Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire

 

Genre: Comedy
Running Time: 90 min.
Release date: December 8, 2000
Cast: Derick Martini, Christa Miller, Steven Martini, Bill Henderson, Amy Hathaway

Synopsis

Chris Remi (Derick Martini) and his younger brother Tony (Steven Martini) have been complete opposites since childhood, so much so that their half-Native American grandmother gave them nicknames symbolizing their distinctive personalities. Lighthearted and carefree Tony is "Smiling Fish," and his perpetually pensive older brother Chris is called "Goat on Fire."

Now grown, the Remi brothers haven't changed much. Having lost both their parents in a car accident, Chris and Tony live together in their childhood home in Los Angeles. At 25, Chris is a hyper-responsible accountant going through an extremely rocky patch with his longtime girlfriend Alison (Amy Hathaway), who has lately begun crying during sex. Tony, barely into his 20's, is happy and carefree, a struggling actor who cheats on his steady girlfriend Nicole (Heather Jae Marie).

Chris' workdays get a lift when he starts chauffeuring his boss' 80 year-old uncle, Clive Winters (Bill Henderson), to the office. A true romantic with the experience to justify it, Clive is a retired sound man who regales Chris with stories from his Hollywood past and of the woman he fell in love with while working on a Paul Robeson movie.

Clive knows a little something about chemistry, and his insights on love give Chris pause. When the mercurial Alison rebuffs him yet again, Chris begins to look elsewhere. He meets Anna (Rosemarie Addeo), an attractive Italian woman who works as an animal wrangler, at a Christmas party and a new romance begins.

In the meantime, Tony meets Kathy (Christa Miller), a smart, down-to-earth mail carrier who relocated from Wyoming to L.A. to help further her young daughter Natalie's (Nicole Ray) acting career. Immediately taken with the youngster, Tony also finds himself attracted to her mother in a way he's never experienced. But he has to act fast, because if Natalie and Tony don't get the television part they are up for, Kathy and Natalie are headed back to Wyoming - and out of his life.

Chris and Tony try to help one another puzzle out the shifting pieces of their lives. Faced with some of the biggest decisions they will ever have to make, the brothers learn that fraternal love means not only companionship and caring, but also growing up and moving forward.

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Back Story

Kevin, Steven & Derick at the Toronto Film Festival

Kevin Jordan's "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" stars real-life brothers Derick and Steven Martini as Chris and Tony Remi. The film follows the brothers as they journey from problematic romantic relationships towards a new understanding of love, life and family. It is a story of growing up and moving on and being open to surprises along the way. Above all, "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" is a fond and funny look at what is means to be brothers.

"Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" brought together three old friends, Kevin Jordan, Derick Martini and Steven Martini, who wrote and produced the film together. Jordan and the Martini Brothers met in their teens, when Steven and Kevin both attended Professional Children's School. All three were actors, and often went on auditions together. After Jordan set his sights on filmmaking, Steven Martini worked with him on his student films. When the Martini brothers, fueled by their desire to do a film together, completed the first draft of "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire," it seemed only natural to call fledgling director Jordan.

Jordan understood the closeness between the Remi brothers, which mirrors that of the Martinis. "Steven and I have a very special relationship. Kevin has two brothers as well, and he has a very similar relationship with them," says Derick Martini, who wrote the original 250-page screenplay on a legal pad. All three drew upon their own personal knowledge and experience as they honed the script. "A lot of stories that are written stress the conflicts between brothers, but we wanted to do what was real for us."

As "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" opens, things are not going especially well for either Chris or Tony, particularly when it comes to their love lives. After a brief trial separation, Chris is back together with his longtime girlfriend and high school sweetheart Alison (Amy Hathaway), but their reunion is far from happy. Not only does Alison cry during sex, she's angry to boot.

Still, Chris won't give up on the relationship. "He feels safe," says Derick Martini, who plays the elder Remi brother. "Chris has dealt with a profound loss in his life. His parents have died, and all he has is his brother and his high school sweetheart. He's attached to Alison and clings onto her a little bit. It's one of those relationships that you know deep down is miserable, but you don't face it until something comes along and shakes it up."

The younger Remi's relationship problems are quite different, and completely of his own making. Tony's steady girlfriend, Nicole (Heather Jae Marie), suspects him of cheating because he is. A friendly, cheerful, bundle of energy, Tony is almost childlike in his promiscuity. As Derick Martini describes it, "He's got these little action figures he likes to play with, and he doesn't take anything seriously enough to realize he's hurting these girls. He means well, and he's not malicious about it, but that's how he goes through life. He's a good-looking guy, a personable guy, and girls are drawn to him."

Chris and Tony are also in a rut when it comes to their own relationship. True to their "goat on fire" and "smiling fish" personalities, Chris pays the bills, does the taxes and generally makes sure life is in order; Tony goes on auditions, plays music, and hangs out. "They're not at the point where it's plainly visible that they shouldn't be living in the same house anymore, but it's time," Derick says. "They're both in need of a change."

Helping the overly intense Chris acquire a new perspective is Clive Winters (Bill Henderson), a sly charmer who, at age 80, can make profanity sound dapper. Portrayed by veteran character actor and jazz vocalist Bill Henderson, Clive is a fount of wisdom, particularly about matters of the heart. He immediately intuits Chris' unhappiness with Allison, and just as quickly recognizes that he really belongs with the sweet, funny animal wrangler, Anna (Rosemarie Addeo).

Clive's poetic, moving stories about his lifelong romance with his late wife practically define the nature of true love. Derick Martini says Clive is, "the Yoda of love, the emotional center of the film."

Tony's gradual transformation from goofy playboy into committed partner captures that moment in life when a person realizes he is ready to become an adult. Tony responds far differently to Kathy (Christa Miller) than he has to other women, and he instantly takes a shine to her young daughter, Natalie (Nicole Rae). Mother and daughter strike a deep chord in Tony, who still wishes good morning to his parents' empty bedroom.

"Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" was shot in twelve days on a microscopic budget of $40,000. The Martini brothers and Kevin Jordan called in favors to make that $40,000 stretch as far as it could, availing themselves of truly unique collateral: live lobsters courtesy of "The Lobster Dock," the restaurant owned by Jordan's father. Not surprisingly, the lobsters helped open doors, so to speak. "They come in these crates and it's a really interesting presentation. It's exciting. I mean, who get lobster as a gift?" laughs Derrick Martini.

Revisions on the script continued through pre-production and on the set. Perhaps the most notable change concerned the character of Clive, originally conceived as a small role. Inspired by a real-life sound man Kevin Jordan met while apprenticing on Morocco set of Martin Scorsese's "Kundun," Clive began as a white veteran of Howard Hawks films. But casting the part proved exceptionally difficult and frustrating, so the partners decided to strike it. Then Derick Martini and Kevin Jordan happened upon a television documentary, a portion of which dealt with the all-black studios of the 1930s and 40s.

"They were interviewing this older black man; he must have been 90 years old, but he looked like he was 50. He had one of those great, wrinkly faces, and he was telling this beautiful, wonderful story. The way he told it really kept me rapt," Martini recalls. The character of Clive was rewritten as a black man and the role grew much larger. "That opened the door to Lincoln Motion Picture Company, and all this great history. We started seeing black actors, and then Bill Henderson walked into the room and there was never a choice. I'm not an emotional guy, but he brings tears to my eyes." Henderson also contributed three songs to the film's soundtrack.

There are moments in "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" that echo the Martini brothers' off-screen relationship. Throughout the film, Tony encourages his big brother to rise to action. "We took some of our traits and exaggerated them," says the elder Martini. " Steven's a nudge, he's an imp. And he nudges me all the time, he can't wait to nudge me."

While Martini emphasizes that he and Steven are not playing themselves, there are other reality-based elements of the characters. He found that producing every day while simultaneously playing a lead role made the latter job easier in some respects. "I didn't have to do a lot of work on the character because I was really stressed trying to get the film done. Chris Remi happens to be stuck in an office cubicle, but this is what would have happened if had broken out: he'd go make a movie for $40,000!"


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Well stress is caused by all sorts of situations. For instance I was pouring through all the listings on VRBO looking at Maui condos for rent. You would actually think this should be a pleasurable activity. However the search was also coupled with arranging a MAui wedding and figuring out where all the invited guests would be staying. I finally lucked out finding a local management company that handled loads of Maui condo rentals and also could introduce me to a local wedding planner who handled such desination weddings as I was planning. The people at Maui Beachfront Rentals were amzing. They were able to rederve a block of condo rentals at one of the loviest Maui resotrs for the wedding party. They also helped guests who were planning to attend the wedding with finding other condo rentals in nearby towns. My stress level lowered somewhat when those details were now being handled by these professionals. Now, I knew the Director/Writer/Producer of Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire when we both attended NYU. When the film came out I just had to see it. And likewise when I recently discovered that the domainfor smilingfishmovie.com was available, I had to buy it with the goal of recreating some of its original content from archived pages. I definitely didn't want someone else purchasing the domain and re-purposing it for something that had nothing in common with the movie. I wanted to keep the spirit of the original Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire website intact and encourage others to see the movie on DVD or see it on Netflix. Here's to you Kevin!!

Actors / Crew / Production

 

KEVIN JORDAN (Director/Writer/Producer) is an award-winning graduate of New York University's prestigious film program. He makes his feature film debut with "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire." Jordan enjoyed a distinguished career at NYU, earning the Eastern region's Student Academy Award for his writing and directing debut, "A Ride in the Old Guard". That achievement brought him to the attention of Martin Scorsese, who awarded Jordan the inaugural Young Filmmakers Scholarship. After earning an unprecedented second Student Academy Award for his senior thesis," Enter the Cypha," Jordan graduated with honors and was given NYU's Continued Excellence In Directing Award. Jordan then went on to spend two months in Morocco as Martin Scorsese's apprentice on the set of "Kundun." Jordan has just finished the script for his next feature, ''Zemlee."

Kevin is represented by Paradigm.

 

ABOUT THE CAST:

 

DERICK MARTINI (Chris Remi/Writer/Producer) makes his feature film debut as star, writer and producer of "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire." Martini began acting as a teenager, and has acted in numerous off-Broadway productions. Among his credits are David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" and Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park." He has also appeared on the venerable NBC hit, "Law and Order."

Derik is represented by Paradigm Talent Agency / Acting - Gold Marshack

STEVEN MARTINI (Tony Remi/Writer/Producer/Composer) had a leading role opposite Damon Wayans in the box office hit "Major Payne." An actor since his teens, Martini starred in the 1997 NBC television series "Prince Street." Among his other television credits are the critically acclaimed Fox television film, "The Price of Love" and NBC's "Law and Order." "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" marks Martini's first feature film as screenwriter, producer and composer.

Stephen is represented by Writers and Artists

CHRISTA MILLER (Kathy) currently stars on the hit ABC comedy series, "The Drew Carey Show," rated in the Nielsen Top Ten for the last three seasons. Miller's other television credits include roles in "Seinfeld," "Northern Exposure," and "Party of Five." She recently completed a leading role in John Dichter's feature film, "The Operator".

BILL HENDERSON (Clive Winters/Composer) career in film dates back to Robert Siodmak's 1945 film noir, "The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry." Among Henderson's extensive feature credits are "Trippin'," "Lethal Weapon IV," "Bulworth," "Conspiracy Theory," "City Slickers," "White Men Can't Jump," "Mother," "Jugs & Speed," and "Silver Streak." Henderson was also a featured actor on the popular television series "Harry O." and "Get Christie Love." Henderson is an admired jazz vocalist who continues to tour and draw sell-out crowds. One of the few singer signed to prestigious Blue Note Records, Henderson has performed with such legendary artists as Count Basie, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blackey's Jazz Messengers, and the Horace Silver Quintet. He contributed three songs to the soundtrack of "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire."

AMY HATHAWAY (Alison) had supporting roles in "Courage Under Fire" and "The Client." She recently co-starred opposite Judd Nelson in the independent film, "The Cure for Boredom."

ROSEMARIE ADDEO (Anna) made her feature film debut in the historical comedy "The Royal Scam."

HEATHER JAE MARIE (Nicole) makes her feature film debut in "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire."

 

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CREW / PRODUCTION

SHEILAH GOLDMAN (Executive Producer) is active in both feature film and stage production. She has executive produced a number of independent features and documentaries. Her credits include "Standing on Fishes" , nominated for independent feature of the year at the 1999 Hollywood Film Festival; Cauleen Smith's acclaimed feature debut, "Drylongso"; "Demo Reel", starring Nora Dunn; and the upcoming documentary "Children Underground". She is currently developing a second documentary film. Goldman is the producer of several distinguished stage plays, including Michael Chapiga's award-winning "Getting and Spending," currently being developed for the screen; and "My Most Important Year," an original play that earned three Dramalogue Awards. Most recently, Goldman produced Joan Vall Thorn's "The Exact Center of the Universe", starring Frances Sternhagen.

THOMAS W. LYNCH (Executive Producer) is an executive at Nickelodeon.

FRED IANNONE (Director of Photography) Iannone's career in cinematography dates back to the late 1970's and encompasses feature films, series television and movies of the week, commercials and music videos. He was director of photography on the low-budget feature "The Last Taboo" and has shot several festival short films. A graduate of Boston University, Iannone began his career in NewYork as an assistant cameraman on documentaries, industrials, commercials, and hard news/feature segments, later moving up to second assistant cameraman on television movies of the week and commercials.After relocating to Los Angeles in 1986, Iannone was first assistant cameraman on such feature films as "Father of the Bride," "Dominick & Eugene," "Broken Arrow," and "Deep Blue Sea." He was first assistant cameraman on several television movie and series, including "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "The Pretender" and "The Wonder Years." He also worked on numerous commercials and music videos. As a second unit director and/or camera operator, Iannone's recent credits include the Fox television film "Ali" and TNT's "Washington Slept Here," and the NBC television series "The Pretender" and "Profiler."

KEVIN ANDERSON (Editor) was an editor on Jon Stanley's 1997 feature film "2612 South Avenue West." Anderson is currently editing through Filmcore Green in Santa Monica, CA, where he primarily works on commercials and music videos. At Filmcore, Anderson has worked with agencies such as Widen & Kennedy, Lowe and Partners, The Martin Agency and Tool of North America.

RYAN ROTHMAIER (Editor) "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" is Ryan Rothmaier's first feature as editor.

CHRIS HORVATH (Composer) has an active career in both film music and album projects. A veteran of studio sessions and performances with artists like Ray Charles, Bobby Brown, Toni Childs, and Sheena Easton, Chris now focuses on writing and producing. He recently produced albums by David Isaacs and Holly Long and has had songs in "Erin Brockovitch", "Providence", "Pretender". Chris recently received a PIXIE award for Best Underscore in an internet feature film for "Saving Ryan's Privates". Chris composed the original score for "Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire" and produced "Corduroy Penis" and "A Closer Walk With Thee" for the soundtrack. Go to www.jamnation.com for more info.

KARYN BURGNER (Set Designer) has been production designer on several short and independent films, including "Poor Mrs. Sobel" (consultant), "Bookworms," "Subterranean," and "Learning to Swim."

DEANNA AHO (Set Designer) "Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire" is Deanna Aho's first feature as set designer.

 

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