‘Respite’ Actor/Producer Monte Bezell on Making a Gritty, Authentic Film
One missing college student leads a private eye to realize there’s something much bigger at play. That’s the story told in Respite, a new film from director Saro Varjabedian, who co-wrote the script with Ali Abouomar.
Actor Monte Bezell, who’s also a producer on the film, plays Jimmy, a former cop turned private investigator who reluctantly takes on the case of a couple looking for their missing son. Along with his partner and former colleage, Jimmy uncovers that there could be a serial killer targeting Muslim men.
We connected with Monte over email to talk about his experience making Respite.
What drew you to this idea and made you want to come on board?
I saw a document on the subject of bacha bazi [a custom in Afghanistan and Pakistan involving child sexual abuse between older men and young adolescent males or boys] a while back and thought, “What if I brought this story to NYC?” The story changed quite a bit over time. And thankfully, my director rewrote the script and locked it in.
What were some of the challenges of filming?
The main challenge was keeping a really gritty feel to the film. We wanted to keep it as authentic-looking as possible. We shot in Jersey City, Brooklyn (where I’m from originally) and Howard Beach. I was flying in from Los Angeles helping with preproduction and scouting. It was challenging, but cool to see your vision come together.
What is it like to be both a producer and an actor on the project?
It was great. I surrounded myself with a great team, from my director, Saro Varjabedian, to sound mixer Thomas Zaccheo, my line producer Zaire Montes, and AD Zeev Feldman. These are all awesome people who I have worked with before, and I was able to focus on my character knowing they were part of the team. I was very fortunate.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors or producers?
Filmmakers, get out meet peers and tell your stories. We need to see, hear and take in what you guys have to share with the world. Focus on your story, not your budget. Surround yourself with good talented people and the rest will work itself out. Actors, work on your craft. Meet writers and filmmakers who are always looking for talent to tell stories. There is nothing like working with peers and creating a community.
Respite Film Reviews
Respite avoids the typical Hollywood clichés as it depicts men of color. “It’s all very subtle,” writes Carolyn Mauricette, who critiques film from the perspective of a woman of color at her site, View From the Dark. “No morals are being preached to the audience, and you won’t find any demonizing of Middle Eastern people.”