JC Filmmaker’s Movie ‘Surviving Family’ Coming to Living Rooms Nationwide

Surviving Family, an independent film by local writer and producer Mara Lesemann, is making its way into homes around the country.

Lesemann’s film–which was partially shot in JC in places like Satis Bistro, Lucky 7 Tavern, Pecoraro’s Bakery and even City Hall–will be available this fall on DVD through Redbox, which has more than 42,000 DVD rental kiosks nationwide.

In Surviving Family Terry Malone (played by Sarah Wilson, who won Best Actress when the film was part of the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City in 2012) is smart, beautiful and about to marry a terrific guy. But life in her dysfunctional family, which has been marred by alcoholism, mental illness and suicide, has left her unprepared to build the happy life that she yearns for. A visit to her family home forces Terry to face the truth about her mother’s death, her father’s life, and the half sister she never knew she had.

“I’m so thrilled and excited that Surviving Family will be available all over the country that I can hardly put it into words–which is not a good thing for a writer!” jokes Lesemann. “Seriously, it’s tremendously fulfilling after several years of work.”

Lesemann says she signed with Digi Distribution, a small distribution company, because CEO Nick Soares personally spoke with her and knew how difficult it is for independent films to generate revenue from his own years as a producer. She says he was passionate about getting Surviving Family out to the masses.

“I hope to reach the ‘average’ movie watcher, which is the vast majority of people who don’t go to film festivals,” she says. “One of the great things over the past year is that I’ve found that people in Oklahoma like it as much as people in Massachusetts and that often men like it as much as women.”

Since its completion in 2011, the film has been enjoying a long life on the festival circuit and has won awards including Best Supporting Actress (Phyllis Somerville), The Alice Guy Blache Filmmaker Award (for director Laura Thies) and Best Local Movie at Golden Door. It has also won Best Feature Film at the Bergenfield Film Festival, Best Family Film at the Manhattan Film Festival and Best Narrative Feature at the Columbia Gorge Film Festival.

While Lesemann is still bringing Surviving Family to more audiences (it’s screening in September at the Northeast Film Festival in Maplewood), she is also working on her next film, tentatively titled “About Us.”

“Here’s the brief pitch,” says Lesemann. “Newly divorced, a woman must re-locate for her dream job, and heads south with her widowed dad, her mom’s ashes in a coffee can, and a GPS with a mind of its own…It’s a road movie, a father/daughter movie and a mix of drama and comedy.”

She says Tara Westwood, who stars as the older sister in “Surviving Family,” is attached to play the lead in “About Us,” and Lesemann’s husband Carlo Fiorletta will play her father.

For more information, visit the Surviving Family website.

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.