The sight of hurricane damage is one Floridians know all too well. Now a film shot in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by a director with family ties to Sarasota County is set to premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival. Houses, a movie with a higher profile than many films screening this year thanks to a cast of familiar faces from Orange is the New Black and The Sopranos, follows characters recovering from a northeastern storm and tells a story of creating art in the wake of disaster. “The film uses the storm outside to explore a storm within,” says director Jenner Furst.
Houses follows three friends—played by Nick Sandow, John Ventimiglia and Michael Imperioli—connected by the arts and living in the proximity of the storm path. The film opens with Ventimiglia searching for a missing cat around the ruins of his home in Far Rockaway. Sandow’s character is developing a stage production in a New York theater house, where he decides to use the storm, including pictures of houses affected by the storm. Furst likens the plot to a postmodern modern retelling of the three little pigs. “The Big Bad Wolf isn’t the Hurricane, it’s inside of them. John [Ventimiglia] has blown his Strawhouse down many times, with booze, with his ego. Lenny [Imperioli] has set his Woodhouse on fire, with insanity and fragility. But for Nick [Sandow], the safety, love and privilege of the Brickhouse is starting to feel like a padded cell. That’s what’s driving him so crazy, making him feel desperate creatively. Eventually he’s gotta grow out of that feeling, come to terms with it, respect how lucky he is. The show must go on—in life, in love and in our work. That is what the film is about.” The movie will screen at the Sarasota Opera House on Saturday, April 11, at 7:15pm, preceded by a red carpet with expected appearances by actors Sandow, Ventimiglia, Tamara Malkin-Stuart and Julia Willoughby Nason. It will be a family affair for Furst. Nason is Furst’s wife. His sister Danielle, a performer who used to live in Sarasota, scored the movie and will also walk the red carpet. But Jenner says the biggest guest will be his mother Penny Nichols, who has lived in Sarasota County for more than a decade. “I am so grateful to SFF and Mark Famiglio for connecting all the dots here, this couldn’t be any more organic and we are excited for audiences to see the work,” he says. Houses screens at the Sarasota Opera House on Saturday, April 11, at 7:15pm, and again at the Hollywood 20 on Sunday, April 19, at 12:15pm.