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Bayside filmmaker brings his spirituality to big screen

Lifelong Bayside resident Stephen Bono remembers it well, the moment the innocence of his childhood dimmed.

He was a 13-year-old altar boy at St. Josaphat’s in Bayside and he asked his priest why he decided to devote his life to the church.

“He said, ‘Well, you think God came to me in a dream,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, this is good,’ and then he said, ‘Or you think a voice came to me in the sky,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, this is even better,’” said Bono, 25. “And then he said, ‘I just didn’t want to get married, and I liked coming to church.’ It was one of those moments when he seemed so much more human, and it took away some of the glitter.”

Little did the young altar boy know that such a moment would pave the way for the thesis film he is now making for his graduate program at New York University. Bono is currently trying to raise $5,000 for “Henry,” a coming-of-age film that draws from his experience at St. Josaphat’s at 34-32 210th St.

The movie chronicles the life of a teenage altar boy who is shocked when he sees a fellow altar boy stealing wine at church one Sunday. Henry then spends his days obsessing over whether he should inform the priest about the theft.

“I wanted to do something really personal for this film, and I realized my experience of being an eager and impressionable altar boy was real life fodder for a drama,” said Bono, a graduate of Bayside High School. “It’s not that the priest was a bad guy — not at all, he was a really good priest. But I realized he was human. It’s a story about losing the innocence of a child and growing up a little.”

Bono has already written the script for the film and is now working on casting the characters. He is looking to raise $5,000 for the film through the web site indiegogo.com, which allows individuals to support small creative projects. The movie in total will cost Bono about $17,000, and he is going to have to take out a loan to cover the rest of the costs.

No novice to filmmaking, Bono has been working toward his master’s in film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for the past three years and has already written and directed five short films. He interned for Spike Lee on Lee’s most recent documentary, HBO’s “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise.”

“I have stories I want to tell,” Bono said. “I love people, and I never feel so alive and so happy than when I’m with people. As a director, you’re always with people. You work with camera people, lighting people, the actors. I love working with the actors.”

Bono said he hopes this film will be the prelude to winning support for a longer, feature-length film that he has already written.

“We’d like to get this short into as many and as big festivals as we can so everyone involved with the film can get exposure and move onto something bigger,” he said. “I’m using everything I’ve learned to make this film appeal to a lot of people.”

For more information, visit indiegogo.com/HenryTheMovie.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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