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Local film delivers taste of life in Queens

A production still of the morning exercises led by The Monk (Vincent Chan, l.) under the Pepsi Cola sign in Long Island City.
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A popular book called “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” is an account of financial educator Robert Kiyosaki’s two dads: His real father and his ‘rich dad,’ who both taught him valuable lessons about money and relationships that would shape his life.

“The Adventures of Cheap Chad” is a whole other animal but oddly connected to the above. Set in Astoria and Long Island City, the improv-based comedy feature film — with some romance thrown in for good measure — explores how a person’s relationship with money can affect their entire world, and the domino effect it can have on the lives of others.

Viewers will probably recognize many local spots, as some scenes were filmed in shops like Tea & Milk on 43rd Street and 34th Avenue in Long Island City, while others were shot around Steinway and Broadway, on Vernon Boulevard, in Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria and Gantry State Parks, and near Queens Plaza and Queens Boulevard.

Exploring New York City’s familiar scams, struggles, and issues, the movie — set for release next summer — offers a fresh, humorous take on these familiar problems facing all New Yorkers. But the story itself revolves around a neurotic man — every good comedy’s got to have one — who is incredibly cheap with his finances, and how that problematic trait strains his relationships with his loved ones and other folks in the community. On top of that, Cheap Chad is also quite stingy with his time and emotions.

“Everyone can probably relate to this because we all know someone who’s very cheap or, we just wanna save money,” quipped up-and-coming director and producer Victor Chu, 32. The Bronx native, who lived in Astoria for two years, currently resides in Long Island City.

Chu’s two passions — cinematography and comedy — inspired the film, which is his biggest, costliest, but most rewarding project. This exciting endeavor turned out to be a great hands-on learning experience for the ambitious and talented filmmaker, who said that his comedic flair had evolved from previous stints as a stand-up comic, performing at clubs like Caroline’s on Broadway, the Comedy Cellar, and at the Apollo in Harlem. Then there were those special YouTube comedy sketches he created.

But when he’s not tweaking his almost completed film, Chu works as a photographer. After starting out in that field, he eventually landed a job as a photojournalist for the Daily News. More recently, he has been working as his own boss at his company, Sky Tech One, which is a one stop shop for aerial videography and photography, 3D animation and other related media.

In 2014, Chu created a stunning drone video of New York City that went viral on YouTube. It was featured in The New York Times, New York Daily News, TIME, Business Insider, Gothamist, The Verge, PIX 11, and other publications, and was selected at a few film festivals, including the Coney Island Film Festival.

What makes “The Adventures of Cheap Chad” unique is the improvised dialogue. Chu calls it “The ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ of Astoria, except cheaper...way cheaper.”

They say you can’t save time and money; only one or the other. But neurotic Chad, played by actor Zach Stephens, is always trying to do both: save a dollar — or a penny — as well as time, at the expense of frustrated people close to him, like his girlfriend, and annoyed store owners. This cycle of stinginess results in even more loss of money, as well as a series of funny and embarrassing situations, heated arguments, and even physical altercations and ultimately, more hilarity.

Chad’s ongoing shenanigans and Chu’s roster of ethnically diverse, colorful characters (played by actors from the five boroughs and beyond) combined with a strong New York flavor make this film an experience you won’t want to miss.

Other characters in the dramatic mix include Chad’s girlfriend Shea (played by Shea Madison), a sweet, patient gal, who puts up with too much of his quirks.

Chad’s best bud Drew (Drew Drake), offers friendly advice and always has his back.

Inspired by a real person, who, according to Chu, is narcissistic, abrasive, and hypocritical, the role of Alina is played by Nastassia Maltsava. She channels a spoiled Russian-American princess who expects her man to pay for everything, lacks morals, and has a reckless and unapologetic tongue.

Woodside resident Vincent Chan is the Monk, who initially gets into a physical altercation with Chad but serves as his mentor, later on.

Other funny characters include: Drew’s friend Vlad, an iPhone seller and thug (played by Alexander Richberg, a Fresh Meadows resident); the Bubble Tea Barista, Papi, Shea’s boss; as well as three gay bike riders; an NYPD officer; an African scam artist; plus numerous other day players and extras.

Some laugh out loud standout scenes include: The ‘Dog scene,’ filmed in Long Island City; the ‘Uber scene,’ and ‘Alina’s hookup’; the ‘Monk Talk’ scene, which was shot four times on four different days at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City; and the ‘You broke my glasses’ scene.

So, what message will viewers take away from the film?

According to Chu, it’s better not to be cheap; you might even save more money.

“However, sometimes it’s who we’re interacting with who is cheap. It’s something we can all relate to,” he said.

An initial screening of “Cheap Chad” at Anyone Comics in Brooklyn, as well as other locations, is being considered for summer 2018.

Posted 12:00 am, November 19, 2017
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