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Quiet on the Set!
And No Vacuuming, Please


THE
audience won't hear the vacuum cleaner roaring in the background of My Engagement Party, the new romantic comedy written and directed by Christopher Heisen C'91. But Heisen knows it's there, along with other extraneous noises made by the family in whose home the independent film was shot. What the former attorney and novice filmmaker didn't realize when he located the ideal Spanish-ranch-style house in Pacific Palisades, Calif., was that in order to have absolute quiet on the set, "you're supposed to move the family out of the house and put them up in a hotel for the duration of the shoot. Well, every day they were vacuuming, doing laundry, the son in college was playing his hard-rock albums, the daughter was playing her pop albums, and the father was on his treadmill in the workout room." In spite of such freshman mistakes, Heisen and his partner and cousin, Adam Zarembok, finished shooting on schedule (12 days), and on budget (under $200,000), and have already won an award for their first film, which premiered in Philadelphia at the Roxy Theatre in April and may be heading next to theaters in New York and Los Angeles.
   The cousins got interested in filmmaking when Heisen's mother, a professional photographer, bought a video camera two decades ago. They monopolized the device, putting together skits and commercials, which she would view with them, teaching the language of jump shots and close-ups. Later, at age 14, Heisen co-hosted a Philadelphia TV program called Kids Around Town, winning a local Emmy for Outstanding Children's Broadcasting. While majoring in history at Penn, Heisen was in the cast of the Mask & Wig Club. After graduation, he attended law school at the University of Chicago, where he tried to continue his involvement in the performing arts by choreographing its musicals. "They were awful," he recalls. "No one in law school has time to perform." He moved to Los Angeles to practice corporate and entertainment law, but gave it up two years ago to collaborate with his cousin again.
   The duo formed Imlaystown Films, naming it after a small town near Princeton, N.J., where their grandparents had lived. Within three weeks, they wrote the first draft of their screenplay. It took another six months to rewrite the script with advice from screenwriter Stuart Gibbs C'91, who told them, "There's some really funny stuff in this, but you guys don't know the first thing about story structure." Once the script was ready, they had to finance their project -- raising money through individual investors, friends and relatives -- and then actually make the film.
   The movie co-stars Peter Krause (of ABC's Sports Night) and Jennifer Grant (daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon) as Dave and Noa, an engaged couple with dramatic ambitions on different coasts and a simple agreement: If Dave secures a fellowship at a prestigious environmental thinktank, they stay in Los Angeles; if not, they move to New York, where Noa has been offered a federal clerkship. Believing that Dave was passed over, Noa accepts her job, but when the couple learns that Dave won the fellowship after all, the conflict begins. The action unfolds at an engagement bash thrown by Dave's quirky parents. Throughout the evening, the warring couple must contend with the competing advice of relatives, future in-laws, best pals and even an ex-girlfriend of Dave's who is a couples therapist.
   My Engagement Party (filmed coincidentally while Heisen himself was engaged to Laura Diamond C'91, now his wife) has been shown at five film festivals, winning the New York International Independent Film Festival award for best romantic comedy. Proving that he has no problem traversing coasts, Heisen is now busy working on another romantic comedy -- this one set in Philadelphia and nearby Bucks County.
   
   
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