Tad's the Dad in Smart Coming-of-Age Independent Film
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Michael E. Knight as John in Rounding First
Photo: Walter Tomson
When Michael E. Knight (Tad Martin) of "All My Children" got a call from his manager telling him the story of "Rounding First," an independent feature film that was soon to be produced, he knew it was a part that he just had to do. Knight asked his manager to submit him for the role.
"I loved it! You know that doesn't always happen, but something told me that this is my part," Knight said. "The script was fabulous! Not fuzzy, and the scenes, the story, and characters were very laid out, and written to have a dramatic flair."
"Rounding First" is about three twelve-year olds, Joe, Tiger, and Chris. They break out of Little League baseball camp to secretly trail Joe's parents who have lied to Joe about a mysterious trip they're taking.
A family film that deals with typical life, the story focuses on the lives of the three boys as they spend the weekend on the road walking, bicycling, and hitch hiking, being regular kids that get into trouble, and bond a long the way. "It's a 'Stand by Me' film," Knight said.
Knight's character is John Koerner, the father of Joe, who is the lead young boy. He is the parent that the boys are out to find. Written, produced, and directed by Jim Fleigner, "Rounding First" is a production of Hangin' Hams Productions.
Fleigner has written and produced short films that have been screened on PBS and over 20 film festivals worldwide, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Cannes, and Tokyo. "Rounding First," his first feature film, will be shopped at various film festivals in 2005 with hopes for a television or theatrical release.
"I've been successful with 'Last Writes,' a (short) film I wrote, produced, and directed about a Hollywood hotshot who must con his terminally ill screenwriter brother out of his last great script before he dies," Fleigner said. "The film was picked up by a short film distributor. I've worked with actors from the Soprano's, ER, and JAG. That's why I decided to do 'Rounding First,' and do the best job I know how to do."
Fleigner said that "Rounding First" was inspired by two forces. One, was a desire to see an intelligent film that both adults and kids could enjoy, as Hollywood just doesn't make enough of them relative to the demand. Second, he wanted to tell a story that reminded him of growing up, that dealt with some of the issues he remembers facing when he was twelve years old.
At left: Soren Fulton as Joe, Michael E. Knight as John, and Matt Borish as Tiger in Hangin' Hams' Rounding First. Photo: Walter Tomson
"Rounding First" was filmed in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was the perfect location. Allentown is where Fleigner's wife grew up, so he was more than familiar in his surroundings. Not only that, the local film commission wanted to bring a film to Pennsylvania, which paved the way for the extremely supportive and cooperative filming environment.
"The cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and the adjacent Lehigh Valley were phenomenally supportive of 'Rounding First,'" said Fleigner. "The Film Office, Mayor's Office, police department, parking authority, local hotels, location owners, extras (many of them owned period cars), you name it. They made this project happen. We could have not done it on our budget otherwise. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit," Fleigner said.
"Rounding First" took about a month to write and six weeks to film. Fleigner raised money through independent investors, and said that to his amazement everything ran smoothly.
Soapdom needs to know what was it like to work with a huge daytime and three time Emmy Award winning star like Michael E. Knight?
"You know I have to tell you Michael was great. But here's the irony...I did not know Michael's work from 'All My Children,' but rather only knew of him as a great actor, who does impressive work," Fleigner said. "Since I didn't know him from the soap, I had no pretense about him. But I will tell you this, I couldn't have chosen a better person and actor. I picked him because I was familiar with his talent from seeing him in other projects, and I viewed tapes of him from 'All My Children.'"
Fleigner said that Knight came to his attention early and often for the role. He did consider a few actors for the role, because of the uncertainty of Knight's shooting schedule, and how much time he could get off from "All My Children." But last minute changes were made to accommodate his schedule, and "We're glad we did."
Knight's versatility made him an excellent choice. He completed a lead role in feature films "Date with an Angel," starring opposite Pheobe Cates, and "Hexed" with Ari Gross. He appeared in the ABC movie for television, "She Stood Alone: The Tailhook Scandal," along with many primetime series including "Murder She Wrote," "Dear John," "Grapevine," and most recently "Law & Order: SVU." His theatre credits include the off-Broadway plays "Wrong Turn at Lungfish," and "Cakewalk" with Linda Lavin among others.
Knight shares the same sentiment on Fleigner, saying that Jim is a very collaborate person, and just a great, talented guy to work with.
"I just put all my trust in him," Knight said. "I never even had to give Jim input. Everything was black and white and very concrete."
"Rounding First" was filmed around Knight's hectic workload schedule on "All My Children," and Knight admitted that the hardest part of making the film was the driving back and forth to Allentown, Pennsylvania.
While in Allentown, Knight kept a low profile, but his "All My Children" fans didn't let him go unnoticed. A home was used to shoot scenes, and the neighbors immediately knew who he was.. They were just thrilled telling town's folk that "Tad" was in the neighborhood, but luckily there were no "Tad" groupies.
However, Knight said that a scene filmed at a ballpark had a lot of "All My Children" fans, and fans that watched the show years ago when they were in college. "I enjoyed meeting them, and just talking," Knight said. "It was like an up close and kind of personal thing. It was fun. We just chatted." Knight went on to say that working on "Rounding First" was just a wonderful experience, and he also bonded with the young actors, and only sees a bright future for them in the business. "I really hated to say goodbye to them."
Knight himself saw "Rounding First" as being a great way to step out of the box (meaning AMC).
"It's great to always see the big picture of this business," Knight said. "C'mon Tad was a tortured man, and exploring other aspects and avenues is just great. And 'Rounding First' is a film that I know everyone will enjoy."
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