Interview with Greetings From The Shore Writer/Director Greg Chwerchak

Greg Pic 11 300x300 Interview with Greetings From The Shore Writer/Director Greg Chwerchak

I recently had the chance to interview the co-writer and director of Greetings From The Shore. Greetings From The Shore is a heartfelt and funny movie I saw a few years back that is now available on DVD. Thanks to Greg for his time and thoughtful answers:

NERDSociety (NS): Greg, Tell our readers a little about yourself. How did you get into directing feature films ?

Greg Chwerchak (GC): I started in the industry as a writer, writing hundreds and hundreds of concepts for music videos. I grew up as a big comics geek, so to suddenly be creating ideas with few boundaries was a rush. It was a crazy existence–crazy fun but crazy crazy, too. I’d wake up everyday to five or six new mp3s in my email–from rap to country and everything in between–and my day was off to the races for the next 12-18 hours, listening and brainstorming visuals, stories, etc. So by the time a feature film came along, it oddly represented a respite. One singular story for months on end?! Amazing! I’m in! 🙂 In truth, I was sad to step out of music videos and missed it immensely, but “Greetings” was an opportunity I had to seize.

NS: What in particular drew you to Greetings From The Shore ?

GC: My filmmaking partner, Gabrielle Berberich, and I met out in LA, but we’re both originally from New Jersey. We’d both endured years of Jersey jokes, and we wanted to make a film that showed the true beauty of the state. Not just a film that featured New Jersey or was shot in New Jersey, but one that revolved around the culture of New Jersey. No one to our knowledge had ever made a coming-of-age film at the Jersey Shore, yet we knew thousands of people who’d had coming-of-age summers at the Shore. So Gabrielle and I decided to draw upon her summers in Lavallette, and “Greetings From The Shore” was born. The title and location came first; it was paramount to show the Shore as we both knew it–a beautiful living postcard.

NS: Your cast for Greetings From The Shore was fantastic, but Paul Sorvino really stood out to me. I was wondering how you got Paul Sorvino to appear in a smaller, independent feature.

GC: I remember being in New York one day–fielding a thousand pre-production phone calls–and I answered an unknown number. The deep voice on the other end said, “This is Paul Sorvino.” I was sure it was one of my friends busting my chops, but it was actually Paul. It’s lucky I didn’t hang up on the “crank call” because Paul ended up becoming the anchoring presence of the film. He’s fantastic. In that call, Paul told me that he’d read our script and wanted to do the role–even if we couldn’t come close to paying his rate. He said the role was the closest to his true self that he’d ever read. Paul raised his three kids in Tenafly, New Jersey, and his brother lives at the Jersey Shore. So Paul wasn’t just familiar with the setting, he was a huge advocate of it. To this day, Paul says that “Greetings” is one of his three favorite films, right up there with “Goodfellas.” We’re obviously pretty proud of that and thrilled that he added his tremendous talent to the film.

NS: What drew you to cast Kim Shaw in the lead ? I just saw her recently on the television series White Collar and I think she has a very long career ahead of her.

GC: Since “Greetings,” Kim’s been on “Law & Order,” “Gossip Girl,” “White Collar,” “The Good Wife,” and a number of big studio films. So I think you’re right. Kim’s got a long, long career ahead of her. She’s a fantastic actress, and we’re proud that “Greetings” is her debut. She auditioned in New York among 400 young actresses, and she just blew us away. But she had no credits and was fresh out of drama school, so we kept calling her back with the thought that eventually her inexperience would show through and more experienced actresses would win out. But they didn’t. Kim just got better and better. And one day Gabrielle turned to me–knowing that the character is based on her life–and said, “You know, this is probably the only film you’ll ever make where you can actually just cast the best actors for the parts.” So we did. And Kim was Jenny. The character is in about 90 percent of the film, and Kim just has a freshness and vitality that grab us in every scene. I can’t say enough about Kim. We love her. She got her shot and knocked it out of the park.

NS: Please let our readers know the website so that they can order their own DVD of Greetings From The Shore.

GC: is our website that has the DVD for sale. I’m really proud of how it turned out; it’s a dual-layer disc authored from the original 35mm negative, so it looks fantastic–as good as a Blu-Ray. The DVD also has great bonus features like audio commentaries from Kim, Paul, and lead actor David Fumero. I love hearing them talk about how much they enjoyed making the film and shooting at the Jersey Shore. Gabrielle and I did an audio commentary, too, with all the ins and outs of how the film came together. I’ve got to admit; I enjoy the bonus features almost as much as the film! 🙂

NS: I noticed on the website that you are having huge outdoor screenings of the film at various locations in New Jersey. How have the screenings been going ? What has the reaction to your film been like ?

GC: The reaction to the film has been great since we premiered at the Montreal Film Festival. It’s funny, but I’m sometimes surprised how many people from around the world have connected with the film. “Greetings” is in release in 72 countries right now, and we often get emails from strangers relating the film to their own summer experience at a lake in France, or a sea in Russia, etc. It’s kind of amazing to realize how common it is to the human condition to spend coming-of-age summers near a body of water.

We launched the free Jersey Shore screenings as an antidote to all the negative exposure that New Jersey has been getting from film and TV like MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” etc. Anyone who’s ever been to the Shore knows that MTV’s version represents a miniscule percentage of people’s experiences, and we wanted to offer “Greetings” as a reminder of the real Jersey Shore. We partnered with New Wave Cinemas, an outdoor screening company in New Jersey, and scheduled free screenings with towns up and down the Shore on a huge 25-foot outdoor screen. They’ve been a blast. Thousands of people have come out, watched the film in beach chairs, and enjoyed a perfect Jersey night under the stars. There’s nothing more satisfying as a filmmaker than seeing all the people happy and smiling as they leave the outdoor screenings.

NS: Do you have any future projects or future plans you’d like to share with our readers ?

GC: I’m working on a few graphic novels, a musical farce, and a couple new screenplays–all very different stuff from “Greetings.” Gabrielle and I are in prep on a new Jersey film, one that will showcase a different part of the state. It’s an over-the-top comedy loosely based on Romeo & Juliet and drawing on tons of Jersey history and mythology–everything from the Jersey Devil and Charles Lindbergh to Oktoberfests and Revolutionary War re-enactors. It’s vastly different from “Greetings”–more like a Coen Brothers comedy–yet I hope it conveys the same love we have for our native state.

NS: Finally, any final words for our readers ?

GC: For those that have seen the film or bought the DVD, thanks for the support! We’ve had a blast with “Greetings” meeting people and telling our story. When I was a little kid reading JLA and Green Arrow and Suicide Squad and all my favorite comics, I never in a million years thought I’d one day be involved in telling stories. But everybody’s got stories. So go tell ’em! Write ’em, film ’em, sing ’em! Just get them out of you and share them. I think it’s a really important part of life–just sharing our experiences with each other while we’re here. But hey, just one request in your stories; give Jersey a break. 🙂 Thanks, Chris, and thanks, Nerd Society.


Greg Chwerchak was born in New Jersey and educated at Rice University in
Houston. He has created music videos for hundreds of artists such as Billy Ray
Cyrus, Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, Duran Duran, and Ludacris, and his
commercial concepts include clients such as McDonalds, Gatorade, and ESPN.
His award-winning short films, The Quarry and The Hook-Armed Man have
participated in over a hundred film festivals worldwide. Greetings From The Shore is
his first feature film.
Greetings From The Shore, Writer/Director – 2008 (35mm, 118min)
The Quarry, Director – 2001 (35mm, 30min)
The Hook-Armed Man, Writer/Director – 2000 (35mm, 14min)
(full list of festivals and awards on request)
Music Videos/Commercials:
Britney Spears, Duran Duran, Nelly, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Eminem,
Counting Crows, Shania Twain, Kelly Clarkson, Bacardi, Snoop Dogg, ESPN,
Ludacris, Mandy Moore, Ice Cube, Target, Sears, Boeing, McDonalds, Good
Charlotte, Billy Ray Cyrus, System Of A Down, Five For Fighting, etc. (full list
available on request)

pixel Interview with Greetings From The Shore Writer/Director Greg Chwerchak

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