Dan Klores is anything but a typical first time filmmaker. Now in his 50s, he has a wife and two young children, with a third expected mere days after this interview. As an auspicious player in the public relations field for roughly two decades, Klores now has a firm with 100 employees.
In essence, he has all the security a middle-aged New Yorker could want, but looming tales of a few childhood friends were too colorful to ignore.
Growing up near Coney Island, Klores spent much of his adolescence playing basketball with these same friends at the 2nd Street Park. As life went on, he lost contact with most of them, but occasionally he’d hear about the surreal directions their lives had taken. One guy was homeless, another a lottery winner. One went to Harvard, while others suffered debilitating drug addictions.
Stirred by curiosity and the need to become reacquainted with childhood memories, Klores recorded his friends’ stories for a documentary called The Boys of 2nd Street Park. It may sound boring or self-absorbed, but the movie hits you like a real life version of Stand By Me, harking back to mythical Brooklyn during the Flower Child generation. Screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film will premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival on Saturday.
“I knew it would be interesting enough,” says Klores on the phone from his New York office. “Did you grow up with a bunch of guys? Visualize this – now it’s 35 years later. You’ll have some of the same friends, but guys will go different ways. Things will happen in peoples’ lives.”
This casual approach to making the film resulted in a very honest, but more importantly, very real collection of interviews with the “boys,” now all in their 50s, enriched with an assortment of photo collections and videos, similar in presentation to Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z-Boys.
It’s one of those movies that will reach almost everyone on an emotional level. There are slight flaws in the timing and the intertwining of multiple story lines gets a little muddled, but no viewer will deny that these people and their lives are intriguing.
Before Park, Klores’s claim to fame was developing the idea for last year’s City by the Sea, which earned him a credit as an executive producer. The Boys of 2nd Street Park is his first directing attempt, a duty he shared with another childhood friend, advertising exec Ron Berger.
“Storytelling is something I do,” Klores said. “Film is new to me, but I loved this experience and I learned a lot, so I’m definitely going to do it again.”
In fact, last week Klores signed a deal to direct a documentary about a boxer in the 1960s who killed an opponent in the ring. He begins filming in June. As for The Boys of 2nd Street Park, it will continue a lengthy tour of festival circuits, showing at five fests in April alone. Showtime has purchased the rights and plans to air the film in late September.
As usual in Hollywood, it pays to have friends in high places. Two guys named Paul Simon and Bob Dylan lent their songs to Klores’ film for free, and actors Peter Boyle (Monster’s Ball) and Linda Fiorentino (Men in Black) offered pointers during the editing process. But Klores suggests the biggest support came from his no-name friends.
“I had the confidence that I could get the truth out of people. I hadn’t seen these guys in 25 or 30 years. But people were willing to talk, because you could see that they loved the experience of growing up in the park.”
Yet, getting people, friends or not, to speak candidly about their drug experiences, (from pot to cocaine to worse) the loss of loved ones, Vietnam conflicts, and struggles with adulthood probably took a lot more than Klores admits. As these men trace how their days of playing basketball in the park until dusk faded into nights of adultery and drug dealing, you never forget that these are people, just like anyone else, and that’s what makes the film memorable.
“The park is a euphemism for a generation,” Klores says. “That’s what this film is about. A generation.”
The Boys of 2nd Street Park can be seen at the Palm Beach International Film Festival on April 5-7. For more info and screening times, visit www.pbifilmfest.org.
Shawn Wines can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.