Fighting for her art
Hoboken-based writer/actor seeks crowdfunding to finish first feature
by Carlo Davis
Reporter staff writer
Jul 27, 2014 | 2185 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE NAKED TRUTH – In a scene from Hoboken resident Jezabel Montero’s first feature film “Cassanova Was A Woman,” Cassanova (Montero, right) is torn between her naked fantasy man (Paolo Andino, left) and lover Lola (Margo Singaliese).
THE NAKED TRUTH – In a scene from Hoboken resident Jezabel Montero’s first feature film “Cassanova Was A Woman,” Cassanova (Montero, right) is torn between her naked fantasy man (Paolo Andino, left) and lover Lola (Margo Singaliese).
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A new comedy that showcases Hoboken’s talented actors and charming landscape could be coming to theaters and film festivals nationwide soon—if it can earn almost $57,000 in pledges before Aug. 6.

“Cassanova Was A Woman,” the first feature film from Hoboken resident Jezabel Montero and her production company, has already raised $8,093 in an online Kickstarter campaign, but it remains well below the $65,000 needed to pay for post-production.

In the semi-autobiographical film, Montero stars as Cassanova Canto, an actress in New York City who struggles to make her big break without losing—or co-opting—her Cuban-American identity. At the same time, Cassanova falls in love with another woman while still married to her husband, and must battle her conservative family and her own subconscious.

The movie deals with the inherent problems of “pigeonholing someone into a box of what you expect them to be just by looking at them.” As a Latina with blond curly hair and blue eyes, Montero is particularly attuned to this issue.
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“People just want to escape, but when you use humor, people listen more.” – Jezabel Montero
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Even as it touches on heavy subjects, “Cassanova Was A Woman” tries to maintain a light touch. It is both an exploration of an LGBT awakening and a broad sex comedy about a woman who hallucinates a naked man following her around.

“When you send a message and you talk about a ‘issues movie,’” Montero said, “people just want to escape, but when you use humor, people listen more.”

Deep local roots

Montero runs Fuacata Films, the production company behind “Cassanova,” out of her apartment in Hoboken. Fuacata is a nearly untranslatable Spanish interjection that denotes an impact, which is exactly what Montero hopes her films will have.

She was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, but has lived in Hoboken for the past fifteen years while working as an actor in New York City. Montero says what has kept her here, besides a great rent-controlled apartment, is “the idea that you’re in the city but away from the city.”

“You get to shop, you get the deals, you get the delis, the pizzerias, the coffeeshops…but you don’t have to be in the crazy hustle bustle of Manhattan,” she explained.

Montero took advantage of Hoboken’s there-but-not-there feel when she was filming “Cassanova Was A Woman.” Though the film is set in New York City and Miami, many scenes are filmed in Hoboken. Restaurant scenes were shot at Café Ganache in northern Hoboken and Charrito’s in Weehawken, and Cassanova’s meetings with her therapist take place in the offices of Dr. Maria Gonzalez. Some apartments in Hoboken were also used for interior scenes.

Montero is not the only lead actor in “Cassanova” who hails from Hudson County. Margo Singaliese, who plays Cassanova’s friend and love interest Lola, is also a Hoboken resident, and co-star Monica Steuer lives in Jersey City.

The cast also boasts internationally known Cuban soap opera star Zully Montero, and actor Paolo Andino, who recently played Dan on Modern Family.

Six-year process

Montero began writing the screenplay for “Cassanova” in 2008. When she sold out a one-night staged reading of the script with her theater company at Hoboken’s Monroe Center for the Arts in 2009, Montero had a feeling she was on to something.

After a Golden Palm award for best screenplay at the Mexican International Film Festival and a five-night run for the film’s adapted stage version at the New York City International Fringe Festival, Montero knew it was time to make her movie.

With limited money from investors in hand, she began her “super-low-budget” production in January 2014. Actors took pay cuts or worked for free in hopes of keeping the budget in black. Unfortunately, by July Montero’s seed funds had run out, with two more scenes, editing, scoring, sound design, and color correction still to be done.

Montero and director Kevin Arbouet decided to try to make up the rest of the cash through crowdfunding. They launched their Kickstarter campaign on July 7, and have received contributions from 144 backers as of press time. The highest individual pledge so far has been $1,000.

On Kickstarter, Montero and company are offering a variety of rewards for increasing levels of contribution. For example, those who pledge $100 or more will receive special thanks in the credit, while those who pledge $5,000 or more will get a walk on speaking role in one of the final scenes still to be shot.

Montero hopes the film will be ready to submit to major film festivals and screen in places like Hoboken this fall. “We want to have screenings here in Jersey to show where the money went and to show our support for all the people who supported us,” she said.

The funding period for “Cassanova Was A Woman” closes on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 10:31 a.m. The Kickstarter page, complete with trailer, can be found at http://cassanovawasawoman.com.

Carlo Davis may be reached at cdavis@hudsonreporter.com.

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