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Fun / Movies

Two Virginia Beach brothers, one movie
By ROBERTA T. VOWELL, The Virginian-Pilot
February 27, 2002

IT WAS the perfect road to nowhere.

Flat fields stretching to the horizon, bisected by a curving strip of asphalt.

Jonathan Friedman found this road out in rural Pungo, out past all the strip malls and parking lots of suburban Virginia Beach. A grand place, he figured, for a scene in his surreal comic film.

See, the heroes of his movie toss their lot in with a couple flashy dames who turn out to be gun molls who knock over a store, and you know it's not going to end up well for the heroes, who end up being tossed from a convertible in their skivvies, in the dirt beside the road to nowhere.

He set up the shot, got the camera and crew out there a couple months later, and discovered the wonder of nature.

``There was corn everywhere,'' said his brother and fellow filmmaker, Matthew Friedman. ``No fields. Corn.''

They shot it anyway. A caper in the corn patch. Looked pretty good on film, too.

A month later, they assembled the cast to go back and shoot a tiny segment they'd missed, and what happened?

``No more corn,'' Jonathan said.

Who'd have thought?

In the beginning, there were the Marx brothers, turning out madcap comedies. An eon later, the Coen brothers stepped in, creating sly, satiric films.

Perhaps the time is right for the Friedman brothers. They've made their own movie, ``Moving.'' They shot it right here in Hampton Roads -- ``Look, isn't that the Oceana exit off I-264?!'' _ and it premieres this weekend at an actual theater, the Roper Performing Arts Center in downtown Norfolk.

``We're seeking fortune and glory,'' Matthew deadpanned.

``Yeah, that fortune and glory stuff,'' added Jonathan. ``Seriously, we wanted to show what we can do. This is something we can show the film festivals.''

``We wanted to have something to show the parole board, too,'' cracked Matthew.

The Friedmans are actually pretty respectable. They live and work in Virginia Beach's Great Neck area, in an airy home with little furniture and lots of cool video equipment.

The brothers -- Jonathan is 29, Matthew is 28 -- have a graphic design business, Marjoram Productions. They design book covers, including the wildly popular ``Conversations with God'' series.

John McClung, a longtime local videographer, also works out of the house; he worked extensively on ``Moving.''

Jonathan made his first movie as a kid at the Beach's First Colonial High School. ``Thirty, 40 people showed up at my house for the premiere,'' he said. ``They were laughing, enjoying it, clapping. I loved it.''

Jonathan wrote part of the ``Moving'' script as a student at James Madison University. Years later, he and Matthew decided to finish it, and then began saving up. It cost $8,000 to shoot, and another $7,000 more in film processing costs. The Friedmans' mom pitched in $500 to feed the cast and crew.

``It was like nothing I've ever done. The time, the effort,'' Jonathan said. ``It was the work of 100 people -- Honestly on a film crew, where you'd have 100 people doing lights, camera, make-up, props, location scouting, editing, sound work, sound effects, titles -- instead, you had us. We really got in over our heads, but we learned.''

A fast-forward view of ``Moving'': Guy comes home and finds he hasn't got a home. His house, and all his belongings are gone, except for a rather grubby toothbrush. He grabs his best bud and the two men (actors L. Derek Leonidoff and Terry Jernigan) hit the road in search of his stuff, and perhaps ``stuff'' of a more ephemeral nature. The Friedman brothers shot the film in summer of 2000. It was the third-rainiest summer in Hampton Roads in more than 120 years. At least, that's what it says on their Web site,

What can go wrong on a film? Besides the corn and the rain? Well, there was the actress they cast as a prostitute, only to find out she was 14 years old. There were the actors who quit the night before their big flea market action scene. There was the ticked-off woman who ran a lawn mower in the yard adjoining a shoot. She mowed and mowed, and then she talked another homeowner into mowing for another hour or so, just for spite.

``Don't forget the cops,'' Jonathan said.

``They showed up everywhere, every time we were shooting,'' Matthew said. ``Even our neighbors called the cops. Then at the flea market, we had a table full of props, and people kept trying to buy our stuff. Which got even more confusing when one of the actors started bringing his sculptures along and selling them.''

Cameras jammed, cars broke down, even the Dumpster truck had mechanical problems. In fact, the only vehicle that worked every time was a junker of a Chevette that the Friedmans bought for $200 to use in the film.

To get a couple Atlantic City shots, Jonathan drove up to New Jersey. Of course, it rained. ``It was like we were cursed,'' he said.

In the end, they had a film.

``It's tough to believe,'' Matthew said, ``that people would place so much faith in us.''

  • Reach Roberta T. Vowell at 446-2327 or

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