A director that has the skill to become a legend. With uplifting films of heart and integrity, I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality and care put into the films he has made, as they are independent films done to a Hollywood quality. One of the things in this director’s films that has been almost unmatched in skill, is the effect of the heart and morality he puts in them. The integrity and soul of characters that makes you care about them and hope for the best. The man is Sam Borowski, director of award-winning films and shorts including The Mandala Maker, Night Club and Pollination*. I was able to share a few words with the man himself.
Kale: What inspired you to get into film?
Sam: There were many inspirations to me early on in life. My mom, Joan Borowski, used to take my friends and I to Disney double-feature matinees every Wednesday in the Summer when I was a young child at the Lane Theater. My Dad, Sam Borowski Sr., on the other hand, trusted me enough to see movies I wasn’t old enough – by society’s standards LOL – to see and I was all the better for it. JAWS, ROCKY, THE GODFATHER (Produced by the great Al Ruddy). It also helped that I grew up blocks away from the house that served as The Corleone Family Home in THE GODFATHER. It was legend in my neighborhood and I remember my parents walking me and my sisters down to the house and telling us how this legendary movie was filmed there. But, despite the fact that all these little things had me destined to love the medium of film, the fact remains that I took to it rather easily. I loved it – it was thrill when my Dad would take us to see the new James Bond movie or when STAR WARS first came out – I was very young but remember the fervor it caused. Just so many inspirations that truly being a filmmaker and screenwriter was my calling. And, I remain so grateful and feel so blessed that I get to do what I love.
Kale: Can you tell me about your inspirations when you direct a film?
Sam: Well, it always starts with the script – whether I wrote it, rewrote it or it’s someone else’s work entirely. You know that old saying, “You can’t make a great movie from a bad script, but you can make a bad movie from a great script?” Well, guess what? It’s true. The script has to speak to me in some way. That was the case with NIGHT CLUB, which I did an uncredited rewrite on. Or how I was inspired to co-write THE MANDALA MAKER. The script and the story, in general, excite me – the source material. Once I believe in that, I am ready to work my butt off to convey the message in the material.
Kale: Who in your life inspires you to keep going, do better and put your heart into your films?
Sam: I draw inspiration from many people that keep me going; first and foremost, GOD. He is the rock from which my foundation lies. He has got me through some of the toughest times in this industry and my life. Now, He is a pretty tough act to follow – lol – but I will certainly throw some more out there. I’ve had 2 incredible mentors in famed horror producer Samuel M. Sherman and 2-Time Academy-Award Winning Producer Albert S. Ruddy. Sam S has taught me a lot and helped me in so many ways, both as a mentor and a friend. He also introduced me to Al Ruddy, who I’ve long been a fan of his work, and Al’s been a tremendous inspiration to me! Like Sam S, his advice has been invaluable, and his friendship has been something for me to cherish. There are also the obvious answers; filmmakers such as David O. Russell, who has been working at such a high-level for a while now. Martin Scorsese, who might just be the Most Underrated Filmmaker of All-TIme and is a very deserving Oscar Winner. Quentin Tarantino, who is building the most unique body of work. I have really admired and respected 2-Time Oscar Nominated Best Actor John Travolta’s body of work, and let me just say that I am destined to work with him. Obviously getting to work with my dear friend Oscar-Winner Ernie Borgnine was a tremendous thrill, and he was as spry and cognizent at 93 as he was at 53! Was just a pleasure to interact with him from director to actor and his loss was certainly a great one – not only for the industry, but the world. Getting to work several times with Paul Sorvino and Oscar-Nominee Sally Kellerman, has also been wonderful. And, then there are rising stars like Bill Sorvino and Samantha Tuffarelli. Bill has really stepped up his game, and he has become not only a trusted actor, but my friend. He and I have been through so much together and there isn’t enough I can say about his ability or loyalty. He can be the lead or take a smaller supporting part and he will always treat it equally important and give his all. He really reminds me of myself in many ways. So, too, does Samantha, someone I worked with a few times, but watched her blossom in my ‘SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ACTOR’ workshops. There were 3 specific scenes she did in that workshop that blew me away. I marveled at how she displayed the emotion needed in two of them, and in one the sensuality. Or how real it felt … it was. Especially since one of the scenes was a character that is absolutely nothing like her. It was amazing to watch her perform the scene and then become Samantha afterward as I spoke with her. I live for those moments in making a film. She is a very talented actor and a really special person. I really do hope to see her continue to develop her talent and take it to the next level. And, when she does, that is going to be something truly inspiring. When I speak of Bill or Samantha – that possibility – the possibility to see someone I care about and believe in develop – that possibility inspires me most.
Kale: If you could direct a film from any franchise, which would it be?
Sam: There actually was one franchise that I was approached about in broad terms, so I won’t mention it. But, other than that franchise, the obvious answer is the James Bond franchise. I grew up watching this character as a child – I watched the older films, too. I would love the opportunity to both WRITE AND DIRECT a new segment of this character’s life.
Kale: Can you tell me about the films you’ve done, thus far?
Sam: What you mean you’re not familiar with my work? Just Kidding, K-Man. Yes, my earliest success was a feature-length documentary I wrote and produced that featured Academy-Award Winner Benicio Del Toro – CREATURE FEATURE: 50 YEARS OF THE GILL-MAN. That followed the era behind the creation and marketing of the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON movie and its subsequent 2 sequels. It then jumps 50 years ahead to see the impact the film has had the genre, the fans and the world. It was a great success and we received a theatrical release and are awaiting DVD and TV news. Among my other successes was a short film I wrote, produced and directed, THE MANDALA MAKER, which won many festivals and qualified for Best Live-Action Short for The Academy Awards a few years back. That project really helped set me on my current career path. It also won me my first few awards in the very prestigious Accolade Competition for Direction and Short Film. My feature NIGHT CLUB, though is one of my favorites – I directed and produced and it will be the last released feature in my dear friend Ernie Borgnine’s career. It’s a wonderful film, and we are in the process of obtaining distribution. It played I think 8 festivals and wound up winning a whopping 16 awards! It was such a gratifying experience, especially because I not only got to work with so many amazing actors, but I dedicated the movie to my mother, Joan Borowski, who battled Alzheimer’s and since has passed on. I also really enjoyed working with Rance Howard on that film. POLLINATION * is a short that I co-wrote with Lisa Buffington, and I also produced and directed it. We are currently on the festival circuit now, having played four festivals and we’ve already won a few awards and a few more nominations. I also recently produced a feature, A PLACE FOR HEROES out in Iowa this past summer that stars Paul Sorvino, Academy-Award Nominee Sally Kellerman and features the talents of the aformentioned Bill Sorvino and Samantha Tuffarelli. Finally, last, but certainly NOT least, I just produced and directed a major short, MANIAC starring Bill Sorvino that we think has a real chance at making a run at Oscar-Qualifying in Best Live-Action Short in 2014. It also features David Harris, who played the iconic role of “Cochise” in THE WARRIORS and Joey D’Onofrio of GOODFELLAS and A BRONX TALE fame. Both of those guys, along with Bill really stepped it up for this project. In fact, as I type this, I am awaiting my editing session to begin so we can finish a rough-cut. A producer’s job is never done. 😉
Kale: What are a few of your upcoming projects?
Sam: Well, I am close to setting up a deal for NIGEL READ, which is an homage to every action or superhero out there. It’s more of a cerebral action hero kind of like a Sherlock Holmes for the New Millenium. Among the inspiration for this character are running homages to James Bond, Batman and Spiderman, to name a few. 😉 Also, recently, a friend of mine, Michael Ringston sent me a script that he co-wrote with Johnny Greenlaw – THE FIREFLY. It’s a very interesting feature that seems cut in the mold of new-age Scorsese film. I would like to Produce that picture and get it made in the not-to-distant future. In a short time, I consider Mike a good friend and a member of my oft-mentioned Inner Circle. He is someone that deserves a real shot to get his film made right. And, it’s funny, as I type this, I just received a phone call from Paul Sorvino asking me, “What’s going on with that St. Rita script? When are you sending it?” He was speaking about my feature film script, RITA OF CASCIA: THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. It’s one of my ultimate passion projects, and a very socially – and spiritually – important film. I can’t wait to get it made! I also am closing on a deal with a writing partner, Youssef Ouarrak, to pen a major feature for an A-list star. It’s a comedy I conceived of called, KISS AND MAKEUP. I also recently Produced and Directed an incredible short called MANIAC, as you know and we are currently in editing, racing to lock picture. It has a real chance to qualify in the Live-Action Short category for The Oscars in 2014. In addition, I Produced a feature called A PLACE FOR HEROES this past year in Iowa.
Kale: What are a few of your favorite films?
Sam: Well my favorite films are a truly eclectic mix! My favorite film of all-time is sort of a tie between the Frank Capra classic, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and GET SHORTY! Both of these films spoke to me on different levels and in different ways. Rounding out my Top 10 in this order would be THE GODFATHER, PULP FICTION, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, JAWS, GOLDFINGER/LIVE AND LET DIE, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and JACKIE BROWN. Figures my Top 10 is actually a Top 11! The next runner-up would be GOODFELLAS and the Ron Howard classic NIGHT SHIFT!
Kale: Where do you see your career going in 10 years?
Sam: Straight to the top! 😉 I am building a body of work – I am going to tell stories that touch the heart and soul. Stories that move people. Stories that make you laugh and cry, that help promote the healing power of escapism! Because when you think about it – the world will always need movies. It’s a wonderful medium to educate and entertain, often times both at the same time. And, I won’t stop until I’ve fulfilled my calling as a filmmaker!
Kale: Which do you prefer, directing, producing or writing?
Sam: This is a great question! I love all three, but I’ve always said I am a Writer, first, since I started as a Writer, and I’ve been a Writer for quite some time. However, that being said I enjoy the Directing the most, for sure. I enjoy working with the actors – getting the most out of them, and really just lavish the creative process. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy Producing, because I do, and I love Writing … almost as much as Directing. I love it all – but I do love the Directing the best. Again, great questions, especially since I’ve had considerable experience at all three!
Kale: What are the most valued moments of being on a set?
Sam: Are you asking what are my most valued moments of being on a set? Because, if so, I’ve had many. Will try and keep it to a minimum of memories. One particular memory was when I was Directing NIGHT CLUB and it was a late night shoot, and I turned to Rance Howard in jest and said, “I bet Ron Howard doesn’t have nights like this …” He turned to me and said, “Well, Sam, I can tell you for a fact, he still does.” That made me smile. Rance later went on to compare me to Joshua Logan, a 3-Time Oscar Nominee – twice for Directing and once for Producing. I never forgot that. It meant a great deal to me. Or There was a moment Directing MANIAC when we had a limited amount of time in EZ Check Convenience Store in Linden, New Jersey and the actors really didn’t have a lot of leeway – didn’t have a margin for error. Yet that night with pros like Bill Sorvino, Mary Dimino and David Harris they all nailed their dialogue. They didn’t succumb to the pressure. I felt a real connection with them that night and it was one of the best night’s of shooting I’ve ever had on a set.There was also a moment on THE MANDALA MAKER where I got to live a childhood dream and recreate several shots from SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER underneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, by the Scenic View in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, right off the side of the Belt Parkway. It was early in the morning and my actress Courtney Hogan was freezing, but I had so much warmth in fulfilling a lifelong dream to get these shots. Finally, I consulted on a short for my student Anthony Pallino that he, and a few of my other members of the ‘SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ACTOR’ workshop were in, most notably Samantha Tuffarelli. And, it was Produced by my apprentice Nihad Shalabi. And, Bill Sorvino and Maria Rusolo, two extremely talented actors, were in the film, as well. The young filmmakers were open to help and they – and the actors – gave me their all as we pushed to finish a film that we really needed one more day for. We finished it. I got to act in a scene with Samantha, who I think has immense talent, and I never forgot doing that scene with her – or what it meant to me. Having her and Bill and Maria and Anthony give me their all. We were exhausted – it was an early call – when it was over, but I was so happy we finished the film. We worked together as a group. Bill has an amazingly funny turn in this film and you will get to see his hysterical cameo on the festival circuit – and eventually on VOD. Nihad took a real leadership role on this project and I was proud of him. Maria was so, so helpful – she truly is a beautiful soul and did all she could to help me. Samantha, she just has an amazing passion for her craft and an inner beauty, that when it comes out – just pushes her performance to the top. I’ve long said that who she is as a person comes out in her acting, and that is most definitely a good thing. But, that morning into the day at the shoot at Irish Times Bar in Long Island, we had a similar connection as the shoot on MANIAC. I didn’t have as many experienced actors on that one – save for the people I mentioned, but they all gave me their all. I will never forget acting with Samantha and doing my best to be funny in the scene, rather than marvel at how good she was that day.
Kale: What is the best thing about being on a set?
Sam: Loving what you do. I think this is the greatest job in the world, and there isn’t anything I would rather do. Truly, I am blessed and truly I have an Attitude of Gratitude.
Kale: How much work do you put in per film?
Sam: Well, I think it would be appropriate to quote Ben Affleck’s speech at the Oscars after he won Best Picture as a Producer on ARGO: “You have to work harder than you think you possibly can … It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, ’cause that’s gonna happen. All that matters is that you got to get up.” That really sums it up. Also, what most people don’t understand is when you make a film as a filmmaker you live it for a year or two, when you take into account pre-production, principal photography, editing, film festivals and distribution. It’s just an insane amount of work and you have to be strong to get through it all. The passion, though, for your craft is what usually gives you that extra push. Because, again, we are very blessed to be doing what we do.
Kale: Can you give us an overview of your various achievements and awards?
Sam: Well, I’ve been very fortunate to have many people both support and appreciate my work. Rather than read a laundry list of awards I’ve won, which I’m sure your readers don’t care about – lol – I will just give you a very few highlights. I’ve personally won something like 18 – I think? – awards, but I will never forget the 2 I won personally, or the 5 that my film NIGHT CLUB won, at the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City a few years back. It was truly a magical night and I felt my mom’s presence at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey City Theatre, not coincidentally the last place she ever saw a movie at before she passed (it was a classic screening of CASABLANCA). I dedicated my Best Director Award to her in my speech. You can find it here:
Also, having Paul Sorvino tell me after I returned from the stage not to sit down, because Best Picture was next was amazing. And, having my entire cast win the acting awards – including Oscar-Winner Ernie Borgnine as Best Lead Actor and Sally Kellerman for Best Supporting Actress – was magical. I have also cherished my 4 Awards from the very prestigious Accolade Competition (and my films have actually won 7). Winning the Ralph Ince Director’s Award and the Best Feature Award, along with my film NIGHT CLUB winning the Frank Currier Best Actor Award (Ernie Borgnine) and Breakout Performance (Bryan Williams) at the 28th Long Island Film Festival was another special night.
Kale: What do you look forward to in the near future?
Sam: I’m always saying that my best moments and best memories are ahead of me so …
Kale: Thank you for your time, sir, it was a pleasure and an honor.
You can visit Sam Borowski’s official website here.
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