that gets seen in various film festivals. She produces her own one woman musical show, “Broadway Lady,” which tours Massachusetts and has been applauded in Europe, NYC, Hawaii and on many cruise ships. Plus, you
will hear her voice on various regional and national commercials, films and web series.

How does she do it all? I’ve noticed online that at least one individual thinks she is a twin or how else could she get everything she does done?

Our cover photo was captured by Carolyn Ross Photography. Our cover design is by IMAGINE Design Editor Monique Walton.

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AFM, A Look Back and a Look Forward

I always enjoy the cool ocean air as I walk up to the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica for the American Film Market every year. The shimmering Pacific Ocean is the backdrop to AFM, as it’s more commonly known to the over 7,000 attendees. It is the largest movie business event in the world and it’s quite a sight to behold. They empty out all the guest rooms at the hotel and transform them into sales offices for international production and distribution companies to hawk their wares to international buyers – this is where movies get bought, sold, seen, and pushed out to the rest of the world. It’s a behemoth of an affair and the movie business has been doing deals at AFM since 1981. Over the course of the eight days of the event each November, over $1 billion in deals get made. Yes, one billion dollars.

And it’s not uncommon to hear some of those deals go down in the five-story open atrium hotel lobby, where large-backed lounge chairs and couches act as a de facto meeting space for attendees who can look up at giant banners advertising myriad films and film production services around the balconies of the many floors above. One year I saw an advertisement with no name, and just images of shark heads coming out of a giant spiraling tornado in front of the Santa Monica Pier. They ended up calling that movie SHARKNADO, one of the SyFy channel’s biggest hits and generated many sequels, a musical at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and they are shopping around a spinoff into a kids’ animated series.

AFM 2018 drew over 1,300 buyers from 73 countries and they showed 402 screenings. The year showed a trend toward uncertainty – with the proliferation of content on every kind of device the competition has become quite stiff. But that can also be seen as a boon for independent filmmakers who can license their content to new media companies looking to fill their content space, even though the revenue from profit-participation is disappearing with it. So producers are trying to keep up with the business as it’s changing so fast because of the new streaming models. It seems like most traditional sellers are trying to find their footing in the new landscape.

LocationEXPO, an integrated locations tradeshow sprinkled throughout AFM, had a strong showing in its second year with 51 film commissions and agencies from around the globe including from Korea, Panama, Russia, Spain and Thailand – altogether they presented more than $1 billion (again, yes, $1 billion) in production incentives and opportunities. And for those that haven’t been to a locations tradeshow in the past, it’s kind of like wandering around the world and seeing all the fantastic places you can shoot, but all in one place. Booths are staffed with knowledgeable representatives from each locale, often the film commissioners themselves, and you can ask them direct questions about filming in their country or city. And if they’re offering incentives (such as Massachusetts’ 25% production credit, 25% payroll credit, and a sales tax exemption), you can start making business decisions about where to shoot.

Carl Hansen being presented the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge award. Carl Hansen, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Nic Novicki.  Photo courtesy of Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

AFM is a great place to be, not only because the weather in Southern California is still nice in November, but because the world is there, ready to show you what its got, and waiting to see what you have to offer. For those of you looking to attend AFM this upcoming November, here are some pointers to get around:

  • Get a badge. In the past, you’ve been able to walk into the lobby of the Loews, even without a badge, but they’ve closed the access to the lobby so you must have a badge to get access to any part of the Loews now.
  • Go in with a plan and do your research. There are literally hundreds of rooms and thousands of people who are trying to sell and buy, but they’re not all buying and selling the same things. Know what you’re selling, and target the companies that go after that kind of material. Don’t approach an action/horror distributor with your RomCom.
  • You don’t need to bring a script with you. Come armed with marketing materials (postcards or a pitch deck) that you can hand out easily, and won’t bog you down. You’ll be walking around for hours, so no need to carry all that paper, and no one will just accept a script – even in a marketplace setting. Save a tree and your back.
  • Bring a ton of business cards. Yes, a little old school, but a lot of the world is still kinda old school. And make sure it has all the relevant info for you on it, including phone, e-mail, website and/or social handles.
  • Have fun and don’t be afraid to talk to anyone. You never know who’s going to be at AFM. You will see name actors and directors walking around that you may be able to interact with in a meaningful way (as long as you’re not accosting someone, they tend to be receptive in the market environment). Or you just may meet some really cool people, like accidentally sitting next to an award-winning composer from Italy who is now composing a bunch of amazing projects there. [writer’s note: that actually happened to me]

Carl Hansen is an award-winning filmmaker and Emmy-winning producer, recently having won “Best Director” in the 2019 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. Carl is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the Entertainment industry and he enjoys volunteering his time teaching producing and production management classes to the next generation of young storytellers.

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Boston’s Film Guru David Kleiler Dies at Age 79

Above: David Kleiler with Carol Patton at IMAGINE’s New England Industry New Year’s Celebration & “Imaginnaires” Gala, January 8, 2019. David was a 2007 “Imaginnaire” Award recipient. Photo by Navid Namazi.

Dear Imagine Readers, It is with a saddened heart that I share the news of the passing of our industry’s dear friend David Kleiler. I share my condolences with his family and multitude of friends and mentees. David’s passion for film and those of us in the film community was boundless and we will miss him.

David was one of IMAGINE’s very first “Imaginnaires” in 2007 and wrote a column for IMAGINE for several years called “Establishing Shot”. In it was his first hand expression of what the independent film community in New England was up to. His writing was entertaining and insightful. He was a friend, mentor and provided encouragement to everyone he met. His generosity and advice were always readily available.

David founded the Boston Underground Film Festival, supported and helped curate several other festivals and was the driving force behind the effort to save the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. He also curated the most unique of screenings in his own living room where he showed his and others’ favorite films and then held discussions – loved and attended by many over the years.

He will be so missed. We’ve lost a treasure…..

Tonight at 6pm, there will be a ceremony at Coolidge Corner Theatre where David’s name will light up their Marquee. 

Tuesday, April 23rd, 6 – 9pm, Wake at Bell – O’Dea Funeral Home, 376 Washington Street in Brookline, MA. Map 

Wednesday, April 24th, 11 am, Funeral at St. Cecelia Roman Catholic Church, 18 Belvedere Street, Boston Back Bay, MA. Map

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About our April 2019 Issue

Two of Massachusetts most prolific writers are featured on the cover of this issue as they bring their joint film project FRANCONIA NOTCH into production. Best-selling author Casey Sherman (FINEST HOURS, PATRIOTS DAY) and writer/director/producer John Stimpson have teamed up for this venture that they have adapted from Sherman’s book Bad Blood, which looks at an actual horrific crime that occurred in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. After re-investigating the situation, Casey’s summation was different than what the New Hampshire courts decreed.

Amongst Casey Sherman’s many books are Animal (also slated to be made into a motion picture), The Ice Bucket Challenge (ditto), Boston Strong (PATRIOTS DAY) 12, a very Tom Brady tale and Above and Beyond: John F. Kennedy and America’s Most Dangerous Cold War Spy Mission.

From Hartley’s article we learn “Wellesley, MA native John Stimpson began his creative career while an undergraduate at Harvard, where he was President of the venerable and legendary Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He then headed off to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being an actor. He found some work, but decided to move to the other side of the camera, and pursue directing.

Interestingly enough, he realized his Hollywood dream by leaving Hollywood, and coming back home to Massachusetts. He writes, directs, edits and produces motion pictures for television and theatrical release. He’s known for GHOST LIGHT, CHRISTMAS KISS, THE LEGEND OF LUCY KEYES and THE WRONG CAR.

FRANCONIA NOTCH is in development for filming later this year in Massachusetts. The team is seeking financial and production partners.

Our cover photo is by Carolyn Ross of Carolyn Ross Photography. Our cover design is by
IMAGINE Design Editor Monique Walton.

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About Our March 2019 Issue

For our March cover and, indeed, our March issue, we thought it important to exhibit in every way that we are an important production Mecca. So we pulled together photos of productions in our region to do so and collected stories that also reflects a dynamic and robust industry.

You may recognize some of the movies on the cover. I want to thank everyone who helped us with this cover project. Photos were contributed by SAG-AFTRA actor and Founder of NE Talent & Crew Chuck Slavin, Executive Producer/Director David Giancola of Edgewood Studios (scenes from
his film AXCELLERATOR), Tim Grafft, Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Film Office (State House scene from THE FORGER), and Lew Place of the Rhode Island Film Office.

Our cover design is by IMAGINE Design Editor Monique Walton.

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Join IMAGINE at a live performance of FRANCONIA NOTCH

On Sunday, March 3 at 2pm, Imagine Magazine will present a Live Reading performance of the upcoming Fort Point Media/H9 Films thriller Franconia Notch before a live audience at the 5-star Mandarin Oriental, Boston (Ballroom).

The script written by Casey Sherman (THE FINEST HOURS, PATRIOTS DAY) and John Stimpson (GHOST LIGHT, THE LEGEND OF LUCY KEYES) was inspired by Sherman’s 2009 #1 true crime best-seller Bad Blood: Freedom and Death in the White Mountains. Sherman, Stimpson and Dave Wedge will co-produce the film with production expected to begin in Massachusetts in late 2019 under their Fort Point Media & H9 Film banners. Many of New England’s most versatile actors have been selected by Slate Casting to read the primary roles in what is being described as a immersive experience for the audience.


Author Casey Sherman

About Bad Blood: Freedom & Death in the White Mountains:

In the shadow of the fallen Old Man of the Mountain, on a lonely stretch of mountain road, two men lay dead. A spasm of violence that took only a few minutes to play out leaves a community divided and searching for answers.
From the author of newly released Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph Over Tragedy, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Bad Blood is the riveting account of the long-standing feud between Franconia, New Hampshire, police officer Bruce McKay, 48, and Liko Kenney, 24. In May 2007, Kenney shot and killed Officer McKay, following a dramatic chase that began with a routine traffic stop. Kenney, cousin of ski legend Bode Miller, was then shot and killed by a shadowy passerby.
Almost immediately, the tragic incident revealed deep tensions within this otherwise quiet community in the White Mountains with charges that Kenney was a hell-raiser and mentally unstable and counter-charges that Officer McKay was a rogue cop who dispensed justice as a way to settle personal scores. Striving to get at the truth of the story, the author uncovers a complicated mix of personalities and motivations. Local and statewide interests clash while regional and national media― and even YouTube viewers― supply ready stereotypes to fit their agendas. Amid larger questions of the meaning of individual freedom we are, ultimately, helpless witnesses to an inevitable clash of characters.

About Fort Point Media

Fort Point Media is owned by New York Times Bestselling Authors Casey Sherman & Dave Wedge. Casey Sherman is the author of ten books including two New York Times Bestsellers The Finest Hours & 12: The InsideStory of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption (co-authored by Dave Wedge). The Finest Hours was adapted into a major motion picture for and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures starring Chris Pine, Oscar winner Casey Affleck and Ben Foster in 2016. Sherman and Wedge also wrote the 2015 acclaimed true crime novel Boston Strong, which inspired the 2016 CBS Films feature Patriots Day starring Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon and John Goodman.


About H9 Films

H9 Films founder John Stimpson is one of the most prolific filmmakers working in the Boston area today. Stimpson’s interest in film and television began at Harvard where he was President of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He spent five years as a professional actor in Los Angeles before returning to the East Coast and refocusing his talent on the other side of the lens.

As a result, Stimpson approaches directing from an actor’s perspective, truly believing that motion pictures are the ultimate collaborative creative medium. His 15 years of experience as an editor inform, color, and streamline his shot choices and storytelling making his set as innovative and efficient as possible. For Stimpson the filmmaking process is about capturing the magic – on the page, within the performance and ultimately on the screen – that moves an audience. There is nothing more powerful than human emotion.

John is a member of the Mass Production Coalition and on the board of FILMA (Film it Locally in MA), actively promoting and lobbying for the Film and Television Industry in Massachusetts and Commonwealth’s Film Tax Incentive which has been vital to the recent surge of production activity.


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The much-anticipated theatrical release for THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT is happening on February 8th. and at the same time, the film is being released to VOD services. Shot in western Massachusetts in and around Turner Falls, the home of director Robert Krzykowski, the film is a character study with some pulp genre elements in the vein of a Hal Ashby or Robert Altman. It also features incredible talent in all aspects of the production, including Executive Producer Douglas Trumbull, Music Composer Joe Kraemer and special effects guru Richard Yuricich.

Click here to listen to Hartley Pleshaw’s radio interview with Robert Krzykowski and Joe Kraemer.

Below are some photos from IMAGINE’s exclusive New England premiere screening which was held on November 15th, 2018 and featured appearances by director, Robert D. Krzykowski, Douglas Trumbull (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADERUNNER), Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Yuricich (STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, BLADE RUNNER) and Composer Joe Kraemer (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION) as well as Silas Archer Gustav who plays the young Calvin Barr’s dog in the film.

Event Photographer Carolyn Ross
Executive Producer, Academy Award winner and Imaginnaire Douglas Trumbull , Director Robert D. Kryzkowski, Composer Joe Kraemer and Carol Patton. Photo by Carolyn Ross — at Somerville Theatre.
Jan Waldman, Carol Patton and Silas Archer Gustav, who appears in the film. Photo by Carolyn Ross — at Somerville Theatre.

Exciting Night at the Saloon for IMAGINE Magazine and Critter Casting’s VIP Party before the screening of THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT held at the Somerville Theatre. An IMAGINE Photo.
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