Imagine yourself a 22-year-old filmmaker whose first feature boasts Martin Scorsese, pre-"Mean Streets," as a producer. The footage is in the can and all that's left to do is edit. Now, fast-forward 37 years. You're 59, just getting by, and your movie still hasn't seen the light of day. Incredible but true, the documentary Finishing Heaven follows director Robert Feinberg as he struggles to complete the film he began nearly four decades ago when it debuts WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 30 (8:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT**) exclusively on HBO2. The documentary was an official selection at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival.
As a New York City film student in the 1960s, Robert Feinberg showed the potential to become the next big filmmaker. Produced in part by a young Martin Scorsese, and featuring a cast of Warhol and Scorsese players, "Heaven," Feinberg's directorial debut, was to be his ticket to fame. But over the years, perfectionism got the best of him and to this day, he hasn't completed the film, a free-form, avant-garde portrait of bohemian life in the Big Apple. Currently living in a house he rents from his cousin in Northern California, Feinberg ekes out a living greeting tourists for day cruises and picking up people at airports, his dreams of becoming a filmmaker seemingly over.
Heartbreaking and darkly comic, Finishing Heaven begins when Ruby Lynn Reyner, Feinberg's contentious ex and the star of "Heaven," hears that the film still exists and convinces him to finish it. He and Reyner subsequently rise to the occasion, facing up to the demons that have held both of them hostage throughout their lives, sometimes bickering like an old married couple as they argue over who contributed what to the project.
Feinberg digitizes his 16mm footage and hires an editor to help sift through his work. Eventually screening the nearly completed "Heaven" for friends and family, both Feinberg and his volatile star express some pride at seeing the film finally on the screen. But Feinberg also admits it is far from finished and wants to reshoot certain scenes as he continues to work on the project.
"People who live intricate lives have always inspired me," says director Mark Mann. "In my work in film, this passion has translated into working with talented filmmakers and helping them break through their blockage to create their art. Robert Feinberg and Ruby Lynn Reyner have been my largest challenge to date. And my most rewarding."
Finishing Heaven is Mark Mann's feature-length documentary directorial debut. Recently, he served as associate producer on Prashant Bhargava's feature film, Patang, set during the jubilant atmosphere of India's largest kite festival. Mann also produced Sangam, a short film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He is currently developing his first feature-length narrative.
Siblings David Shapiro and Laurie Gwen Shapiro, who produced Finishing Heaven, wrote and directed "Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale," which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize, and went on to win an Independent Spirit Award.
Finishing Heaven is directed by Mark Mann; produced by David Shapiro and Laurie Gwen Shapiro; produced by Ian Rosenberg; executive produced by Alan Oxman; edited by Amy Foote; directors of photography, Maryse Alberti & Boaz Freund; music by Keith Patchel.