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   MAKING THE FILM

17 & Under is a very intense, character driven script that consequently relies on the great performances of the actors. The casting process for the film went on for four months. "We definitely wanted the story to center around an upper income Hispanic family," says Greg. "We have always been sensitive to the lack of opportunity in Hollywood for Latinos. I still can't understand why, in a culturally diverse city like L. A., producers are ignoring the Latino population." "There just aren't enough good roles for Hispanics today on television or film." Greg, Jeanne and associate producer Britton Hein videotaped actor after actor in order to get the right people for the parts. "I've heard other directors say that they knew the person was right the moment they walked in the door. Well, it wasn't that way with Sunny", says Greg. "But, when she read the part, I knew she was perfect". Sunny Lombardo plays Kate Romero, the distraught daughter in the film.

Most of the casting came from ads placed in the trades, while other main actors came from referrals. "Lina Gallegos (Maria Romero) found Robert Servellon, who plays the Chuy character, and another referral produced Rodrigo Obregon for Tom. They were all seasoned actors, but Cesar Herrera, who plays Juan Sanchez in the film, is a relatively new actor and had only done a few plays and short films before coming to us. But, we knew he was perfect for the part when we watched his audition."

"We were extremely excited about this project and were looking for others to share in the same enthusiasm and vision," says Jeanne. "We told the actors when we cast them that we wanted them to share in a project that explores humanity and the consequences of violent crime." Sunny Lombardo, who plays Kate in the film, went one step further and attended a grief encounter group "in character" so she could better prepare for the challenge of playing a sister that witnessed her own brother's killing.

Shooting the film on a three week schedule was very grueling. "We knew films made for television were shot this fast so we could do it too," says Greg. Most days went fourteen hours and many went into the wee hours of the night. One day even reached the twenty hour mark. "We were dead tired after the twenty hour day and we still had to shoot the next day. People were exhausted, but they were totally committed to what this project was trying to say." As with many low budget shoots, the director and the director of photography are usually the first to arrive and the last to leave, 17 & Under was no different. "My DP, Dave Porfiri, is a fantastic cinematographer and was totally committed to the film. We would talk about the next days shoot long after everyone left the set."

 

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ABOUT THE CAST

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Performing since she was in tap shoes, Sunny Lombardo (Kate Romero), started her acting career early. She has acted in several community theater productions such as The Music Man, Tom Sawyer and her personal favorite, The Wizard of Oz. Sunny attended Interlochen Arts Academy, a boarding school for the performing visual arts, where her training expanded with such plays as A Midsummer Night's Dream and Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid. Now a member of the Los Angeles based Pacific Shakespeare Company, Sunny continually adds to her extensive theater repertoire. Television credits include several commercials in addition to a pilot called The Ivy League. Sunny's leap to film has been a sudden and straight road to the top. Very favorably received in her debut film, Drums, Bass & Guitar, in which she co-starred, she was asked to be in several film shorts. One short, Looking For Love, was then noticed by producer/director Gregory Morgan and subsequently she was asked to audition for 17 & Under.

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A relative newcomer to the acting profession, Cesar Herrera (Juan Sanchez), began his career in 1995 with a jump start landing a lead role playing Bobby in the theatrical production "Three Pieces". Winning acclaim from the critics, he went on to play Joseph in the Lankershim Arts Center's production of Thugun & Natasha. While studying at the renowned Beverly Hills Studios under the tutelage of Bob Bancroft And Tony Tanner, Cesar answered the audition call for 17 & Under . "We knew this was our Juan from the start," says Gregory Morgan, the film's director. " Many other people auditioned for this role, but none could come close to the intensity that Cesar has." Cesar recently finished shooting a short comedy film, called "Sandman", where he played a jittery cannibal capturing motorists for his barbecue dinner. After shooting Sandman, Cesar went on to a supporting role in the feature film "East of Hope Street". Presently, he continues to work his way up while having fun every step of the way.

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No stranger to the world's stages, Rodrigo Obregon (Tom Romero), began his professional career at the age of eight when he toured Russia with the Ballet Folclorico de Columbia. His passion for acting led him from his Columbia to New York where he trained with the famed Lee Strasberg. Almost immediately upon arriving in New York, he was given the opportunity to work with acclaimed directors Tom O'Horgon (Hair) and Andre' Sevan (The Greek Trilogy). Rodrigo returned to Latin America when director Nello Rosatti offered him the lead role in the feature film, Fuga. The Latin American response to Fuga was overwhelming and Rodrigo became a household name overnight. Recently, Rodrigo starred in his first television series in Latin America, Escalona. Escalona rapidly became a very popular series and Rodrigo's performance made him a heartthrob. Between films in both Latin America and The United States, Rodrigo resides in Los Angeles. The completion of 17 & Under marks his twenty-sixth film appearance.

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Having moved to Los Angeles from Houston in 1989, Lina Gallegos (Maria Romero), has made an impact in Southern California with her creativity as an actress and writer. Lina received a Master's Degree from the University of Houston and has had careers in theater, radio newscasting and in education. As an actress, she has studied with Estelle Harman, Michael Shurtleff, Susan Strasberg, and Ernie Martin. Lina has appeared in several film shorts with 17 & Under being her first feature effort. She performs in both English and Spanish and in 1991 won the Cesar Award for Best Actress. Recently, Lina appeared as Benita in Souls on Fire at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles and in the bilingual production of Woman to Woman/Entre Mujeres. In 1993, Lina wrote and produced a comedy television pilot, Maggie's Madness. The comedy centers around Maggie Alvarado, a divorced Latina, her college freshman daughter, and the motley crew that forms her family and friends. Lina incorporated professional, educated, middle-class Latinos within the sitcom as she believes they have been largely ignored by the networks. Lina continues to work on other original materials, including a screenplay La Perla, set in Galveston, Texas during World War II, and a one-act play Yellow Tulips which deals with contemporary urban violence.

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A native of North Carolina, Lee White (James Johnson) has performed on television, stage and film. Most recently, Lee has appeared on the television show "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" as Vedek Tonsain. Stage credits include the productions of "Master Harold and the Boys," "A Taste of Life" and "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men." Film credits include "The Five Heartbeats," Crocodile Dundee" and "The Narrow Road." Lee is a graduate of North Carolina Central University where he earned a B.A. in Dramatic Art and an M.A. in Counseling. In addition to acting, Lee currently works as a counselor for youth between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, a position almost identical to his role in 17 & Under. Lee travels around to different youth camps and counsels young men during and after incarceration. The character of James Johnson in 17 & Under was parallel to his real life role and drew upon his experiences in creating the character from the script. "I hope the kids that see this film will learn from it and avoid having to see me in real life," states Lee.

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CAST LIST

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Sunny Lombardo Kate Romero
Cesar Herrera Juan "Smiley" Sanchez
Rodrigo Obregon Tom Romero
Lina Gallegos Maria Romero
M. Lee White James Johnson
Robert Servellon Chuy Gomez
Kenneth Garcia Ernesto Sanchez
Alex Arizaga Mouser
Jonas Morales David Romero
Jerome Katz Inmate 1
Jordon Preston Inmate 2
Brian Buccellato Inmate 3
John Blunt Teacher Friend of Mr. Johnson
Kristine Louise Gang Babe in Van
Ian Lantz Manuel, Driver of Van
Orlando Estrada Front Passenger in Van
Ray Horton Killer of David
Antonio Collins Reform Class Student
Calvin Johnson Passenger That Confronts David
Scott Schauer School Official
Oscar Arguello Pool Enthusiast at Party
Diana Romero Ana Sanchez
Henry Blunt Teacher in Wheel Chair
Lombardo Boyar Gang Member Working on Car
Rudolpho Zuniga Tagger in Alley
Erick Bonilla Manuel's Sidekick
David Bonilla Manuel's Sidekick
Scott Brooker Manuel's Sidekick, Driver
James N. Gordon Police Officer
Adrian H. Glenn III Police Officer 2
Will Aguilar Reform Class Student
Alvin Perkins Reform Class Student
Rudy Jurado Reform Class Student
Ray Tongpo Reform Class Student
Seneca Woods Reform Class Student
DuJun Johnson Reform Class Student
Jameel Anderson Reform Class Student
Jheri Walker Reform Class Student
Craig Craddock Reform Class Student
Philip Huggins Parent of Student
Marlo Alonso Girl In Photo
Raymond Grafius Military Instructor
Garry Van De Viert Military Instructor
Gregory William Morgan Military Instructor
Jeanne Flynn-Morgan Mr. Johnson's Secretary
Michael Fabella Reform School Inmate
Carl Christman Reform School Inmate
Edwin Velez Reform School Inmate
Jeff Calantas Reform School Inmate
Chris Kanke Mother Crossing Street
Cale Kanke Little Boy
Dan Nikolai Father Crossing Street
Daniel Flynn Teacher With Briefcase
Alfredo Nemesio, Jr. Relative at Party
Gildardo Nemesio Relative at Party
Gildardo Nemesio, Jr. Relative at Party
Mark Nemesio Relative at Party
Rene Nemesio Relative at Party
Karina Nemesio Relative at Party
Ada Nemesio Relative at Party
Maria Herrera Relative at Party
Kevin Johnson Rear Seat Passenger
Charleen Manca Kate's School Friend
Louise Moore Kate's School Friend



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