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'Last Call' Raises Its Glass To the Working Class In the Old Neighborhood

March 19, 2021
3 min read time

This is the story of a real estate developer and an independent filmmaker teaming up to make a movie. While that’s not the plot of Last Call, it is the origin story of a new film starring Jeremy Piven, Taryn Manning, Bruce Dern and Jamie Kennedy.

Greg Lingo is also not a screenwriter, at least not before the making of this film. He is a real estate developer who had an idea to tell a story about the neighborhood he grew up in. Along with some buddies from back in the day, Lingo crafted a raw story about a group of teenagers living in Darby Heights — a blue collar town outside of Philadelphia — with a focus on the people who live there and the owners of the mom-and-pop staples that give places like this their community-oriented appeal.

Creating the story of Last Call

Despite its origins, Last Call is not about teenagers, but rather middle-aged men. But we'll get there.

First, when Lingo was ready to take the script to the next level, he went through a mutual friend to get his story to director Paolo Pilladi. Pilladi also grew up in a similar neighborhood and embraced the story's authentic voice. From there, Lingo and Pilladi went through multiple iterations, which included new drafts as others came on board to eventually tell the story of a real estate developer who returns to his old neighborhood and struggles whether to help or hinder a developer’s determination to raze the area so a casino could be built. One of the buildings scheduled for demolition also happens to be the family bar that his father still owns and operates.

“I wanted to change it from when they were teenagers to middle-aged men who are set in their ways, as opposed to just starting out in life,” Pilladi says. “We ran through a bunch of ways to tell the story and settled on a homecoming of sorts with Mick (Piven) returning due to a family emergency, and a subplot which focuses on the threats toward the integrity of the neighborhood.”

Once the direction of the story was set, Lingo wanted to focus on finding the comedy in a developer interacting with the public and how fun, funny and frustrating it can be as someone trying to convince his former neighbors and businesses to approve the new casino site.

“It’s not autobiographical,” Lingo says. But he definitely brought his experience in the business to the script. “In real estate, there are a lot of egos.” Having Mick coming back with a big ego and then being brought down to the same level of his friends gives the character an arc as he realizes no one was better than the other.

“Two things I loved about Mick as a real estate developer is the razing and the resurrecting of his neighborhood, and the metaphorical means behind that,” Pilladi says.

Regarding Lingo’s experience in real estate, Pilladi says, “I could rely on Greg to tell me if Mick would ‘do this or do that.' You watch a movie and sometimes people notice that a character with their profession would never do what they are doing. Not with this, though.”

After “running the script through the ringer” and it was finally in a place where both Lingo and Pilladi felt comfortable with what was on the page, Pilladi took it to his producing partner, DJ Dodd, to get it to the screen.

With dozens of credits to his name and a history of packaging independent films, Dodd went to work bringing the project to other producers and securing the financing.

Last Call is very much a fish out of water tale. Almost everyone Mick grew up with is still living here and nothing has changed since he escaped — except Mick. He'd moved away to pursue a career that ensures he wouldn’t have to return to the working class neighborhood of Darby Heights. Mick’s only reason for coming home is that his mother has passed away. He doesn’t expect to spend very much time here, but then has the opportunity to help a developer, although it would be at the cost of destroying his neighborhood and family legacy.

To fill up this cast with authentic characters, the producers trusted their relationships over the use of a casting director.

Taryn Manning was the first to come on board via producer Rob Simmons, who had worked with her on a previous film. Then Jamie Kennedy was cast through Lingo (they grew up together).

No film school approach

Pilladi attended the University of Pittsburgh and has produced concerts for the last couple of decades. He was in and around the industry working on smaller films, but hadn’t stepped into a writing or directing gig until Last Call. He puts his success of getting this project together and launching his film career to perseverance.

“Writing is my first love,” he says, and advises writers to keep writing. “I have to remind myself that it starts with the first word. Keep writing and revising.”

He also recommends getting your script out there when it’s ready and to not hold back.

“Don’t be afraid to get it out there because it is the plate actors eat off of. Actors are hungry for good material,” he states.

Last Call takeaways

“I would describe this as a comedy about friendship,” Lingo says. “We like people to leave with a smile, more than anything. With COVID-19 and the negativity in the world, it’s refreshing to have something to laugh at.”

Pilladi adds, “This is an unapologetic comedy; a real celebration of the working class and mom-and-pop shops. With the year that everyone had, it’s a nice celebration of that world.”

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Last Call is now playing in theaters, on demand and digital.

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