Kevin Riordan: In N.J., a short film comes to life

On the set of "Paperboy 3: The Hard Way," a video shoot in Burlington County, makeup artist Jackie Mezo prepares Newt Wallen, co-author, for a scene.
On the set of "Paperboy 3: The Hard Way," a video shoot in Burlington County, makeup artist Jackie Mezo prepares Newt Wallen, co-author, for a scene. (KEVIN RIORDAN / Staff)
Posted: September 25, 2013

I'm a nefarious newsguy with a briefcase stuffed with cash in one hand, a gun in the other. And I'm ready to shoot the lovely young heroine (Kristy Richman).

Curses! Riding to her rescue on his mighty bike is the Paperboy (Newt Wallen).

Wallen is also the real-life impresario behind the direct-to-YouTube video in which I'm making my first - and quite possibly last - acting appearance.

"How did you find me?" I bellow toward the cameras, with what I hope is sufficient malevolence, if not melodrama.

On this sunny Sunday afternoon, I stand at the bottom of a woodsy ravine in Bordentown Township, Burlington County, wearing gory makeup and trying, with sporadic success, to remember my lines.

Wallen's energetic, yet laid-back, crew has gathered on the scenic grounds of the Liberty Lake Day Camp, which is allowing the shoot as a favor to animator and Wallen collaborator Jarrett Courtney, 25, who worked there for nine years.

The schedule changes minute by minute. "On Saturday we did all the suburban shots in Maple Shade instead of Cherry Hill, because an actor didn't show up," Wallen, 31, says.

Paperboy 3: The Hard Way is "another of Newt's crazy projects," explains Richman, 23, who lives in Dennis Township but is moving to Manhattan in October to pursue an acting career.

Wallen cowrote the Paperboy script with longtime creative partner and Maple Shade resident Justin Silverman, 29. (His Silvermania Show, a project with Courtney, is on YouTube.) They have concocted an agreeably loopy short film that parodies the premise of the popular '80s arcade game Paperboy.

The resulting video will be styled as a theatrical trailer and feature live-action sequences inspired by classic revenge movies like Death Wish.

Said genre homage, of course, requires an outrageous villain - in this case, the fictional editor-in-chief of the fictional Daily Sun, who schemes to gin up circulation by bumping off paperboys.

"Anyone who tries to stop us will end up in the obituaries," I cackle to my curvaceous secretary - perhaps best described as a "sexcretary," says actress Jo Anna Van Thuyne, who plays her.

"I love what Newt does," says Van Thuyne, 28, a South Philly actress/podcaster/blogger better known as Jo Pincushion. "If this goes viral, something could come of it. That's why [we] do the free projects."

Indeed, no one is getting paid for Paperboy; not the formidably patient director, Isaac Williams of South Philly; the superb prop builder, Tony DeBartolis of Eatontown, N.J.; or the skilled husband-and-wife team of makeup and special effects artists, Steve and Jackie Mezo of Keansburg, N.J.

Everything is on a shoestring and on the fly. They/we improvise as we go, which is part of the fun.

The shoot is a labor of love - a chance to create something that celebrates and, they hope, contributes to a popular culture these kids seem to have been immersed in since birth.

"It's pretty amazing to see something you wrote come to life," says Wallen, who says he wanted to give me a role before he heads for a fresh start, personally and creatively, in Arizona.

"I'm excited. I'm optimistic. Obviously, I'm apprehensive, because I'm leaving behind everything I know," he says. "But it's time."

Back at the bottom of the ravine, the sinister journalist utters his last line; little does he know he's about to take his last breath, too.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" my character, by now hoarse from repeated takes, shouts up at the man on the machine-gun-equipped bike.

"I'm the Paperboy," proclaims the hero, who goes airborne, guns blazing, through the magic of special effects.

Now that's entertainment.



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