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BU alumni behind new dramedy impart words of wisdom on independent filmmaking

When a New Yorker named Martin returns to his childhood home on Cape Cod after his father’s death, he has to learn how to mourn alongside his father’s boyfriend while also packing up the house to be sold. This is the plot of “Give or Take,” a new indie dramedy produced by two Boston University alumni.

Jamie Effros as Martin in the film “Give or Take.” Paul Riccio and Angela Malley, graduates of Boston University, co-produced the new indie dramedy, which was released in select theaters Feb. 11. SYDNEY ROTH/DFP STAFF

“It’s a real balancing act with the comedy and the drama because one needs the other to work effectively,” Paul Riccio, a 1990 graduate from the College of Communication and director, co-writer and co-producer of the film, said. “Without those lighter moments, those dramatic moments aren’t as impactful. And the lighter moments really let the audience breathe.”

Angela Malley, the film’s co-producer and a 2010 BU COM graduate, joined the project after reading the script co-written by Riccio and her long-time friend, actor Jamie Effros.

“The story resonated so much with me, because … three of my dear friends have lived this exact story where either their father or mother had come out later in life and sort of what that meant to their family and how they had to deal with it,” Malley said.

The characters are what resonate with Riccio, he said, because they are “composites of people I know.”

“The fun part is when you start casting and you start hearing the words being delivered by these terrific actors and it brings these characters alive off the page,” Riccio said.

“Give or Take” was released in select theaters on February 11 and, as of February 22, is available to rent or buy digitally or on DVD.

Paul Schneider, chair of the Department of Film and Television, said he thought the film was really well made.

“Even though it’s kind of a serious film in a certain respect, it has a light tone to it most of the time, and there’s some genuine humor and comedic moments,” Schneider said.

Students can learn from the comedy in the film, he said, with BU also offering courses in writing original pilots for comedy to help students achieve what “Give or Take” did.

With years of experience in the film industry, Riccio and Malley were able to bring their expertise together and film “Give or Take” in just 21 days and with a low budget.

“I don’t know how to do anything with money or with time. All I knew is how to do things on a budget and no time,” Riccio said. “ I had to tell the story in the most cinematic way I could without bogging down production.”

As co-producer with a skeleton crew, Malley had to adopt many roles through filming, not to mention the fact that she was seven months pregnant at the time and even filled in as an extra.

“You’re wearing so many different hats and you’re the one who everyone comes to troubleshoot different issues and then you oftentimes have to go and do things yourself,” Malley said.

While at BU, Riccio worked for The Daily Free Press, saying his time at the newspaper helped him “as far as deadlines go and being able to learn how to talk to people and interview people.”

He also said film school gave him important basic knowledge but that actual filmmaking “can’t be taught in a classroom” because once you have the tools “it’s really up to you.”

Malley also stressed the importance of gaining “real-world experience.”

“I think you should constantly throughout your life, no matter what profession you’re in, constantly be learning, constantly be growing,” she said

Riccio said he would advise students to make as many connections as they can and get “your hands dirty” on film projects.

“There really isn’t any trick to it,” Riccio said. “It’s persistence, it’s a passion. No one is going to hand you anything, you gotta go out and do it.”

One Comment

  1. This is so well written and descriptive of the film-making process. Just finished reading Ron Howard’s book and his description of the film world was very interesting. And he grew up in the business!