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I. Themes and Ideas
II. Origins
III. Cast
IV. Team
V. Investors
VI. The Dedication

I. Themes and Ideas

"I Will Avenge You, Iago!" is a celebration of acting and actors, - says writer/director Zhenya Kiperman, - it's a tribute to the people blessed or cursed by the gift to perform, to become somebody else and make us believe it's real. Some dramas and farces of the film happen in real life, some turn out to be staged, but when the actors manage to move us, when we root for them, and laugh when they're funny, and gasp and cry when they die, the line between reality and fiction disappears, it all becomes real."

The sceptical Larry Pine:
- Really?...

"There are all kinds of performances in all kinds of genres in Iago, - Kiperman continues, - there are family dramas and farces, a suicidal tragedy, "Otello" on opera stage and "Hamlet" in a prison theater. Eve Zimmermann (Kate Hodge) puts up a show to get away with her crime, Jack Bandrowsky (Larry Pine) improvises backstage to save his life. But ultimately art saves and cures - Marvin's (Keith Nobbs) turn as Hamlet in prison cures his psychosis and helps to discover his artistic destiny - after his release he joins Michael's theater and becomes a star. After recognizing Eve Zimmermann as Hamlet's mother on the prison stage, Helen (Michi Barall) doesn't turn her in, but gives her flowers - in appreciation of a yet another great performance. Thus, art helps to forgive."


II. Origins

"Iago grew from a 30-minute comedy that I wrote, produced, directed and starred in while at Columbia University Film School, - explains Kiperman. - In the short I played two parts - the psychotic audience member and Rigoletto's daughter Gilda. The short was much more farcical than the current version. It won several awards at festivals around the world, was nominated for a National Student Academy Award. And then it took me ten years to make it into a feature."

Zhenya Kiperman as the Psychotic Viewer in the award-winning 30-minute version of I WILL AVENGE YOU, IAGO! (1995)  











III. Cast

  Larry Pine. Iago's Evil Grin

"I think the film turned out better than the script, - Kiperman continues, - and this is mostly because of our actors. I've been very lucky with this cast, all of them. I love Larry Pine as Dr. Astrov in Louis Malle's wonderful film VANYA ON 42ND STREET - that was why I sent him the script. Larry liked it, agreed to play Bandrowsky, and recommended Michi Barall for the part of Helen Brooks - they worked on stage together in the past.

Michi Barall as Helen Brooks

When Michi showed up for the audition, I saw the exact quality I was looking for - a combination of physical fragility and sensuality with the inner strength, and a tragi-comic sensibility in the tradition of Giulietta Masina."

Another gift to the film was Giancarlo Esposito, one of the most organic actors in the world. In 2002 Giancarlo almost came to my Golden Age of Cinema film festival as a guest speaker - we screened Jim Jarmusch's NIGHT ON EARTH in which Giancarlo plays the unforgettable Yo Yo.

The Director and his Leading Lady. Giancarlo Esposito and Michi Barall.

He couldn't make it then - he was shooting a movie in LA, but I kept his home phone number, and I knew his wife's name - the invaluable pieces of information when you're trying to cast a great actor in a very low budget film. So I called, and I spoke with his wife Joy, and she remembered me and my festival, and she said, "send the script", and I did, and they loved it and he played the Director with his incomparable energy, charm and humor."





Keith Nobbs as Psychotic Audience Member in I WILL AVENGE YOU, IAGO!

"Keith Nobbs was the first actor aboard - since the summer 2002, - continues Zh. Kiperman. - He was among the guests of my film festival when we screened Tom DiCillo's DOUBLE WHAMMY in which he gives a hilarious performance of a Tarantinoesque screenwriter. I approached Keith right after the screening and told him about a character in my future film - when all this was nothing but a dream - all I had was just me and my script. Seems like Keith liked us both, and remained a solid supporter of the project ever since - he attended all our fundraising events, e-mailed dozens of casting suggestions. I think his performance in Iago is one of his best - very funny and very moving at the same time. Keith is an actor of remarkable intuition and intelligence, especially impressive at his very young age. I think he has a great future as an actor."

"When Kate Hodge came to audition for the part of Eve Zimmermann, - continues Zh. Kiperman, - she looked classy, and beautiful, and was emanating sexual power that is so important for the character. But when we began working, I suddenly saw that she can also be very funny and eccentric if a scene calls for it. Kate is an actress of amazing range, keen intelligence and a wonderful sense of humor - a joy to work with."

Kate Hodge and Zhenya Kiperman between takes.

Parrot Alberto, the scene-stealer

"A part of the film called The Terrarium was shot in the apartment of my good friends, they kindly let us use it for free. When I came to them for the first time to do my storyboards, I met their parrot Alberto and instantly thought that he should be in the film - the tragic Terrarium needed at least one comic creature. So I gave some Director's lines to Alberto - Giancarlo didn't object. Now Alberto's comments get the most laughs, he practically steals every scene that happens in this apartment."


IV. The Team

"One good thing about my teaching, - continues writer/director Zhenya Kiperman, who is also an Adjunct Professor of Film at NYU and New School University, - is that I found many Iago collaborators and investors among my students. My producing partner Anthony Grillo is my former student. After he took "The Art of Film" class with me at New School, we began collaborating on my Golden Age of Cinema film festival that Anthony helped to produce. Without him I'd never have gained enough courage to start Iago. Anthony has solid business and financial background, so he handles the business end of the project. What's most encouraging about his enthusiasm for Iago is that throughout his very dynamic and versatile business career he's never participated in a losing project. I certainly hope his intuition is right once again."

"I courted the cinematographer Wolfgang (Wolf) Held longer than any of Iago actors." - Zhenya Kiperman remembers. - "The courtship started ten years ago, when I, then a student of Columbia Film School, was trying to get Wolf to shoot my thesis film - the 30-minute version of Iago. It didn't happen - he was too busy shooting other things. Many years later, when Iago began to materialize as a feature, I began calling Wolf again, every week, for months. He liked the script, but still was very busy with other projects. Finally, I managed to get him to come to one of our fundraising parties. At this party we didn't raise a dollar, but something else happened - Wolf Held saw my short version of Iago and liked it. So I got my DP, the major creative and technical force, one of the most experienced members of the crew (28 films!). The fact that we shot Iago in 21 days is mostly to his credit. Wolf is the most artistic and articulate Director of Photography I've ever worked with. He is also incredibly patient and gracious - invaluable qualities in the hyper-stressed reality of the low-budget filmmaking. Working with him, seeing how respectfully, quickly, and exactly all his requests are fulfilled, for the first time I understood and appreciated the meaning of his title - Wolfgang is indeed THE DIRECTOR of Photography."

Director of Photography Wolfgang Held and Kate Hodge between takes

"Another most experienced member of the crew was costume designer/make-up artist Nadia Fadeeva. - continues Zh. Kiperman. - Nadia worked on 39 films, on two of them - with me. In 1995 she did costumes and make-up for the 30-minute version of Iago. It's been a privilege to work with her again, to learn from her, among other things - about my own characters. I never thought you can learn so much about the people from the costumes they wear."

Nadia Fadeeva transforming Larry Pine into Iago

"I found my 2nd producing partner/casting director, Alyssa Black, through www.mandy.com. - Kiperman continues. - Alyssa put the rest of the team together. We've got the most multi-cultural film crew ever: a German cinematographer Wolfgang Held, an Italian 1st assistant director Rita Capasa, 2nd assistant director/associate producer Monika Cholewa from Poland, me and costume designer Nadia Fadeeva from Russia, line producer/production manager Mohammed Naqvi from Pakistan, my assistant/technical coordinator Sergei Krasikov from Byelorussia, storyboard artist/illustrator Brett Curtin (my former student) from South Africa, and many exciting Americans... This international crew created fantastic energy. I remember my good friend (and also my former students and one of Iago investors) Ken Schwartz, who plays the crooked doorman/the King in the film, visited the production office for the first time, saw all of us together, talking on our cell phones at the same time with all our wonderful different accents, and said, "I have no idea what's going on here, but it's very exciting!"

Zhenya Kiperman directing Ken Swartz and Kate Hodge as the King and the Queen in the prison staging of "Hamlet"


V. The Investors

"Iago has about sixty private investors, - continues Zhenya Kiperman, - almost as many as the Coen Brothers had on BLOOD SIMPLE. I'm among them - I took over $70,000 from credit cards and put it into the film. Most of our investors are my former students and the people who heard about the film on the Russian New Life Radio (620 AM). My friend Seva Kaplan is the most popular Russian radio talk show host in America. We've raised a substantial part of the budget thanks to him - several times he invited me to discuss the project on the air. So people began calling and offering money. It was very moving, actually, - people who've never seen me in their lives. I think, it's a Russian thing - they were excited about the story of a fellow emigrant who's trying to fulfill his big American dream - to make a real movie! - in English!! - with American actors!!! - and they wanted to help me to fulfill my dream. Many of these people are not rich at all, some of them tried to give me their entire savings, which I resisted. So my sense of responsibility to the investors is quite acute."

Associate Producer Seva Kaplan (front right) as Inmate Seva in the Comedy of errors Penitentiary scene


VI. The Dedication

"Making Iago was the most exhilarating experience of my life. I've been very lucky that the budgetary and schedule constraints didn't compromise my vision. The actors brought so much humanity, energy and wit into the film that the results exceeded my expectations. Whatever happens to Iago commercially (of course we hope for the best), artistically I'm very proud of it. Hundreds of people (literally - hundreds!) participated in the film in various ways, believed in it, supported us. Many worked on Iago for very little or no money, others gave us the money of their own. I will never forget the generosity, faith and respect of these people. We tried our best to acknowledge everyone in the final credits (all our sixty investors are in the 'special thanks' section), but if, by mistake, we missed someone, please note the dedication at the end of the film which means a lot to me:

Dedicated to all the people who invested their




into this film.

Zhenya Kiperman
February 9, 2005




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