Strongheart roars to life
IN THE SWING Durst [left] on the Charlie set last summer.
If Kenny Guarino has his way, Rhode Island will become a mecca for independent film. His company, Strongheart Pictures, a management/production firm based in Cranston, opened its doors just last year, but has gotten off to a scorching start with its debut motion picture, The Education of Charlie Banks, which premieres this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
A coming of age flick, Charlie Banks marks the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter, Eva Amurri, Chris Marquette, and Sebastian Stan. Guarino served as executive director. “I was involved from inception to final edit,” he said in an interview, “and although I had a busy schedule, I had great confidence in the script and a good vibe from Fred.”
It’s not the first time Guarino has seen success. With more than 40 years in a variety of business endeavors, from retail and restaurants to media and real estate, Guarino is one of the state’s most visible entrepreneurs. He’s bringing that track record to the motion picture industry. “Strongheart Pictures is just beginning,” he says, “and we plan on producing everything from biographies to docudramas. Strongheart is looking to expand to a full operating studio here in Rhode Island.”
In 2006, the company invested in the soon-to-be-released Brooklyn Rules. Set in 1985 against the backdrop of John Gotti’s rise to power, the story revolves around three lifelong friends whose ambitions threaten their bonds. It stars Alec Baldwin, Freddie Prinze Jr, Mena Suvari, Scott Caan, and Jerry Ferrara, and was scripted by The Sopranos’ Emmy-winning writer Terence Winter.
Guarino’s deeper mission with Strongheart is to bring fringe and emerging directors and artists to a wider national audience. This is why his work with Durst makes good sense. “Although it’s his first movie,” Guarino says, “I found him to be very bright, honest, and hard-working. He has the character of the kind of person I like to be involved with.”
Durst was an aspiring filmmaker before his stint with Limp Bizkit. He helmed a number of music videos and has since lensed an as-yet-unseen short film titled The Truth, a mockumentary on the subject of televangelism. Last summer when I visitied the set of Charlie Banks, Durst appeared sensitive, intelligent, and very much in control.
“During the filming, I wanted to create a positive work environment,” Fred said. “I wanted it to be like a family. Some of my favorite directors — their cast, cinematographers, grips, and everyone from their first film went on as a family to create more emotional experiences in cinema.”
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