Sept. 09--It takes a lot of moxie to name a small, independent film after a classic movie.
But that's what former Salinan George Stavropoulos and a team of Kansas City-based filmmakers did with one of Woody Allen's most famous films, 1979's "Manhattan."
Only, the new "Manhattan" takes place in the Little Apple, not the big one.
"We're all huge fans of the original 'Manhattan,' and we joked about adapting it to make it about this Manhattan," said Stavropoulos, a 2000 graduate of Salina South High School.
"The original 'Manhattan' was Woody Allen's love letter to his Manhattan," he said. "This is a love letter to our Manhattan."
In 2007, Stavropoulos exchanged one Manhattan for the other when he moved to New York City to pursue an acting career after attending Kansas State University. He continued to stay in touch with two theater friends from K-State, Bret Palmer and Ryan Bruce, who since had moved to Kansas City, Kan., to open a photography, portrait and film studio called Element 35.
Stavropoulos previously collaborated with the duo on a series of web-based comedy shorts, where he played a dentally challenged, trouble-courting country hick named Elwin.
"I think those were test runs leading up to a full-length film," Stavropoulos said.
Stavropoulos not only plays the lead role in "Manhattan," but co-wrote the screenplay and is one of the producers.
The new "Manhattan" will premiere Thursday at the Carmike Seth Child Cinemas in the Midwest Manhattan. Although this screening is exclusively for cast and crew, investors and invited guests, Stavropoulos hopes the film has a future at film festivals and eventually will be shown in his hometown.
Stavropoulos was only 7 when he saw his first Woody Allen movie. That was 1977's "Annie Hall," and at the time, he said, "I didn't know how brilliant it was."
He saw the original "Manhattan" for the first time on a television screen in New York's Manhattan while on a trip to the Big Apple with his South High theater class. It was a moment, he said, that changed his life
"It was a combination of that trip, with that movie, that made me want to move to Manhattan someday," Stavropoulos said.
The Midwest version of "Manhattan" has similarities to the Woody Allen film -- including being filmed in black and white -- but there are significant differences.
"It's a completely separate story in tone," Stavropoulos said. "But it's a love letter to the original movie, romantic about our Manhattan the same way he was about his Manhattan."
The original "Manhattan" is a satirical comedy of manners about a comedy writer (Allen) with relationship problems: he's dating a 17-year-old high school girl (Mariel Hemingway), falls in love with his best friend's mistress (Diane Keaton) and endures a tell-all book written by his now lesbian ex-wife (Meryl Streep). The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and is considered one of Allen's best films.
The Midwest version of "Manhattan" focuses on a hopelessly romantic writer (Stavropoulos) who is unlucky in love and publishing. Hoping to hit the "reset" button on his life, he escapes the big city in search of a fresh start in the Little Apple.
"There's a lot of little details that fans of the original will find in our movie," Stavropoulos said. "But we don't try to outdo Woody Allen. No one can do that."
The film was shot in an eight-week period during 2012. Stavropoulos wouldn't reveal the cost of the film but said it should have cost a lot more than it did.
"It should have cost us $50,000 or $60,000," he said. "Every actor donated their time, and some lived in L.A. or Chicago and flew themselves here. A lot of us had day jobs and used vacation time, long weekends and holidays to shoot."
Additionally, Stavropoulos said, "every single business (in Manhattan) let us shoot for free. We couldn't have made this movie anywhere else."
After the Kansas screening, the filmmakers will submit the film to numerous film festivals -- including Robert Redford's prestigious Sundance Festival in January.
"It's a long shot, but why not enter?" Stavropoulos said of Sundance. "You enter it the same way you buy a lottery ticket."
Stavropoulos hopes that, if nothing else, the film will help change out-of-town perceptions about the Midwest and Kansas in particular.
"I don't love the way Kansas is represented in film," he said. "We're either the punch line or the butt of a joke. I wanted to right that ship. I'm a proud Kansan."
-- Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by email at email@example.com.
(c)2013 The Salina Journal (Salina, Kan.)
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