I’m excited to announce we’re in pre-production for “standby” — a short film I’ve written and will be directing.
Our Seed&Spark campaign is over, but you can still donate here to help fund standby!
Jerry (Reed Birney), a quiet and dispirited middle-aged actor, works as a standby for an off-Broadway show. Facing financial woes and questioning his art, he spends the day in rehearsal with the stage manager (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) and his bored and uninspired fellow-understudies (Pat Nesbit, among others).
At curtain time, when the lead actor calls in sick, Jerry is thrust into the star's dressing room and a whirlwind of last minute preparations: makeup, costumes, and quick notes from Glenna, the leading lady (Christine Ebersole).
The curtain rises and, on cue, he walks onstage into the blazing lights to face not only an expectant audience, but also the possibility of a personal and artistic triumph — or failure.
Storyboard with script excerpt.
Standby is a very personal film for me. It's a story about the fear of failure, and the re-igniting of passion — for art and for life.
As a professional actor, I've been a standby, or understudy, many times in my career. While it can be a rewarding and challenging job, there are drawbacks: the anxiety of never knowing when you might, at a moment's notice, have to go on for another actor, giving your version of their performance of their role, and the ever-so-slight ego blow (even though you're compensated) of sitting on the sidelines.
This film is about some of the joys and heartaches of a standby's life.
Director, Screenwriter, Producer
Robert Gomes is a filmmaker and actor living in New York City.
He produced the award-winning short film Deflated, directed by Dustin Shroff; and the upcoming short film Pew! Pew! Pew! He also produced segments for the online news magazine "Out at the Center" which was presented by The LGBT Community Center in New York City.
As an actor, on Broadway, he appeared in The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Racing Demon. His off-Broadway credits include Dan Cody’s Yacht, Dada Woof Papa Hot, The Temperamentals, Only You, Shmulnik’s Waltz, As Is and The Sum of Us. Some regional credits include The Winter’s Tale, August: Osage County, Angels in America, The Substance of Fire. On film, he appeared in The Way I Remember It (opposite Christine Ebersole), Body/Antibody, An Englishman in New York (opposite John Hurt), and the HBO film Daddy. His TV appearances include “Forever,” “Unforgettable,” “Sex and the City,” “Ed,” and “Law and Order.”
Upcoming projects include Here Again (a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the gay rights movement); and with Dustin Shroff, he is co-writing a series called Rio House, set in Austin, Texas, about a bohemian enclave.
Dustin Shroff is a filmmaker and production designer based in Austin, TX.
Some of his most recent film and television design credits include Travis Mathew's Discreet, Lisa Donato's There You Are, Daniel Stuyck's The Eternal, and the Wanda Sykes-produced "Talk Show the Game Show." He has also designed commercial work for clients including AT&T, Facebook, Budweiser, Google, IBM, USAA, and Dell.
His award-winning short film Deflated played in more than thirty film festivals internationally, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Iris Prize. The film also received three distribution deals, and is part of Peccadillo Picture's Boys on Film anthology. Deflated is the first film in his Broken Arrow series: a group of stories exploring gender and sexuality through the eyes of Chris, a boy growing up in the suburban sprawl of the American Bible Belt.
Dustin is excited to bring his experience and love for filmmaking to the production of standby.
Rabia Sultana is a British-Pakistani archaeologist turned filmmaker. Her first independent project as director/producer was the short, Rosetta's Blues which screened at the Cannes Court Metrage, Long Island Film Festival, LA Femme International Film Festival, amongst others.
Her first feature film project producing Extra Innings, won best film at Manhattan Film Festival and stars Aiden P. Brennan (The Punisher, The Secret), Oscar winner Mara Kassin (Curfew) and Geraldine Singer (Greenbook, Mudbound).
She has also worked as both producer and assistant director on several projects including feature films Angelfish (starring American rapper, Princess Nokia and Jimi Stanton, known for Greyhound, Detroit) which is currently in distribution and The Truth about Santa Claus (starring Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Winslow, Judy Gold). She also worked in production on The Climb which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, 2019 and won the Un Certain Regard Heart Prize.
Rabia believes that visual media is one of the most powerful tools to entertain, inspire, while telling extraordinary stories that unfold in our everyday lives.
Being from Brooklyn has left an indelible mark on Jamal's cinematography — "Finding the beauty in that visceral environment and how the two interacted with each other was always fascinating to me. Even at a young age, when I didn't understand art, [I knew] THIS was ART."
Jamal has been working in the industry for 8 years in New York City, as well as internationally. Shooting short films, feature length movies, as well as artistic videos for brands and artists has brought him the insight of understanding the needs of all types of stories and genres. In 2014, he won the Zeiss Precision Image Award; following that, his contribution behind the camera on the short film Flowers, allowed for the film to win Best Short at the 2016 American Black Film Festival. The film went on to air on HBO throughout 2017. 2018 brought opportunities in television, with TVOne's “UNCENSORED” series where Jamal lenses episodes featuring Lala Anthony and Charlemagne. The latter episode garnered the network's highest rating for the season. For him, these momentous achievements cemented the belief that improvement is key and should be utilized in strengthening each and every frame.
Rob Odorisio has worked as a designer on Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including The Sisters Rosenzweig, The Who's Tommy, Comedy of Errors, and Stomp.
For TV he was art director on "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," ABC’s “The Standup,” Fox’s "Urban Anxiety” and “The Guiding Light” (three Emmy nominations). His film work includes: Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll; Neptune's Rocking Horse and The Rub.
He is currently the art director for CBS News (Emmy nomination).
(Jerry, the standby)
Reed Birney won the 2016 Tony Award for his performance in The Humans. Other Broadway appearances include: 1984, Gemini, Picnic and Casa Valentina (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award).
His many off-Broadway appearances include Circle Mirror Transformation (Obie and Drama Desk Awards), Bug (Obie award), I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard (Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk Award nominations), You Got Older (Drama Desk Award nomination), Uncle Vanya (Drama Desk nomination), The Dream of the Burning Boy (Drama League, Outer Critics Circle nominations), Blasted (Drama Desk Award nomination), and Homebody/Kabul. In 2011, he received a Special Drama Desk Award honoring his career as an actor.
Film and TV credits include: Four Friends, "House of Cards," "Girls," "Blue Bloods,” “Madam Secretary," "The Blacklist," and "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." He won a 2006 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance and in 2011 Actors' Equity awarded him the Richard Seff Award.
(Glenna, the leading lady)
Christine received Tonys for her performances in Grey Gardens and 42nd Street. Other Broadway appearances include Steel Magnolias, On the Twentieth Century, Camelot, Oklahoma!, and Dinner at Eight (Tony nomination).
On film, she’s appeared in The Wolf of Wall Street, Amadeus, Tootsie, Richie Rich, Black Sheep, Dead Again, True Crime, My Girl 2 and The Big Wedding. Her many television credits include "Search Party," "Royal Pains," "Madam Secretary," "American Horror Story," "Ugly Betty," "Law & Order: SVU," "Boston Legal," "Will and Grace" and "Gypsy." She was a regular on the 1981-82 season of "Saturday Night Live."
Ms. Ebersole has appeared in numerous concert halls including The Kennedy Center, Boston's Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. She has performed her critically acclaimed cabaret acts at the Café Carlyle and Feinstein’s/54 Below.
(Tricia, a fellow-standby)
Pat has appeared on Broadway in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Young Man from Atlanta, and So Long On Lonely Street. She appeared in the First National Tours of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues (as Rowena); and Copenhagen. She also toured in the Actor Theatre of Louisville's production of Pride and Prejudice.
Off-Broadway credits include Spinning Into Butter at Lincoln Center Theater; Emily at Manhattan Theatre Club; The Skin Game and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, both at the Mint Theater Company; and English Teachers, Ladies of the Fortnight and The Whole Truth, all with Manhattan Class Company.
Pat has worked extensively in regional theater and is a four-time Carbonell Award winner for her performances in The Price, Collected Stories, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Middle Ages, all at the Caldwell Theatre. She stars in the short film Dressed.
(Claire, the stage manager)
Saidah is an award-winning theatre, television and film actress. She's originated roles on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional theaters and international theaters, and originated the role of Mama Nadi in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined, for which she won an Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Jeff Award, Audelco Award and the Black Theatre Alliance Award.
Saidah received her BA from Albright College and her MFA from University of Minnesota.
a final word from Rob
As the director and writer of standby, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to visit our website. If you like what you've read and want to find out more, please consider signing up for our newsletter, sent from For the Birds Productions. We'll have announcements in the coming days about casting, new crew members, and funding.
Every play, every musical you see has a team of hard-working standbys sitting backstage.
Standby is my tribute to those unsung actors —
a Valentine to the Theater.
(I promise not to inundate you!)