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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Smithtown Film Producer’s Boston-Shot ‘Merry Good Enough’ to Hold East End Premiere Ahead of the Holidays


You can’t cook up something quintessentially Christmastime without first mixing in some good-old family dysfunction for good measure. 

Written by Caroline Keene and co-directed by Keene and Dan Kennedy, Merry Good Enough stars Hamptons locals Raye Levine Spielberg and Sawyer Spielberg. The readily upcoming dark(ish) holiday comedy sees the lengths Raye’s Lucy must go to, as the lead character tries to piece her family back together when her mom suddenly disappears without a trace on Christmas Eve.

The film was independently financed by Little Sky Film, and shot throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in December 2022. Its Sunday, December 10 – 7:30 p.m. premiere at LTV Television East Hampton (75 Industrial Road in Wainscott) especially holds weight for the Spielberg’s as Hamptons locals; and also for the film’s producer with local roots herself, Smithtown High School East Class of 2008 alum Krista Minto. 

Real-life married couple Sawyer Spielberg (left) and Raye Levine Spielberg (right) play childhood neighbors reunited in this holiday family dramedy.

“…more often than not, I’m stone-cold focused, but when an actor really nails a performance, I find myself so deeply moved, and so relieved that our vision is transpiring,” Minto said, when reflecting on the experience of shooting scenes you can’t help but get lost in, even when on the clock. 

Classifying producers under two categories — ‘Financial’ and ‘Creative’ — Minto states that on an independent (“indie”) film, you have to be both. “You build the strategies to finance the project and then sell it.” 

Those with an idea of what a producer does on a film project, and those in need of more clarity should know: as Minto indicates, there are different prongs of producers, with almost all of them wearing more hats than you’d ever imagine possible. Needless to say, the position is a haven for multitaskers; a challenge the St. James native accepts head-on, because it’s nothing Minto hadn’t become well-versed in way back when as a standout athlete in Suffolk County and beyond. 

“It’s funny, when I was growing up, I always felt like the artsy kid amongst the jocks, and now as an adult, I feel like I’m the jock amongst the artists,” said Minto, who received All-County and All-State honors in soccer before playing collegiately at the Division I level for Boston University and professionally abroad for Ireland. 

“Being an athlete taught me that work-rate is limitless, and carrying that mentality into the arts community has provided me the balance of grit and introspection that I believe makes me an effective producer,” she added. 

If you rallied to purchase a Paramount+ account this time last year to check out the exciting new “making of The Godfather” series The Offer, you have the strongest chance at putting your finger on exactly what someone like Minto does on a movie set. The recreated behind-the-scenes experiences of the 1972 classic’s studio lot moving-and-shaking producer Albert S. Ruddy, and Minto’s current allotment in the “indieverse” confirm this: a producer is not a middle-manager. In fact, in many cases, when the creative team is requisitely knee-deep in the scene, they are the manager. 

And they are not a self-proclaimed saving grace, either, because their job isn’t to preserve the credit they are thrown in droves for putting out every which metaphorical—and literal—fire they happily signed onto extinguish. Says Minto, their ‘run-of-show’ job is to “partner closely with the director to make the most effective decisions to secure the integrity of the script” at all costs—  costs which, in the indie world, again, are spectacularly minimal. 

Merry Good Enough is just another example of a small film that dreamed big and pulled it off swimmingly without infinite resources at their disposal — and thus deserves to be appreciated as such when entering the holiday film scene for mass consumption henceforth. Per the keen eyes of Keene, Kennedy, Minto and company, it tells a story audiences may feel they have heard before, and that’s plenty OK, because, ‘tis the season for nostalgia override. 

Minto had worked with co-director Kennedy, who also served as Merry’s director of photography, on The Arborist prior. The Arborist is set for release sometime in 2024 along with Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point, another Minto-produced Christmas film extensively-covered by The Messenger as it geared up for its local shoot in early 2023 that spanned Selden, Holbrook and Smithtown thanks to Minto’s location-locking expertise. “I trust his [Kennedy’s] judgment entirely,” said Minto, “so when he told me that Caroline was an incredible writer and that I would love the script, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to jump on board.”

Executed within their forthcoming to the public eye collaboration: a universal theme of longing—the sheer desire to manifest family togetherness into existence in far-from-over-budgeted, and therefore squarely unbloated ways. What’s more: the film that drew inspiration from holiday comedies and family dramas like Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays (1995) and Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale (2005), respectively, never takes us away from reality unnecessarily so, making its subtle moments of sleak editing to inspire a visceral reaction all-the-more impactful as a result.

In fact, you’re able to escape and reflect simultaneously while watching a film that welcomes dancers and the rhythm-devoid alike to its dance floor. At the end of Christmas Day, isn’t that what the holidays are really all about? As long as we’re together, who cares what it looks like?

“Making Merry Good Enough was a team effort from start to finish,” said writer and co-director, Caroline Keene. “Our cast and crew put so much heart into bringing this movie to life, and we can’t wait for people to discover the Raulie family this holiday season.” 

Merry Good Enough was also produced by Jamieson Shea and Genenvieve Skehan, and co-stars Joel Murray, Susan Gallagher, Comfort Clinton, Daniel Desmarais, Neil Casey, Sophie von Haselberg, Margaret Curry, Kevin O. Peterson and Marcia DeBonis. 

The film will make its digital debut on multiple VOD and streaming platforms including Apple TV Plus on December 19, but Long Islanders can get a sneak preview at the special screening this weekend. The screening will be introduced by the filmmakers, with a post-show audience Q & A featuring Raye and Sawyer Spielberg, additional cast and creative team-members. 

Tickets are $15, and $120 for a “VIP Table of 4” that includes free drinks, prime table seating and popcorn. Purchase here: https://fundraise.givesmart.com/form/PRKL1Q?vid=12pt4m

Merry Good Enough is available to rent/own on all digital HD internet, cable and satellite platforms in North America starting on December 19 through Freestyle Digital Media, the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group.

“The world doesn’t see the intricacies of what happens behind the scenes,” said Minto, “so when that perfect moment between all the chaos comes together on camera, I’ll feel a split second of overwhelming pride and accomplishment that we’re really pulling the impossible off. Then, it’s back to work.” 

Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te6BSF1O2Og 

LTV Television East Hampton Theater is located at 75 Industrial Road in Wainscott.

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.