Filmmaker Dave Baram is still working in the Garden State. Last June, NJBIZ chronicled Baram’s journey from more of the business side of the entertainment industry to behind the camera, as he produced and directed a story he waited more than 30 years to tell. “One All the Way” is a documentary about the hot Texas wiener grills he frequented growing up in his native Paterson.
The producer and director recently provided updates on some recent projects, which were filmed around New Jersey.
“One All the Way,” which starred his father, Harry, and two friends, Ron and Larry, followed the trio as they enjoyed the Paterson micro-delicacy – a deep-fried hot dog topped with mustard, onions and a chili-like sauce – while reminiscing about the successes, challenges and promise of the Silk City. (Full disclosure: This writer was also born there.)
“This film is a love letter to all the mom-and-pop diners who created lifelong memories for me,” Baram said last year. “It’s a labor of love. It’s not only an ode to Paterson and the hot Texas wiener grills, but to my dad.”
Baram brought that Paterson flavor around the country as he hit the film festival circuit to share this personal story with the world.
“It was not only awesome, but much different and better than I anticipated,” Baram said about the experience.
He added that the combination of using food as a vehicle to explore the broader issues of aging, isolation and abandoned cities, connected with audiences all over. “There were some universal themes to it that people were really responding to that made it really, really rewarding.”
And the documentary was extraordinarily well-received by audiences, as well as critics and festival organizers, collecting awards and honors in 2021, including the Jury Award for Best Short Film at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Bergen International Film Festival, Best Documentary Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Best Short Award at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, Best Short Film Jury Award at the Sarasota Film Festival, and Best Documentary Finalist at the USA Film Festival.
Following the festival run, the film was recently made available to stream on Apple TV and Google Play. As word got around about the documentary, Baram said he received emails from around the country from people with Paterson memories who were eager to see it and experience the nostalgia.
“It’s very rewarding to just see the way you’ve been able to impact somebody’s life or kind of bring back or tap into a memory,” Baram explained.
The festival circuit also cast him in the role of Paterson cheerleader for people unfamiliar with the city. “I kind of became a Paterson evangelist to every state that I was visiting,” Baram joked. “I kept saying it’s the most important industrial city in the U.S. that you’ve never heard of. Which is entirely true, by the way.”
Baram previously mentioned a second project in the works, which was originally set to be filmed in New York until he decided to change course.
That film, “Ball and Vase,” follows the story of Ed Coleman, played by Austin Pendleton, a 92-year-old ailing professor, magician and World War II vet, who is widowed and living alone in a small apartment during the holiday season. The film touches on some of those same themes of aging, abandonment and isolation as Coleman has been all but forgotten by his family, until a change of plans leaves him with one last opportunity to reconnect with the world.
Baram said the original vision he had for the character involved living out his final days in the West Village with cobblestone streets and brownstones. A conversation with the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, combined with experience filming “One All the Way” back in his home state of New Jersey, led him to check out Hoboken as a possible filming location.
“So, I went down to Hoboken, and I realized that there’s more of that vibe there than there is even in New York City,” said Baram.
“Ball and Vase” ended up being shot in Hoboken and North Bergen last December during the omicron wave, which Baram described as extremely stressful and one of the most challenging times of his career.
The film premiered last month at the LA Shorts International Film Festival, where it won the Best of the Fest overall award out of more than 400 films with Pendleton capturing Best Actor honors. Earlier this month, “Ball and Vase” took home the Grand Prize RIIFF Director’s Choice Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. And it is being invited to several of the leading festivals around the country.
Baram saw the impact of this film firsthand during a Q&A that followed a screening. A woman started crying and said how she got frustrated with her elderly mother. “And this really reminded her of how much we sometimes take for granted the [Eds Pendleton’s character] in our lives,” Baram recounted.
Others said they were immediately planning to text their grandfather, mother or other loved ones.
“For me, one of the most rewarding things about doing any of this stuff, when you’re on the verge of a heart attack and wondering if it’s ever really worth it at the end of the day, is when you see it just have an unintended, in some cases, impact on people and maybe move them in some way,” Baram explained.
After a more consolidated festival run, Baram expects “Ball and Vase” to land on one of the streaming services during the holiday season.
Baram also noted that he was able to sneak a bit of an Easter egg into the film, which connects the two recent projects. The trio who starred in “One All the Way” make a cameo in a “Ball and Vase” bar scene, which was shot at Moran’s Pub in Hoboken.
As for what’s on the horizon beside promoting and introducing the world to “Ball and Vase,” Baram hopes to produce a feature film in 2023. He has a project in the works that is set in the late 1970s and early 1980s in desert communities, but is hoping to once again work New Jersey into the equation.
Baram said he plans to get out and see if there is a way to set the project in the Pinelands and rewrite it with more of a rural New Jersey feel. That would reflect a growing trend in New Jersey, with non-urban parts of the state, especially in South Jersey, getting in on the Garden State production boom.
“I’m committed to trying to do as much in Jersey as possible,” said Baram. “We’re going to figure out if we can rewrite it and then have it as a Jersey production, which would be fun.”