Early Work

Meet Me in the Morning

(2000) 18 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2000 I got my very first studio apartment.  It had a Murphy bed, a nice view of palm trees, and one very loud and pesky neighbor who insisted on waking me up each morning at the crack of dawn.

 

Soon I met the very funny Jim Bailey and started thinking of vehicles in which to showcase his talent. Together we came up with the story of Bill Maltman, a man who is pushed over the edge by a rooster.

 

This was my foray into digital filmmaking.  Special thanks to Sandy Whitcombe for lending me her camera and to Christian Kennel for teaching me computer editing and for cleaning the maggots out of the fridge.

My Way

(1994) 31 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

In the summer of 1992 I was a junior in film school and for some reason completely consumed with the idea of documenting my family history. Using a video camera I conducted lengthy interviews with the six children of William and Rose Rifkin, my great grandparents.

 

The next summer I returned to Philadelphia armed with 16mm film cameras and a small crew (Andrea Korff & Lester Alfonso). I set out to make my senior thesis film for York University.

 

Originally titled after an old Yiddish folksong, “Vus Is Geven Is Geven” (What is Lost is Lost Forever) eventually became My Way.  

 

It was my grasp at holding on to what I felt was in jeopardy of being lost forever.

 

My deep gratitude to all those involved.

New Jersey Lullaby

(1992) 33 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

Growing up in Philadelphia, our Garden State neighbor always held a certain mystique and allure.  To me, it was a hugely underappreciated location waiting to be filmed.

 

Tim Oravetz and I went on a weeklong location-scouting trip in the summer of 1992.   We dreamed up a simple story of two lost souls who both share a common destination - the ocean.

 

Inspired greatly by Wim Wenders’ early road movies, we built our story around the old gas stations, diners and highways we encountered along the way.

 

We borrowed my grandparent’s white Cadillac, and had a crew of one (my sister, Robin).

Joy Ride

(1991) 28 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

It was winter in Canada.  It was the barren suburbs of northern Toronto.  And it was cold.  Really.  Really.  Cold.

 

Always being infatuated with “one night movies”, I decided to try my own hand.  I dreamt of a small life-changing encounter between the uptight Lloyd (Jason Bortnick) and the free-spirited Pheobe (Beth Fawcett).

 

At the time I was smitten with films rich with improvisation and those that intertwined real life with cinema.  The coffee shop scene is example of this.

 

The ongoing joke on set was that we would all succumb to scurvy due to our consecutive night shoots, lack of nutrition and sunlight.  Thankfully, we found a remedy in Starburst fruit chews.

Winter Solstice

(1989) 31 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

On a junior class trip to Washington, D.C., Tim Oravetz and I sat next to one another feverishly jotting down story and dialogue on our yellow legal pads.  When the bus arrived at our destination I somehow convinced Tim to spend the entire day in the cafeteria of the Smithsonian continuing to write.  By the end of the day we had our first draft of what would become Winter Solstice.

 

Set in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the movie chronicles possibly the most sober and least exciting New Year's Eve party of all-time.

 

Filming spanned a one-week school break between Christmas and the New Year.  Each night the entire cast would congregate at my house (whether they were scheduled to film that night or not).

 

The atmosphere on set was playful, energetic and focused.  It was truly a delightful, once in a lifetime experience.

The Heart Eating Monster

from Outer Space

(1987) 7 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

The Heart Eating Monster From Outer Space was made for a local horror film competition sponsored by Saturday Night Dead, a campy late night T.V. show which screened scary movies each week after Saturday Night Live.

 

The Heart Eating Monster won first place and was aired on television. 

I was invited to come on the show and present the film.  They gave me awful lines to read and insisted on me participating in a humiliating group Chicken Dance.  I remember trying to keep my teenage brace-filled mouth closed as much as I could and gracefully exiting before said Chicken Dance.

Slammer & Slammer

(1986) 25 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

After a series of shorts I was ready to sink my teeth into something more substantial.  I set my sights on making a half-hour cop show called Slammer & Slammer.  Nick and Rick Slammer are two detective brothers who must solve a series of mysterious animal abductions.

 

Emulation is a form of flattery.  You may notice chunks of dialogue directly stolen from other movies and shows, including the famous subtitled scene from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

 

For the editing process I took a cab everyday after school to Media Concepts in downtown Philadelphia.  There I was mentored by Ed Harding who taught me the fundamentals of video editing on gigantic 3/4” U-matic machines.

Midnight Hour

(1986) 5 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

It’s hard to imagine, but in 1986 (white) teenagers could chase each other across a major street in the suburbs of Philadelphia holding replicas of guns and no one seemed to mind.  Or notice.  I don’t even remember the cops paying us a visit.  

 

You can feel the broadened scope of this one: more characters, more locations, etc… God bless my father, who accompanied us and drove the car (we weren’t yet old enough). 

House From Hell

(1986) 3 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

We called these shorts “After School Specials” due to our given time limitations: we had to conceive and produce an entire movie between the time school ended and dinnertime.

 

As soon as we saw the new construction of a house being built on the corner of our block, we knew we had the perfect location to set our latest film.

 

The Phonecall

(1986) 2 min.

Dir. Josh Rifkin

Long before the internet, my friends and I were desperate to figure out how to make a squib (a miniature explosive device used in special effects to recreate a bullet hit to the body).  One night on Late Night with David Letterman a Hollywood special effects man came on and showed us. 

 

These early movies were simply built around how and when the squib was going to detonate. They were edited “in-camera”, created chronologically shot by shot.  Only music was added later.

 

We were thrilled with how well the bloodbag exploded at the end of this one.  It ignited a spark which lead us make several more “Bloodbag Movies”.