'Dickie K' chronicles growing up in Forest Hills
by Michael Perlman
Aug 21, 2018 | 6989 views | 0 0 comments | 123 123 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dickie K
The production crew of "Dickie K" with director Matt Koffler (standing, 2nd from right)
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Matthew Koffler, a 21-year-old filmmaker at the School of Visual Arts, is on a mission to document his father Richard Koffler’s struggles with alcohol and narcotics, his subsequent recovery, and his decades as a social worker offering substance abuse counseling.

“Dickie K” will be released in May of 2019, and much of it will be set in his father’s home of Forest Hills. The younger Koffler spent the majority of his childhood in Merrick, but has called Forest Hills home for the past few years.

“My grandma lived in Forest Hills, so I spent many summers at the Gerard Towers pool,” he said.

The pool is not too far from what was known as Thorneycroft, synonymous with “The Ramp,” where his father, who is now 63, would chat with members of The Ramones. Richard graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1973, and years later went to Hunter College to study clinical social work.

The idea for the docudrama on his dad's life came nearly three years ago.

“Growing up, my dad would tell me stories about playing stickball with The Ramones, and after hearing more of his stories, I thought, ‘wow, this can actually be a movie,’” Koffler said. “The film is very slice of life, beginning with my dad around age 12.”

Viewers will notice numerous references to local landmarks.

“We were shooting a scene where my dad’s friend Chris asks him if he wanted to grab a bite, and they mention the Flagship Diner,” Koffler said. “It was shot the same day that they closed.

“One of my friends suggested making references to Forest Hills Stadium and the concerts Bob Dylan played there,” he continued. “I want to have a scene that would involve The Ramones, but not in a very explicit way. We will treat them like members of the community, since they weren’t superstars yet.”

Among the first scenes shot a few weeks ago were several in MacDonald Park.

“There is the Unisphere towards the end, and we are eyeing the use of The Ramp,” Koffler said. “We want to capture the little things too. If there are people in the neighborhood who want to appear, we are looking for them.

“Even if we don’t have the budget to close down Queens Boulevard and make it look how it did over 40 years ago, we can reference old Forest Hills and Queens and make sure that is as much of the film’s character as our main leads,” he added.

Koffler said much of his understanding of New York City comes from his father's stories about his old neighborhood.

“He is incredibly charismatic and has a very spontaneous sense of humor, but he’s also very protective, and I never really knew why until I began to learn his story,” he said.

The elder Koffler worked at Queens Hospital Center for 26 years, where with Mary Silberstein he co-founded the “It’s Never Too Late” program, a drug addiction counseling group exclusively for older adults.

“There aren’t many programs, that cater specifically to them, and you don’t think of grandparents as drug addicts,” said Koffler. “Today, my dad also helps younger people with mood disorders and drug abuse.”

The feel of “Dickie K” is inspired by the work of Martin Scorsese.

“Some of the script is influenced by his style, and there’s a scene right at the end that’s a reference to ‘Goodfellas,’” said Koffler. “I’ve been told that some of the shots have a Steven Spielberg look to them, especially in terms of the way we use light.”

Every part of the process is a challenge, but he remembers the advice of his thesis advisor Chris Newman, a director and sound mixer known for his work on “The Exorcist” and “The Godfather,” who says “filmmaking is just a series of solving problems.”

“Many of the details of this story are very sensitive, since information stayed buried for 40 years,” Koffler said.

The film stars Nathaniel Edward Ansbach, Scott Klavan, Robert Lincoln, and Alyssa Chase, and is produced by Michael Falbo and PJ Marcel. Many of the actors are from New York, but Josh McDonald, who plays Chris Zdanowitz, is from Mississippi.

“We took a gamble, since he has a thick southern accent, but has to play a Kew Gardens character,” Koffler said. “He has done a great job picking up Chris’ mannerisms. My father is played by Ansbach, who has spoken with him a bunch and also has a great deal of resemblance.”

Authenticity is key for Koffler.

“Most of the actors have met their real-life counterparts, and during a shoot at my Long Island house, the cast searched through old wedding albums to figure out who they are,” he said.

Koffler is currently trying to raise $20,000 to finish the movie. To contribute or learn more, visit facebook.com/dickiekmovie. The plan is to finish filming in October.

“I would like it to be as available as possible,” said Koffler, who hopes to have the film on several streaming services, as well as enter it in local film festivals, including the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.
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