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‘Traitor’

Times Beacon Record News Media hosted a double-feature screening of “One Life to Give” and its sequel, “Traitor: A Culper Spy Story,” at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts on Sunday, June 23. The screenings were followed by a Q&A with Executive Producer Leah Dunaief, Director Benji Dunaief, featured actors Dave Morrissey Jr. and Jonathan Rabeno and production designer Connor O’Neill. The free event, TBR’s gift to the community, attracted hundreds of history buffs to the Main Stage Theater to learn about Setauket’s Culper spies and their critical role in the Revolutionary War.

Photos by Rita J. Egan and David Ackerman

Dave Morrissey Jr. returns as Benjamin Tallmadge in ‘Traitor.’

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook will present Times Beacon Record News Media’s latest film, “Traitor,” on Sunday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. The special screening is preceded by the award-winning “One Life to Give” at 6 p.m. Admission is free, TBR’s gift to the community. Call 631-751-7744 for more information.

From left, Jacob Mariani, Gio Chiesa, Jenna Lennon, Benji Dunaief and Julia Tranfaglia. Not pictured, Fernando Gutierrez Photo from Benji Dunaief

To honor the tireless and dedicated young professionals whose combined talents produced two delightful and historic films, Times Beacon Record News Media’s “One Life to Give” and “Traitor,” we congratulate them on their graduation from Emerson College in Boston on Sunday, May 12. We wish them continuing success in their future careers and hope to work with them again soon. 

Benji Dunaief, director

Benji Dunaief grew up in Philadelphia but was born in Manhattan, which is his excuse for being a Mets fan. In the third grade, his parents got him a LEGO Steven Spielberg stop-motion movie making kit, and a love for building with LEGOs quickly transitioned into a passion for making films. He graduated with a bachelor’s in visual and media arts: film production. 

Through his films, Benji strives to bring to light true stories of forgotten heroes and marginalized communities. He is currently in development on multiple projects, both narratives and documentaries, and in the future looks to begin a career in commercial and feature film directing.

Jenna Lennon, script supervisor

Born and raised in Boston, Jenna Lennon didn’t travel too far from home when she decided to attend Emerson College. Now, she is graduating from Emerson with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in publishing. Working on the crew of “One Life to Give” sparked a love of movies she didn’t know she had, and since then Jenna has developed her writing skills as a film critic. She has also gone on to work on numerous film sets. Currently, Jenna works for the Walt Disney Company as part of the Disney College Program in Orlando, Florida. Starting in August, she will join the rest of the “One Life to Give” crew in Los Angeles.

Jacob Mariani, 1st assistant camera

Jacob Mariani has been working with Benji on his creative adventures for years. An experienced filmmaker, Jacob has been working with cameras since he was only 4 years old. Jacob is also a longtime wildlife photographer specializing in birds. He grew up on Long Island and spent most of his life in Nassau County. Graduating with a bachelor in fine arts in visual and media arts: film production, Jacob has moved to Los Angeles and is currently working as a freelance camera operator.

Julia Tranfaglia, gaffer

Massachusetts native Julia Tranfaglia is a producer, director and cinematographer based out of Los Angeles. She is a graduate from Emerson College with her bachelor’s in visual and media arts: film production and a minor in marketing/business. 

Julia is motivated by her passion to make a difference, believing that filmmaking as a means of storytelling has the power to encourage empathy. She is committed to creating films that focus on important, untold perspectives, providing a platform for new voices to be heard. In her free time, Julia enjoys traveling and visiting friends and family. Occasionally she can be found playing her saxophone, particularly “Careless Whisper.”

Fernando Gutierrez, co-editor

Fernando Gutierrez was born in El Salvador and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Manheim Township High School in 2015 and is graduating from Emerson College with a visual and media arts major focusing in editing and postproduction as well as a minor in psychology. He prides himself on his drive to accomplish even the most difficult of challenges. Fernando is an extremely dedicated individual constantly looking to improve himself in his professional, personal and social life. He is always looking to grow and never shies away from the uncomfortable.

 

You’re invited!

Join us for a special double-bill screening of TBR News Media’s award-winning films at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook on Sunday, June 23. 
“One Life to Give,” the story of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, will be screened at 6 p.m. followed by “Traitor,” the sequel that chronicles the capture of British spy Major John Andre, at 7:30 p.m. As TBR’s gift to the community, the event is FREE.
For more information, please call 631-751-7744.

'Traitor'

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last week, we took our first major film, “One Life to Give,” to an out-of-town showing. An audience of more than 100 history lovers and friends in Philadelphia watched the dramatic story of the friendship of Nathan Hale, Benjamin Tallmadge and the beginning of the Culper Spy Ring. We were impressed by how interested the Philadelphians were in a tale of George Washington’s intelligence service centered in Setauket, Long Island. This is, of course, an authentic narrative of the Revolutionary War and of the founding of America, so I guess we needn’t have been surprised at its broad appeal.

In addition, we screened for the first time the almost completed sequel, “Traitor.” This story picks up some five years later, in 1780, and tells of the capture of John André, British spymaster, by the Patriots, and his fate at the hands of, ironically, Tallmadge. He is now a major in the Continental Army and has been tortured with guilt during the past four years since his Yale buddy, Hale, was caught and hanged as a spy. It was Tallmadge who so earnestly persuaded Hale to join the war effort, and we know of Hale’s end at the hands of the British.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

André has been caught with detailed maps of West Point, the fort that the British are lusting to capture so as to have free rein in the Hudson River, dividing New England from the rest of the colonies. The fort is under the command of Patriot general, Benedict Arnold, who is about to become a turncoat, hence his dealings with André. 

The sequel is, if anything, even better than the original film. And mine is not the only such verdict. Here are some comments emailed to us by the members of the audience after the screening of both films in succession:

• “Thank you so much for including me in the extraordinary film screening last night. … I was not expecting to see something so professional and polished on every level: script, acting, photography, sound, production and, yes, gory makeup! It is also wonderful to see what an incredible family [my grandson, Benji, is the director] and community production this has been — pulling in all sorts of expertise, including [Bev Tyler, historian of the Three Village Historical Society, who accompanied us to Philadelphia]. … Congratulations to Benji [Michael Tessler, Andrew Stavis and the rest of the team]. … Please let them know how much I enjoyed it. And we’ll all be able to say, ‘We knew [them] when … .’”

• “Wow, what a great night. The films were great, great turnout.”

• “What a joy to be there, we really learned from the movie.”

• “Wonderful event! You should be proud. The movies were great. I learned a lot. I’m excited to share new stuff with my students.”

• “What a treat to attend the viewing … last night. Thank you for including us.”

• “HUGE congratulations from me! Wow, I really enjoyed the movies.”

• “Thanks for including us in the movie viewing. An impressive undertaking with fantastic results!”

• “Had a great time at the movies. We were really impressed!”

And this from an old friend who has followed Benji’s development: 

• “Thanks for inviting me to witness [this] fabulous work. … [Benji’s] enthusiasm of his early years with a camera is super matched by his gifts of eye, mind and devotion to story and characters. It’s a little humbling to think that simply giving him a theater with a screen in his early years [he directed films as a teenager] encouraged him to continue creating worlds in film.”

• “I was so impressed with the level of sophistication given that [they] are young filmmaker[s].”

As you can tell, it was a successful and fun evening. We look forward to screening the two films, one right after the other, here in late spring. All will be welcome. Please stay tuned.

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