Meet 'Ed's' Award-Winning Maker
By RITA PAPAZIAN
Fairfield Citizen-News - 08/20/2007
There is something about the age of 9 that has captivated the creative mind of Laurence Sarezky.
That age has been the foundation for a body of work, a "novel-in-stories," one of which Sarezky adapted into a screenplay and subsequently a short film titled "Ed Meets His Maker." Sarezky won an emerging cinematographers' award from the International Cinematographers Guild, which will showcase the film at film schools and before industry groups throughout the United States and Europe.
During a recent interview in his home on Inwood Road, where Sarezky, who is a divorce mediation lawyer, has lived with his wife, Sheryl, a paraprofessional in the Fairfield Public Schools, for the past 27 years, he explained his interest in that age group.
"It is an age with a great combination of innocence, growing self-awareness and unbridled silliness," said Sarezky, "especially back then," which refers to the late 1950s.
"Ed Meets His Maker" takes place in 1959. Following the death of his father, a Canadian mountie, in an avalanche, the main character, Albert LaChance, moves to California with his mother and pet "tortoise" to live with his ill grandfather. Soon, the tortoise dies and the young boy decides to plan a funeral to make sure his pet gets the proper sendoff that his father never got.
Albert had heard, '"If you don't get a proper send-off, you don't go to heaven,'" said Sarezky, discussing the plot. He said the film is about "loss and isolation," both feelings that Albert has to deal with as he adjusts to living in a new community, without his father. In California, the young boy must learn to adjust to his new surroundings and the challenge of making new friends and developing a sense of belonging.
Sarezky showed the 15-minute film to five eighth-grade Language Arts classes and a sixth grade at Tomlinson to see "how engaged they would be in the film and to learn what they would take away from it." During a discussion following the showing, the filmmaker was impressed with the students' understanding of the issues and themes. He sees this film and others that he hopes to produce as a way of helping children deal with issues.
"Ed Meets His Maker" demonstrates children's spontaneity, creativity and insight, all positive attributes that somewhere along the line children lose either through circumstance or part of their developmental process. Through his focus on the age of 9 in his short stories, Sarezky celebrates the spontaneity and creativity of the young.
The Tomlinson students understood that the film was not just about loss and isolation but also how Albert had to deal with it. The young boy learned to take control of the situation, "when he notices things slipping away," Sarezky said. Through his own creativity and actions, Albert invites the boys in his new neighborhood to take part in the funeral and they ultimately welcome Albert as a friend.
Sarezky adapted the screenplay from a collection of short stories he had written entitled "When We Were Nine." He directed its filming in northern California in April 2006. The script adaptation and subsequent film were the result of his meeting Tim Bellen, who became the director of photography for the film.
The two had met at a screenwriters' conference in Santa Fe and became friends, which led to discussions about adaptation and making the film, shown at the Asheville Film Festival in North Carolina, the Miami Short Film Festival and the Kids First! Film Festival. It will be shown at the Big Bear Lake Film Festival in September in California.
Sarezky believes what makes his stories unique is his own "voice" that he brings to his storytelling. "I remember what I was like at that age," said Sarezky, who grew up in Stamford, graduated from John Hopkins University and earned his law degree from George Washington University.
He has been practicing law for more than 30 years. He has served as the chairman of the Connecticut Bar Association's Family Law Section and as a member of the CBA's prestigious Liaison with the State Courts Committee, a group of judges and leading lawyers. He has written about divorce law and procedure throughout his legal career, which has given him the discipline for his fiction writing.
In the early 1990s, he opened his own practice, concentrating in family law. In 2001, as he dedicated his time increasingly to writing, he limited his family law practice to select divorce mediation cases. In 2000, he focused on a body of work, the novel-in-stories.
"When We Were Nine" is about the "travails of an eccentric group of schoolchildren in a Connecticut town in the late 1950s. He describes these 1950s' children as "creative kids that buck the system and without knowing it, resist being socialized." One of his stories, "Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West," was published in "Cottonwood," a literary journal.
Sarezky has completed three feature screenplays. "Rap City 'N Blues" was a winner of the 2005 Actor's Choice Awards of the Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe. "Reversing Field" was developed with an L.A.-based film production company and won praise from director Sidney Lumet and actor Alan Arkin. "57 Varieties" won honorable mention from the Tribeca/Radmin Screenplay competition.
In addition to writing and directing "Ed," Sarezky wrote and performed "Cool School Kids," a '50s rock 'n' roll tune for the film's soundtrack. Recently, he wrote and performed the theme music for a northern California cable TV educational program "Read Me A Story," and his music is included in the Songs of Love Foundation collection for seriously ill children.
Currently, he is writing a short screenplay for the Connecticut Bar Association concerning children caught in custody battles. He will serve as the film's director. In his professional role as a divorce mediator, Sarezky's goal is to discourage parents from litigating custody issues because litigation can negatively impact the children. "It is best to avoid litigation," he said.
Sarezky sees a direct link between the practice of law and writing. Both require a great deal of discipline. Also, in jury trials, lawyers must sum up their cases and this, he said, is a form of storytelling.
While as a writer, Sarezky believes it is important to adhere to a schedule, but it is also important to take a break "so not to lose the edge." It's a little like not losing the spontaneity of that 9-year-old.
Additional information about "Ed meets His Maker" is available at www.edmeetshismaker.com