Comedies are one of the most popular kinds of movies and in 2016 624 Productions is releasing “Who’s Jenna?” a romantic comedy starring popular genre actress Tracey Birdsall. “Who’s Jenna?” follows the story of a man whose new girlfriend looks suspiciously like a famous porn star. With a zany cast of characters including an obnoxious friend and a black-mailing boss the plot of this film really takes off after a case of mistaken identity creates a whirling storm of comical chaos.
Thomas Baldinger is the head of 624 Productions. Based in Hillborough, NJ and formed by Tom Baldinger in 2011, 624 Productions was created as a hub for gifted writers, actors and producers who are driven to create for both the stage and screen; 624 Productions works with amateur and professional artists who have a passion for the arts and wish to share their creative vision. The production company currently has numerous projects in various stages of development and is continuously exploring new projects to produce.
Thomas Baldinger is also the writer and director of “Who’s Jenna?” and he recently spoke to the Examiner about his experiences working on the film:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What inspired you to become a writer? How did you get into screenwriting?
Thomas Baldinger (T.B.): I wrote my first play right after I graduated from Wagner College where I spent a lot of time as an actor performing in the black box studio. I always had a passion for film and I felt the black box was the closest I could get to film at a musical theatre program. After a few years of writing and directing plays off-off Broadway and touring one of my plays in the local theatres in New Jersey I was told by audiences and actors that my scripts felt like screenplays. Actors told me they liked my dialogue. So after meeting my Director Of Photography, Jeff Sessellberg, at a theatre where one of my plays were being produced, we put our heads together and made a short film. The rest is sort of history…
M.M.: How did you decide to also start directing?
T.B.: I got my first taste of directing my senior year at Wagner College. I won an award for student directing and from there I knew I wanted to be behind the scenes. I enjoy the creation and collaboration of bringing something to life. I try to put myself in the seat of an audience member and I ask myself over and over, “Do I care about these characters….do I care about the story….am I invested?” As a director I want that from my audience. If they are not invested, then I didn’t do my job in telling the right story.
M.M.: Growing up, what shows and/or stories had the biggest impact on you? Why?
T.B.: “NYPD Blue” is one of my favourites! I loved the storylines, the characters…the ensemble! Of course “Who’s Jenna…?” is not a drama, it’s a comedy but I do want to bring that sort of commitment in telling a story. I am also an avid fan of classic comedies like “Blazing Saddles”, “Caddy Shack”, “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers.” Those films had solid characters….yes you laughed out loud but you did that because you invested in them. That’s what I want people to do when they see my work.
M.M.: How did you get the idea for “Who’s Jenna”?
T.B.: The idea came from a true story that a family member of mine who works in financial news told me about. I thought it was a good backbone for a plot but I wasn’t ready to write something controversial or serious. So I had some fun with it but I wanted to make sure that there was a message I was trying to tell.
M.M.: Tracey Birdsall is a pretty well-known actress. How did she get involved with the project and what was it like to work with her?
T.B.: Funny story. I met Tracey at the Action on Film Festival in LA. We were both attending the awards show. My short film “Two Sides of Love” was nominated for a few awards and Tracey was receiving an honorary award that night. When she walked up to the podium I turned to my wife and said “I think we just found our Jenna!” Working with Tracey was a true pleasure. I was nervous the first day on set given her experience and I wanted to make sure I was on my “A” game. Within minutes we were bouncing things off of each other about the script that it felt so natural. She’s a true professional and I am incredibly fortunate to work with her. I’m looking forward to working with her again!
M.M.: What other TV show and/or movies have you worked on and do you have a favorite? Prior to
T.B.: “Who’s Jenna…?” I wrote and directed my short film “Two Sides of Love” which is now on Amazon Prime and has gotten over seven thousand views. This will be my feature debut…..so I guess you can say right now this is my favorite….but I do have other projects in the pipeline that I am itching to get working on.
M.M.: What would be your “dream project”?
T.B.: I know some may read this and say this answer is flaky but it’s the truth: I’m kind of living the dream project right now. I mean, ten years ago I was just two years into my marriage, my son was born (his birthdate is June 24…hence the company name 624 Productions), I was working on Wall Street, paying a mortgage for my first home and writing a play that I just wanted to put up at the local community theatre in my town. Now I am about a month away from my first feature film being introduced to the world (a small world…maybe a larger one if people like it), I got to work with folks like Bill Sorvino, Tracey Birdsall, Joseph D’Onofrio, Garry Pastore, Vincent Pastore, Lenny Venito, and Vic Dibitetto and my name is appearing in articles like this one….this is the dream project!
M.M.: So far, what has been the most rewarding thing about being involved in the entertainment industry?
T.B.: I was approached by one of the cast members who has substantial work in the industry to co-write a script with him. I was flattered when he asked me. That was quite rewarding. You see, that’s what’s so great about this industry. I got to work with some incredibly talented people who believe in this film….what better reward can an aspiring filmmaker ask for?
M.M.: Career wise, where do you see yourself in ten years?
T.B.: Ten Years…still making movies and not worrying about budgets. Ha! Ten years from now I would love for 624 Productions to be an established production company spitting out solid products and that I am the type of filmmaker people want to work with all the time.
M.M.: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?
T.B.: Yes I do. There are a few characters in “Who’s Jenna…?” where we’ve dropped little Easter Eggs for the feature film “Two Sides of Love”. Right now on Amazon is the prequel to that feature which we are looking to do in the soon. I also have a large project called “Triple Play” which has to do with a murder that takes place up at the Baseball Hall of Fame. That one’s gonna need all hands on deck. As I mentioned earlier I’m also working on a script with one of the cast members from “Jenna” who shall remain nameless at this point…but he does have substantial work out in the industry.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a screenwriter and/or director?
T.B.: Set goals–nothing too crazy, small goals. Accomplish each one in your own time and before you know it, you’ll be higher than you ever thought you’d be. But during that process stay true to who you are. Don’t give up in what you truly believe. There are a lot….and I mean a lot of people with opinions. Some are good….and some are bad. Trust your gut and go with the ones that match to your own morals. The minute you start going outside those lines, you’ve lost.
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