“He definitely relaxed us, made the guys laugh,” recalled UVA head coach Andres Pedroso, who was assistant coach under Brian Boland that season. “He was doing imitations of all the coaches and players on the team, and it was kind of a roast.
“He was hysterical. He had a unique – and sometimes dark – sense of humor that we all found so funny. He just made us laugh every day.
On Saturday, Scheinman will unveil his latest character at the premiere of his new film, “Cafe Americano”, in the Virginia Film Festival. The 2016 alumna wrote, directed, and starred in the film, which will premiere at 9:30 p.m. at the Violet Crown Cinema on the Downtown Mall.
Scheinman plays Mikey, a filmmaker from Los Angeles who ultimately has no idea how to make a movie.
“I know a lot of people here who are much more interested in getting famous than doing what makes them famous,” Scheinman said, when asked where the character’s inspiration came from. “They’ll want to get follow-up first, then figure out the rest later.
“He’s such a fascinating type of person to me where it’s right, at all costs, ‘Watch out for me.’ But for what? “I don’t know, but please be careful.” That not-so-calm kind of desperation informed this main character.
The cast of “Café Americano” is made up of actors Scheinman worked with at The Groundlings, the Los Angeles improv and sketch comedy troupe that has produced a number of Hollywood stars.
One of Scheinman’s co-stars in the film is Nick Cafero, 2014 UVA alumnus, former member of the group Hullabahoos a cappella, who was in an episode of “The Office” and had roles in “Pitch Perfect” and “Black-ish”.
“Which makes [“Café Americano”] What’s special to me is that it doesn’t take more than a few swipes on a dating app here in LA to realize that everyone is a “filmmaker,” Cafero said, “but that’s it. is a very small number of people who do something and see it come to fruition, lead the project from start to finish. Alex did it, and I’m so proud of him because it’s a lot of work.
“On top of that, the fact that he made a concerted effort to do it with his friends and the people he loved is so special. And I really think it shows in the movie itself. that you can tell the actors are friends and get along and enjoyed making the movie.I think that will translate from screen to audience.
As students of the AVU, Cafero and Scheinman never knew each other; They met in a chance encounter at The Groundlings when Scheinman spotted former Cavalier basketball player Evan Nolte (who is 6ft 8in) in the audience.
Cafero, who recently starred in Lorne Michaels and Seth Meyers’ upcoming NBC comedy, “Crazy For You,” said one of the best things about “Cafe Americano” is that it doesn’t take too much. seriously.
“There are a lot of comedies now that are billed as comedies, but are really more dramatic – they look at the drama – and I think this one doesn’t do that,” Cafero said. “[Scheinman] try to tell jokes, try to make people laugh. He’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. He’s just trying to do something fun and do it with his friends. I think people will enjoy watching this.
Scheinman calls “Café Americano” a “love letter to independent filmmaking,” using the word “scrappy” to describe the feature film which was shot in just 17 days on a budget of just $ 200,000. “It’s really a comedy, which I know isn’t necessarily normal festival fare, but hopefully after last year we can all laugh,” Scheinman said.
Scheinman was inspired by low-budget do-it-yourself television comedies such as “It’s Always Nice in Philadelphia” and the British original “The Office”, as well as the movie “Best in Show”.
“They did a lot with very little,” he said.
The irony of a real-life first-time director playing the role of a first-time director (and a hapless one at that) is certainly not lost on Scheinman.
Scheinman, however, seems to think he fared better than Mikey. (At least that’s what he thinks.)
“Everything I was new to – running a set, running the unions, the venues, the contracts, the cogs of the making of the film – was handled brilliantly by my producer, Chelsea Fenton,” Scheinman said. . “I could focus on the creative side, which luckily wasn’t that different from what we as a cast had done before. When you do these shows on stage [at The Groundlings], you are in charge of most of the writing, performance, blocking, costume design, sound design, props. Whatever you can think of we have to do because you obviously don’t have a crew. We do it all. When it’s your training it’s a lot easier… I just treated it like a show on stage.
Scheinman was fortunate to be able to receive counseling – as well as financial assistance – from his father and uncle, both former UVA tennis students who had successful careers in Hollywood. Her father, Adam, is a writer with many film credits including “Little Big League” and “Mickey Blue Eyes”. Her uncle, Andrew, has produced “The Princess Bride”, “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men”, was executive producer of “Seinfeld” and is currently a partner of Castle Rock Entertainment, a film production company and television. based in Beverly Hills.
Scheinman, whose mother, Susan, was an Air Force kid from Mississippi, laughs at the fact that he became an actor. When he was at the AVU, he never took a single drama class. Still, he said the impact his college experience had on his foray into filmmaking has been immeasurable.
“I feel like I became a writer in Charlottesville,” Scheinman said. “I was in the poetry program and had to have a cornerstone and a manuscript – and that sort of thing taught me to write longer works, which are not just a 10 page essay, but 60 pages. or 70 pages. manuscript. It allowed me to start thinking about projects rather than schoolwork, if that makes sense.
“I think I got as good a writing training as I could get at UVA,” Scheinman added. “Film school is great, but for me I think a wider education has been a lot more helpful. “
Scheinman thanks English teacher Lisa Russ Spaar for helping him find his voice.
“Lisa is just amazing and has absolutely been one of the biggest influences on my writing and my creative life in general,” Scheinman said. “She’s a miracle worker.”
Spaar said she was “grateful” that Scheinman accepted her offer of admission to the English department’s highly competitive program in poetic writing.
“It was a privilege – I will say a joy – to work closely with Alex for two years, discussing with him everything from ‘Peaky Blinders’ to [Martin] Heidegger, ”Spaar said. “His poems just got better and better…
“Alex is one of the smartest, insightful, witty and compassionate people I know. He truly is a force of nature, which makes filmmaking a natural step for him. is a chance to bring it all together – beauty, creativity, irony, philosophy, humor, music, poetry, satire, terror, the complete menu of humanity… he has such a creative and varied imagination.
Scheinman still remains in close contact with Spaar and other AVU English teachers, including Stephen Cushman.
“He was vital – vital, vital – for my understanding as a writer,” Scheinman said of Cushman. “He really made me read Hemingway and Joyce in a way that I just love – not. You know, I had read, but I think I got more serious about writing as a possibility as a profession with these teachers.
While on research leave, Cushman visited Scheinman in California, where Scheinman told him all about the film, then in progress.
“It was clear that he incorporated a lot of rhythm design principles into his film work,” Cushman said. “Most impressive is Alex’s understanding that the aesthetic cannot be separated from the ethical, the emotional and the spiritual. I can’t wait to see his movie.
Ditto for Pedroso and many of Scheinman’s former tennis teammates, who will also premiere on Saturday.
Seeing all the familiar faces is what Scheinman said he looked forward to the most.
“It’s amazing that it happens that way,” Scheinman said. “The Virginia Film Festival was one of our absolute top picks… the fact that we got in was really awesome. I just can’t imagine a better homecoming.
For more information on tickets and the full film program, click on here.