Cracking Up: Gregory Principato’s Latest Film Was Shot in New Jersey

A Westfield native films his newest short film over five days in South Amboy.

Gregory Principato, The Director Of The Film Crackers
Gregory Principato on the South Amboy set of his short film Crackers. He hopes to turn the work into a full-length feature.
Courtesy of public relations.

Westfield’s Gregory Principato didn’t have to roam far to shoot his second film, Crackers. “Jersey seemed to be the perfect backdrop,” says the 42-year-old, whose day job is working as a first assistant cameraman on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Crackers, a dark comedy about an unemployed chef whose life is turned upside down when his overbearing mother-in-law moves in, features actors Vincent D’Onofrio, Brenda Vaccaro, Dan Hedaya and Teaneck’s Anthony Laciura, another member of the Boardwalk Empire family (he plays Nucky Thompson’s assistant, Eddie Kessler).

For the script of his 33-minute film, Principato enlisted the help of a friend, Timothy Reinhardt of Mountainside. They worked together a couple of nights each week for two months at the Barnes & Noble in Clark, where they discovered they shared the same “warped” sense of humor.

The movie was shot in five days in a barbershop and private home in South Amboy. Principato, who has lived in Westfield with his family for 12 years, says Jersey works because the film is set in suburbia and many of the characters are Italian, including the chef (played by D’Onofrio), who grows tomatoes in his Garden State vegetable garden.

In the film, the chef loses his paradise and his sanity as his mother-in-law (Vaccaro), invades his belongings, space and every thought, destroying all that is sacred to him.

Crackers, which has won three awards on the film-festival circuit, will be shown November 10 at the Teaneck Film Festival; it will also be part of the Garden State Film Festival in April 2013.

Principato says the film-fest showings allow him “to hear the audience laugh at all the right spots.” He is working on turning the film into a full-length feature.

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