My Dinner With 

Schwartzey 

When a starry-eyed 16 year-old is introduced to the outrageous downtown NYC art/rock scene by a powerful music producer with a penchant for teens, she is tempted by the glitz and the glam until a mystery woman provides a glimpse into her possible future. 

   Schwartzey:

Behind the Story

Fiona, a precocious 16-year old with dreams of rock and roll stardom, has become the “special friend” of Schwartzey, a powerful music producer with a penchant for teens, who promises to make her dreams come true..for a price. 

 

Fiona and Schwartzey party in the back of a limo on the way to dinner at the hottest club in town. Once they arrive, they bypass the line hoping to be admitted, Inside a crowd filled with the elite of the downtown NYC art and music scene gawk and gossip as they are led to their table. Dining with them tonight are Jane Alberta James, a Vogue cover model, and her new husband, Rupert, a rock god, and his date.

 

The scene, as seen through Fiona’s eyes, is a bit surreal. Glimpses of a white rabbit hopping through the club, paired with a disturbing encounter with one of Schwartzey’s ex-lovers serve to illuminate the danger hidden by the glamour of this world. Will Fiona succumb to Schwartzey's seductions or find her way out with her innocence intact is the question at the center of this dark comedy.

A word from our Writer...

My Dinner with Schwartzey” was a short story I published as a college student in the 1980s. I was a fan of the punk rock scene at CBGB and was captivated by the people who made up the downtown scene: musicians, models, artists, all hoping for Warhol’s famous “15 minutes of fame.” I remember being fascinated by a very young teenage girl trying her best to channel Deborah Harry sitting in the club with a much older man and his entourage of beautiful people.  There was something about this young girl, who – for all her makeup and eyeliner -- reminded me of Alice lost in a wonderland of pretentious people and nonsensical rules. 

    Fast forward to August 2016, when the venue Dixon Place in New York City asked me if I could dramatize several of my stories for theatrical presentation. “My Dinner with Schwartzey” was one of the pieces directed by Melissa Skirboll which was warmly received. Then, in October 2017, major New York media outlets published stories about Harvey Weinstein, and everything changed.  Melissa texted: “Schwartzey could be Weinstein” I said, “Let’s make a film!”

    Melissa and I worked together on the script to create a nuanced story told from the young female’s point of view. We are both fans of Alice In Wonderland, and as the story developed, the echoes of Alice served to enhance Fiona’s story. In addition to the confused teen, what particularly interested us was the group of adults who enable influential men like Schwartzey with a code of silence.  Like Carroll’s Alice, Fiona is surrounded by unreliable and even dangerous adults. 

    Fiona’s journey, filled with rock and roll and magic, is ultimately an assertion of power. In 1987 a movement called “#metoo” would have been unimaginable: We lacked – if not the will, certainly  the technology. I greatly enjoyed revisiting this story and recreating it for film, where the magic and music could be rendered visual. Of course we had to include a white rabbit – who was not harmed in the making of this film!

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Penny Jackson

Writer

A note from our Director...

When Penny Jackson approached me to help adapt one of her short plays or stories into a short film, I immediately suggested “My Dinner with Schwartzey.” I was familiar with the piece that had started life as a short story, published in 1989 (in Penny’s “L.A. Child and Other Stories”) as I had directed a staged reading of an adaptation at Dixon Place in NYC 2 years prior. The world that the protagonist Fiona describes is one I felt would suit the visual medium of film particularly well.

Populated with denizens of the downtown music and art scene, the world she describes is vivid and magical and seductive and scary – all at the same time. Like Alice through the looking glass, Fiona is in a world where reality is fluid. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party by way of Andy Warhol’s Factory.

Underlying the fantastic setting is a story that seems ever more timely as the #metoo and #timesup movements have gained traction. Fiona may want the world to think she’s all grown up but she’s just 16 and in way over her head. While she would never think of herself as a victim, the adults in the room have all checked their responsibility at the door. 

To explore the journey through this world was an invitation I couldn’t pass up. One of the themes I find myself drawn to repeatedly is the nature of reality, fantasy, dreams – where one ends and the other begins. Add in alcohol, drugs, and a venue that’s designed to make the jaded gasp, and the lines dividing truth from fiction start to blur. On that line is where “My Dinner with Schwartzey” lives.

 

Melissa Skirboll

Director