CCS graduate to produce film staring autistic friend

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Cooperstown Central School graduate David Bonderoff, left, and Ben Dworken pose in this undated promotional photo for their short-film, 'Older Brothers.' 

Cooperstown Central School graduate David Bonderoff will act in and produce a short film next month, based on a script he wrote, "Older Brothers."

"It is nice to be here, now." Bonderoff said Tuesday in a interview with The Daily Star. "It is nerve-racking, but you have to turn professional sometime."

Bonderoff graduated from CCS in 2011, and studied theater arts at Stony Brook University on Long Island, from which he graduated in 2015. He then moved to Brooklyn to pursue professional acting; he had a breakthrough earlier this year when he booked a small role on the SyFy Network show "Happy," which also got him into the Screen Actors Guild.

While working at a theater company in Manhattan a couple of years ago, Bonderoff said he met Ben Dworken, an actor who has autism. The two became friends, and with Bonderoff exploring ways to write and film his own content, creating a movie role for Dworken became one of his goals, he said.

"I met his younger brother, and I saw how they were with one another, and something clicked," Bonderoff said. "I was like, 'oh, our relationship is sort of like brothers. What if we had a movie where we were brothers?'"

Bonderoff said he started writing the script in September, and he quickly found a group of willing collaborators. His concept, and the use of Dworken for "neuroinclusive casting," appealed to a lot of potential donors and partners, he said.

"I look at it as, in acting, your goal is to tell your story truthfully," he said. "Who better to be truthful, and to tell the story about a person with a disability accurately, than a person with that actual disability? I think it is a big thing now, having an actor with autism tell his own story."

Bonderoff said he consulted with Dworken, and others, to make the story truthful, but he also found his friend's voice early in the process.

"It was exciting for me while writing it, when I would get to a point where I was like, 'I know exactly how Ben would respond to this line,'" he said.

After hiring a production company and a director, Bonderoff and his co-workers filmed a promotional video to use in a crowdfunding campaign. They set a budget at $16,555 for a 16-minute movie, and have scheduled filming for May 10 to 12 in Manhattan.

"It was on a smaller scale at first," Bonderoff said. "I never intended it to be a $16,000 budget film, but it just felt like a bigger story came out."

With the shoot less than a month away, Bonderoff and his partners are in the middle of pre-production. Casting has been done, a contract has been worked out with SAG and Bonderoff said he is tweaking the script.

As of noon Tuesday, nearly $7,400 had been raised, about 40 percent of the budget. The campaign is trending, and everyone is eager to continue the early momentum.

"We've got actual hype, not just Cooperstown hype, although the people at home have been very supportive," he said.

Bonderoff said whatever the final fundraising number is, he will find a way to make his movie.

"We are doing it, no matter what," he said. "It is an important story and we want to make it. Of course, we can use all the help we can get."

Bonderoff said he has been in contact with several organizations that work with people affected by autism, and he expects to partner with one or more of them to show and promote the film. He is scheduled to have a final cut of the film ready by September, and will submit it to film festivals once it is ready.

"We will try to hit all the big ones, all the little ones and all diversity-inclusive ones for sure," he said.

Go to http://tinyurl.com/OlderBrothers to donate to the fundraising campaign or to find out more information about the film.

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