The Reel Queens: Filmmaker’s ‘Dream’ is a family affair in Whitestone

Actor/director Harley DiNardo (c.) acts in the short film he is directing along with his cousin, Rocco DiNardo (l.), in Whitestone. Photo by Nathan Duke
By Nathan Duke

DiNardo, who grew up in Manhattan but lives in Jersey City, shot the final sequence of his soon-to-be 15-minute short, “Dylan’s Dream,” at his cousin Rocco DiNardo’s new pizzeria, DiNardo’s, on Sept. 15. The director drew elements from his own life and incorporated them into his debut film.

DiNardo’s band, White Light Motorcade, shared the stage with Keane and British Sea Power at the 2003 Reading & Leeds Festival but broke up shortly thereafter, prompting the singer/filmmaker to start up a new outfit, Harley & the Night, which performs in his movie.

Now DiNardo, who cut hair while touring with White Light Motorcade, operates Manhattan salon Shampoo Avenue B to bring home paychecks as he pursues his dream of making music and movies. In “Dylan’s Dream,” which he wrote and directed, he plays a singer who makes money on the side to support his music and Rocco DiNardo plays his cousin and employer.

But the film is not quite autobiographical, for the titular character moonlights not as a hair stylist but as a hired killer for the mob, and the cousin is one of the hitman’s sinister contacts.

“It’s about a musician who is struggling,” Harley DiNardo said. “On the side, he has a dual life and he does these jobs for his family. It’s as if Keith Richards were a hitman.”

DiNardo shot the $5,000 digital film throughout the summer over a period of months, rather than sticking to the typically tight deadlines involved in making a movie.

“I shot it randomly without a permit and kept it on a low budget,” he said. “It took me the whole summer to shoot, but I think it was better that way because it gave me a chance to think through each scene before shooting it.”

The film, which DiNardo is now in the process of editing, will eventually be sent around to North American film festivals, such as Tribeca, Sundance, Toronto and a slew of smaller venues. The aspiring filmmaker chose locales around Jersey City and Manhattan for the shoot, but completed filming at his cousin’s DiNardo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, which opened last month at 145-16 14th Ave. in Whitestone.

DiNardo’s cousin, both fictional and actual, gives Dylan (Harley) a target as he cuts prosciutto in the restaurant’s kitchen during the scene shot last week at the pizzeria. In the film, Dylan attempts to explain to his cousin why he does not need assistance with his music career.

“He’s trying to muscle me,” said Harley DiNardo, who also wrote music for the film. “He’s asking me why I won’t let him help me with the music thing and I’m telling him that it’s another part of my life. I don’t want the two to mix.”

“Dylan’s Dream” was originally written as a short film, but DiNardo eventually wants to take the same route as filmmakers Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights”), Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) by transforming his short film into a full-length feature debut.

Rocco DiNardo, who lives in Flushing, said he hoped to take part in his cousin’s film should it be made into a feature.

“I’m married to my restaurant right now,” he said. “But if something big comes up, I’d have to hire someone to take my place.”

But the pizzeria owner’s role in his cousin’s film was not his first experience in front of the camera. He has also scored small roles in several commercials as well as the 1997 independent film “Kiss Me, Guido.”

In the meantime, Harley DiNardo said he was taking his time with the editing process and would not rush to make the December deadlines for a number of next year’s spring film festivals.

“I don’t want to try to rush it,” he said. “There’s a film festival every week. I’m going to be done editing it within a month, then I’ll start handing it out.”

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at www.criticalconditions.net.

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