Oceanside writer/actor Steve Strangio has turned his days of turnpike-hiking and deli-hopping into an award-winning screenplay and short film called Journey to the Strip Mall. Now he hopes that his website can be a journey to the virtual strip mall for prospective producers looking to fill up their shopping bags with quirky and thoughtful stories like his.
Film financers and curious fans alike can view Strangio’s short— a scene produced from his screenplay, which won the 1999 Long Island Film Festival screenplay competition— at www.omnispin.com/main.htm. He learned about the site through the Long Island Film Group e-mail list and is excited about its potential as a tool for filmmakers.
“It’s already being read by five film companies right now,” he says of his script. “Instead of sending a synopsis and doing the whole paper route, I’ll e-mail them and say, ‘Here’s the link, go to the site, tell me if you like it.’ If they do, I’ll send them a screenplay.” Strangio finds this method more in tune with how people are relating ideas at the century’s end. “I think people now need visuals. They want to get a feel for it. They want a gut reaction, a visceral reaction, and go ‘I like that, let’s see it.’ The Internet is the doorway that opens up a house of opportunity.”
The four-minute short takes a pivotal scene from his feature-length screenplay and gives it life on celluloid. Strangio, 34, produced it with a grant he received when he won the screenplay competition. “The grant was to work at a place called Motion Picture Pro in Manhattan,” he says. “It was a four-week intensive course, and it was a working studio. On day four we went into casting.”
Journey to the Strip Mall is a sort of Iliad off the L.I.E., with Strangio’s hero (played in the short by himself) embarking upon an odyssey to find his ex-girlfriend among shops, people and neighborhoods across the sprawling suburbs we Islanders know all too well. He ends up tracking her down in a little shop called Precious Treasures, where he receives a gift far more valuable than a crappy Precious Moments figurine.
For Strangio, who cut his teeth doing a television comedy called The Maxwell House as an undergraduate in the Hofstra communication program, the origins of this epic poem came from his own life past.
“I was at the absolute lowest point in my life,” he admits. “I had just broken up with my girlfriend, I had lost my job and I was just drifting. I decided it was time I just stopped and walked around awhile.” These heartbroken investigations yielded much insight, which would eventually manifest themselves in the pages of Journey to the Strip Mall. “I didn’t have a car, I had just been in a car crash. So I would go on these little journeys to the strip mall to run whatever errands I had to run that day. Along the way I would meet these people who were just fascinating. On Long Island, in your car, you don’t see things going on in your neighborhood; you drive by them.”
Aside from using the web to promote films, Strangio is also working on media projects designed specifically for the Internet, a genre still in its relative infancy. “It’s like in the early days when radio was turning to television, they were really just doing radio shows on TV. And now we’re doing TV shows on the Internet,” he says. “We’re still finding a term for it as it comes into its own.” And, as it happens, this strip-mall savant will continue to be a part of it. “I’m currently producing these sorts of webcasts,” he explains. “I would like to focus on the Internet now. I’ve been writing for websites for a long time now, and I understand how it works. It’s a great way to be like a garage band— I can stay on Long Island but have a world audience.”
French Connection The American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria continues its Blake Edwards retrospective this Saturday with a screening of A Shot in The Dark, the hilarious sequel to the The Pink Panther. In this installment, Inspector Clouseau stops at nothing to prove a suspect’s innocence, including a particularly amusing romp through a nudist colony. Unlike The Pink Panther, in which Peter Sellers’ legendary detective had to share top billing with David Niven’s suave jewel thief, A Shot in the Dark is all about the pompous, bumbling, yet ultimately effective investigative techniques of Clouseau.
A Shot in the Dark shows at 2pm on Saturday, September 18.