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February 8, 2010

Shuffle Up and Deal

First Team Trio’s Poker Pic Ready for Hollywood

By Jimmy Kelly

Last semester, First Team kicked off with dozens of SCA alums meeting and mixing toward collaborations that might someday hit the big screen. Fast-forward to 2010 and a number of those teams already find themselves in prime positions thanks to the new program and their own hard work. SCA Relations will spotlight a few of these teams over the coming semester, beginning with Team The Bluff.

Team The Bluff is the brainchild of writer, Dov Engelberg ‘00, producer, John Frank Rosenblum ’99 and director, Jonathan Dillon ‘06. Dillon cites First Team as the catalyst for the meeting and friendship of the three filmmakers.

“I was looking for something that had excitement, heart and a unique voice,” said Dillon, fresh off the wide DVD release of his first film, Fight Night, upon entering First Team. “Once I met John Frank and hearing about the numerous projects he has been a part of over the years, we both realized we shared that same common goal: find an exciting, highly marketable and fresh script.”

That search led to Engelberg. Engelberg, a Nicholl Fellowship semifinalist and award winner for his short film, Who’s Your Daddy?, had met both Dillon and Rosenblum separately through First Team mixers. Both were impressed by Engelberg’s extensive portfolio of features, none more so than The Bluff.

The Bluff tells the story of two high school friends who, after losing a family retirement fund playing the stock market, hatch a scheme to sneak into the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas to win their money back, all while evading their parents, a vicious loan shark and the widest field of poker pros ever assembled under one roof.

Armed with a salable script and an experienced young director, Rosenblum’s production company, Epic Level Entertainment, felt confident it had a winner. Rosenblum is no stranger to success, working on hit series including South Park, Star Trek: The Next Generation and numerous endeavors in the worlds of public television and the BBC over more than thirty years in the entertainment industry.

All three members of Team The Bluff have achieved quite a bit on their own and all three have the chance to take that hard work and success to the next level with The Bluff. Having just completed their pitch packet for First Team, an impressive compilation of budgets, bios, breakdowns and more, the next step is the most important and the most exciting. With the help of First Team’s connections to some of the industry’s top organizations, The Bluff will soon have its chance to sway Hollywood and earn the coveted green light.

If all goes according to plan, Team The Bluff won’t be disbanding any time soon. However, regardless of how long it might take for The Bluff to hit a theater near you, it’s clear that First Team has already succeeded in planting the seeds of a beautiful friendship between three SCA alums who might never have come together without the program and its commitment to make the unifying concept of the “USC Mafia” a reality.

“We compliment each other,” said Dillon. “It is because of our history and potential that we know it is not a matter of if we will get our project produced, but merely when.”