Festival entries “Counterfeiters” and “Limerence” honor local mise en scène

By Christina Campodonico

Tammy Minoff and Matthew Del Negro play lovers in the Venice art world

The two films anchoring the Marina del Rey Film Festival and the Other Venice Film Festival this weekend could not be more different. “Counterfeiters,” screening at the Marina del Rey Film Festival on Saturday, is an action-thriller about counterfeit money made on a boat. “Limerence,” opening the Other Venice Film Festival on Friday, is a love story situated in the Los Angeles art world.

But both films have strong local ties. Writer-director Bryce Hirschberg, a recent graduate of the Loyola Marymount School of Film and Television, made “Counterfeiters” on his 40-foot Carver in the marina and filmed almost the entire movie in Marina del Rey. Actress-director Tammy Minoff set her romance about an aspiring painter (who she plays) and gallery director on the streets of Venice.

For Hirschberg — who wrote, directed, produced and starred in “Counterfeiters” — making his first feature in the marina and on his boat made sense from a production angle. He was already living in the marina on the boat featured in the film. He could easily move from shooting a scene in, say, the Marina City Club to shooting and/or editing on his vessel, cutting down on travel costs. And setting the film about a twentysomething guy who takes up counterfeiting $20 bills to pay for his sick mother’s hospital bills on a boat offered a unique premise.

“I wanted to do everything that I had access to. I thought living on a boat is a really unique production value,” says Hirschberg, who self-financed the film and recruited friends and family to act and work behind the scenes, making the entire picture on a budget of $10,000.

Hirschberg also wanted to show the marina in a new cinematic light.

“You see the marina in movies, but you never see a movie with a story that takes place in Marina del Rey,” says Hirschberg. “As part of the movie, I want to show how cool this place is.”

Tammy Minoff was similarly compelled to shine a light on L.A.’s Westside with “Limerence.” Her first feature film, it’s based on a play she wrote and developed under the guidance of actor Chris Messina (best known as Mindy Lahiri’s boyfriend Danny Castellano on Hulu’s “The Mindy Project”).

“I think L.A. sometimes gets a bad rap in movies. … Venice is so unique and beautiful, and I wanted to show how cool the city is, how interesting it is,” says Minoff, a New York state native who originated featured roles in “The Will Rogers Follies” and Neil Simon’s “The Goodbye Girl” as a child actor on Broadway. “I think people who are not in California have a really different idea of what it’s like. I think people get this stereotypical Hollywood Walk of Fame in their head, and they think that’s what L.A. is. For me it’s the neighborhoods. It’s the people. It’s the art that’s here.”

Minoff was so intrigued by Venice’s art world that she hired an art consultant, painter Monique van Genderen, to work with her on the film and paint the protagonist’s pièce de résistance.

“I learned a lot about the art scene from her. And what life is like as a painter,” says Minoff. “In the Venice art world — the people that I met and talked to — it’s such an eclectic vibe. … There’s a painter you’re going to find on the street doing sketches and selling portraits on the beach, and there’s somebody in a gallery, selling major paintings.

“The colors in Venice really stand out to me,” she adds. “It’s like stepping into Oz with all of the color that hits you when you first show up in Venice.”

For Other Venice Film Festival organizer Reuben De La Casas, the event is not just about showing the spirit and diversity of Venice through movies like “Limerence,” but also bringing the world to the sometimes insular neighborhood.

“We’re somewhat isolated on the Westside,” he says. “Some people always stay west of Lincoln. They don’t come out of their shell. So I have to bring this to Venice. We’re west of Lincoln, we’re at Beyond Baroque, so there’s no excuse for them to not come and see these films from around the world.”

Meanwhile, Peter Greene, co-founder of the Marina del Rey Film Festival, appreciates being able to show locally-sourced films in a Marina del Rey theater — the AMC Classic Marina Marketplace 6 — for the first time.

“The most exciting thing is that we’re able to have the festival in a theater in Marina del Rey. We’ve had it in a hotel ballroom, a mobile theater truck, in theaters that were Marina del Rey-adjacent,” says Greene, “but we love the idea of being in a beautiful theater in the marina.”

The Other Venice Film Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Visit othervenicefilmfestival.com.

“Counterfeiters” screens at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at AMC Classic Marina Marketplace 6, 13455 Maxella Ave., Ste. 280, Marina del Rey. $15+. Visit facebook.com/marinadelreyfilmfestival for updates.