The Closer Movie
Interview with Isaac Broyn, Executive Producer
Where did you grow up?
My family moved to Brooklyn, NY from Israel when I was 8 years old. I grew up in an area near Coney Island, called Seagate. I moved back to Israel when I was 14, and then back to the US at the age of 18, I’ve been living in New York ever since.
What was life like at home?
I grew up a Hassidic Jew, part of a small segment of Judaism that is more sheltered than others. I was sheltered mainly from anything that is culturally different or foreign from Jewish values. In my childhood home television and movies, and certainly making a film was unheard of. In addition, as I mentioned above, i moved back and forth to Israel, which gave me a deep-rooted connection to the land and people of Israel.
Which of your parents do you resemble most and why?
My father served as a commander in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) when I was growing up.. His survival instincts and strong will to succeed has definitely passed down to me, and has given me the hunger to succeed (or try to) at anything I do. Those values instilled strength and drive in me that I carry with me always.
How/when did you get involved in real estate?
I started out – by following my hunger and drive to succeed – by doing anything/everything that would put food on the table for my family. I drove a taxi, delivered milk (night shift), painted houses, and performed a number of other odd jobs. I read an ad in the paper about a real estate sales position in 1997, applied, got the job and grew from there. When I first got involved in real estate, one of my good friends, (with a similar educational background - or lack thereof) tried to discourage me. He noted that all of his "loser" friends with no job claimed to be “working” in real estate, waiting for commission checks, which never came. His words – combined with the will that my father instilled in me - inspired me and I took it upon myself to become a success story and not another “loser” with no education, and unable to feed my family.
Why did/does it intrigue you?
It is very interesting to me. A lot of creativity is involved in developing a building, a project or properties. First of all, the act of building something from nothing is creation in itself. Ironically, and luckily, my wife is an incredible interior designer. Many developers use her firm: Nikibi Studio and Design, including my partners and I. With her finesse and touch a building becomes perfected and she transforms it from a shell into an amazing place to live and/or work. I think the most exciting part is driving by a finished building with my kids in the car and telling them, "see kids, that’s my building."
Most fascinating or terrifying news story regarding the housing and stock market crash of the Great Recession (which came out during that time)? Why?
Well, the whole movie is inspired by the horrifying events of the Great Recession of 2008. Every scene in the film is a compilation of stories from different people I know and some that I personally witnessed. These events are a real nightmare to watch, but important for the world to see. What happened in short: Real estate investors and brokers borrowed money from greedy lenders that had bad intentions, and when the debts couldn’t be paid they collected in “interesting” ways. The whole period and the aftermath was bad, horrifying and disturbing to say the least. Regular people lost their homes, many lost jobs, our country was brought to it’s knees and the fact that so many institutions were so irresponsible is worrisome. Our film is similar to the Big Short in this way, it highlights these stories, but our film is from the Brooklyn, street-level perspective and you see – through the film – stories inspired by reality and how so many lives were uprooted and affected. After all, homes are our shelters and comfort, and many people’s shelters, homes, and lives were taken and/or shattered.
Since it’s been 8 years (or so) since the downturn, has time stood still since then?
Not at all. The market in Brooklyn and in many parts of the country is great right now. (Which is why I was able to finance my own movie) Living as a real estate developer is living the life of "the feast and the famine" (as my family calls it). Right now the market is inflated again, and I would be naive to not expect another crash very soon. Whether this is connected to the last downturn is unknown, but I am unsure that many of the institutions learned big enough lessons from 2008. Things are great now, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring in terms of real estate and the housing market.
Does the Market Correction feel more recent than close to a decade ago?
Yes, much closer. It feels like just yesterday.
Yes, I lost a lot of money during those years. I am still paranoid. I remain cautious. Nothing is worse than that feeling...
Have you written prior screenplays?
No, I am not a filmmaker; I am a real estate investor and developer. However, I had this undying urge to spread awareness about the scams going on in the real estate markets, and I felt a need to share these stories with the world.
What is THE CLOSER about?
It’s a film and story about 3 friends who reconnected, after being in the military together, and were investing in and selling real estate in Brooklyn. Their clients were given loans from lenders, even though they had terrible credit, and when they defaulted people were put out on the street. The film also highlights the fact that things were so hot, and there was no fear of disaster and therefore investors were borrowing money from the wrong places, and when the 2008 housing crisis occurred and debts couldn’t be repaid, those debtors came to collect, but the street way. The film consists of love, friendship, betrayal, tests of loyalty, life lessons, and insights into the street-level and “small guy” perspective of the real estate market.
When did you and your team begin thinking about making this film?
When I saw the movie "The Boiler Room" it really hit home. That film is about revealing the fraud and dirty side of the financial industry. We're talking the year 2000. This is quite a few years BEFORE the crash. That was when all the underground scamming in the real estate market flourished.That is when the idea to make this movie popped in my head. The 2008 crash shed a lot of light on these scammers and pushed the idea of the film even further. Once 2008’s financial crisis occurred, and after hearing countless stories and accounts of bad lending, and people’s lives being crushed, we set the wheels in motion. Since then Victor (co-writer), Eli (co-writer, director, producer, cinematographer), and I have been discussing our shared vision and dream of making this movie. Now, we finally had the guts – and financing - to actually make it a reality.
(What there a point in your life that you needed to express things, an inciting incident in the news, etc.)?
Why did you co-write THE CLOSER? What compelled you to tell this story?
I thought it would be a very unique perspective. Real estate developers and investors writing about the greedy side of real estate, which we are often blamed for and thought to be a part of. I wanted to shed a light on the bad practices by bad actors in the industry and share these insights and ideas with the world through this film.
How long did it take you to finish the script?
From start to finish and once we actually started writing, about 4 months. But the ideas had been brewing for years.
Who did you co-write with?
My partner, Victor Baranes and with the director Eli hershko.
From co-writing THE CLOSER, what did you discover as the most difficult part about screenwriting?
I actually interviewed many writers to try and write the movie with me because my English and writing education is not the best, since I grew up partly in Israel and in a sheltered community. So the most difficult part for me was that I could not write it on my own due to my lack of language. When I met Eli Hershko, our director, and discussed the ideas with him, we gelled and the ball started rolling.
What was the most enjoyable part?
A-Z. Working with my co-writers and friends on the script was exciting and seeing the ideas being put on paper, and then it becoming a feature film. I really enjoyed the whole experience, including now. Filming the actual movie was the most exciting part, and our cast is incredible.
What is the most important aspect of building a great character?
Because the movie is based on real people, when casting you need to choose the person who is most like the character you have in mind, to make it as real as possible. We were lucky to have great and talented actors, but we wanted this to feel real, for viewers to connect with the characters, and that is not an easy thing to do when writing/developing a character. It’s not like we can test the characters and acting with a focus group.
Because getting the right person with the right personality to play your characters is what makes the movie.
What does THE CLOSER say about the world we live in currently and previously in 2008?
Greed = Devastation of the human spirit
What universal themes are explored in your film?
There is hope even in the face of greed, and that a good soul will prevail. Courage, fighting against evil inclination, friendship, loyalty, the importance of family and caring for loved ones, and making the right decisions.
It’s said that real estate is a ‘business of relationships.’ How do the relationships of the characters in The Closer mirror each other, have in common through lines, deceive each other, etc.?
Yes, it is a business of relationships. But every man is there for his own money and benefits. In The Closer we see that the characters are brought together to make money and when times are good. When the going gets tough the characters’ friendships and relationships start to fall apart.
One character Steven (played by Robert Berlin) in the trailer says “There are two kinds of people in this world: men who walk the walk and the losers that talk the talk.” Who came up with this line?
The script was written by all 3 of us. All the ideas were brought about through meetings, however Eli essentially is the one who came up with the dialogue and this particular line. Robert is excellent in the film.
How much emotion and personal experience comes into this saying?
A lot of people just talk and don’t do anything or take action. There is a big difference between talkers and doers. When you want to buy a property there are a lot of people that are looking at that deal, but deep down they are not ready (and will never be ready) to buy. It’s like this famous picture of an old couple that the husband is saying to the wife "were almost ready, the prices are coming down very soon". Then you have real buyers, and you know they’re real because of what they have done, what they have bought, what they have invested in, what they have turned into a reality; usually very quietly. The production of the film is the same, in a sense, we talked about it and planned, met and discussed, but ultimately we wanted to make this film happen, and WE DID!
Who are the two main characters in THE CLOSER?
Steven, played by Robert Berlin and Sean, played by Patrick Duke Conboy.
What are their motivations and weaknesses?
Steven is a character that is based on a couple of real folks that Eli and I both know all too well. His greed and weakness to make another dollar is what makes him who he is, and is what drives him. The only thing that motivates him is MONEY and GREED, he would do anything, even screw over his best friend (who saved his life in the army) to get a little richer. Sean is a character based on the good guy that got pulled into this mess. Showing that even good people, if not careful, can fall for money and become greedy. With Sean, luckily for him, his character was good deep down and he tried to get away from what he was dragged into, but we see how hard that is and how hard it is to get away.
When you cast them, what character traits were essential for their personas to appear true?
Steven needed to have an aggressive but sleek look. We cast the perfect Steven, Robert Berlin was exceptional for this part. Sean had to be the guy who looked “lost” at the beginning of the film and then cleaned up his act and became successful, but gets dragged into this mess of a situation. Patrick was also amazing in his role. We casted well.
What is your favorite scene in THE CLOSER and why?
My favorite scene is when Tiffany, played by Danielle Leaf, comes to the hospital with the baby (after their breakup) to make up with Sean. That is when Sean and Tiffany realize what is really important in life, and when the true lessons of the film are revealed: that family and loved ones are most important and without them, and without love and honesty we have nothing.
How much difference in writing a fight scene versus what went into the actual shooting of it?
The movie has 3 completely different pictures when you write it and when you shoot it and when you see it complete.
Did your director allow actors to improv?
Yes, he actually preferred improvisation. There is one example that I thought was very cool. Eli Hershko, our director, told one character to kiss the other - unscripted. The kiss was meant to be a surprise (and uncalled for) to the other character in the film, by directing in this way the kiss would be shocking to the other character. By doing this and in this manner, we were able to elicit a real and genuine reaction from our actors. I find that to be a great tactic.
It allows for true moments and real responses, which you wouldn’t otherwise get, in my opinion.
How long was the shoot?
About 2 months.
Where did you shoot it?
Mostly in Brooklyn
What was the budget?
This was a very low budget film, we spent approximately: $150,000.
How did you raise money for the film?
It was self-financed and produced.
How many outdoor locations did you have?
How many indoor locations?
Approximately 10, as well.
How did you secure them?
In order to keep the costs down, we mostly used locations that belonged to us and/or our very gracious friends and family.
Can The Great Recession repeat itself?
Absolutely, I believe it to be very close, because our financial markets are being propped up by the federal government and reports are out that lenders are beginning to lower standards again. AKA: lesson was not fully learned.
Like the Depression generations earlier, have governmental safeguards been enacted and consumer appetites curtailed where something of this magnitude would not repeat in the same manner?
No. People create the market, the higher bidders are the ones setting the prices. Not because of real value. This is where inflation comes from.
There are lots of new players in the market that are not aware that you’re not allowed to borrow from the wrong people and are over extending themselves by taking high-interest loans that they cannot afford and they aren’t thinking about the possibility of being under water.
In the great quest to blame “Wall Street versus the Regular Joe,” how much did bad consumer habits contribute to the collapse?
It is a combination of lots of things, Wall Street, people being afraid of the market, its a chain reaction.
What are your plans for THE CLOSER?
Firstly, we want to get the messages and lessons out to the general public. Secondly, we want this film to become a major success and to be four-walled around the country and world. We are having our film festival and world premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival on April 7th. After that we are off to 6 other festivals (for now, with many more to come) and we have applied to many festivals around the world that we haven’t gotten responses from as of yet. In addition, we will be having a few local market events/viewings in the NYC area, and we are looking to (and possibly have) a sales agent.
What do you want viewers to take away from watching THE CLOSER?
To understand that although real estate looks like one happy game of monopoly, there is so much more going on. And if you get involved remember not to be greedy, always maintain your core values and don’t relinquish them and your family or friends for any reason.
What do you still want to accomplish (in any capacity, i.e., creative, personal, etc.)?
I have so many dreams, and as you can see I make them come to reality. I have too many to list.. and some are confidential. But ill throw one at you - I am interested in one day living on a vineyard. As of now, I make wine in my backyard in Brooklyn.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I look forward to traveling the world surrounded by the love and company of my friends and family. It is the most important thing in the world to me.
Who in your life would you like to forgive and for what?
I have a certain family member that I would like to forgive who i believe fell into this kind of mess. I understand, and I forgive you for what you did.
Looking back on your life, what do you regret?
I generally like to hold the outlook that it is better to learn from my mistakes than to regret. However, I do regret not holding onto all the properties I once owned.
What do you feel good about?
I feel good about my accomplishments and how far I’ve come along in my life.
In your observation of daily life, how has the general public changed since 2008? (Less trusting, more spiritual/family focused, etc.)
It is cyclical.The old players are less trust worthy and unwilling to make certain commitments to you like they once did. And the new players have no idea what's coming to them.
Quote or mantra that you live by? (and who said it.)
I don’t remember exactly how the quote goes, but it’s something like this - "if you want it you can have it, if you didn’t get it, ask yourself if you ever really wanted it." Don’t have attribution.
What's next for you creatively?
I am working on a few interesting websites which I cannot disclose here, because they are in the works, but stay tuned!
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