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Bar News - August 20, 2014


Practitioner Profile: Lawyer-Filmmaker Earns Top Honors

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Writer, director and attorney Alfred T. Catalfo III with his screenwriting awards at the recent Nashville Film Festival.

Writer, Director and Attorney Alfred Thomas Catalfo (far right) on the set of his film Bighorn.
Dover attorney Alfred T. Catalfo III is a stickler for details.

Whether he’s prepping for a case or developing a screenplay from some unexpected kernel of inspiration, attention to detail is what drives Catalfo’s success – both in his professional practice and his off-the-clock cinematic pursuits.

For the past 12 years, Catalfo has been testing his skills as writer, director and actor, producing an impressive string of feature scripts and short firms that have put him on the proverbial filmmakers’ map – which, in movie land, means he has an actual bio on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

One difference that can’t be sorted out in the details: When it comes to filmmaking, you learn quickly that all the fine details in the world can’t guarantee a crowd-pleaser. The final cut is what makes or breaks you.

And right now, Catalfo is making it – big time. His films have won or made the finals in 27 major international screenwriting competitions with four different feature film scripts.

His screenplay for “Vulture’s Row” pulled in several top honors at the recent Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, out of 1,511 submissions. The script earned Catalfo the Grand Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival Competition.

His newest short film, “Rocketship,” a 15-minute family drama, is an official selection of the Knoxville Film Festival, to be held this September in Tennessee.

Three of his shorts – “Moonlight Bait and Ammo,” “Slam Man” and “Bighorn” – were screened at this summer’s Boston Comic Con.

Catalfo dabbled in filmmaking as a kid, armed with a video camera and a big imagination. Today, it’s become a creative outlet that allows him to live comfortably between the two worlds he loves.

“One of the things I’ve found, in terms of how being a writer and director affects being an attorney, is that it all comes down to being an effective storyteller,” Catalfo says.

“Whether you’re in front of a jury or writing or directing a film, you’re asking an audience to go on a journey with you,” says Catalfo. “You’re saying that this is going to be time well-spent, that you are going to hopefully be engaging, and tell them a story – one that has a beginning, middle and end.”

Catalfo not only writes, directs and acts in his own films, but also writes full-length feature film screenplays. While short films allow him to create something he can take to completion, writing full-length feature film screenplays requires more in-depth storytelling skills, which satisfies a different layer of Catalfo’s creative mind.

His first short film, “The Norman Rockwell Code,” was released online in 2006 – not coincidentally on the same day as author Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code,” made its big screen debut in theaters.

It’s a keenly polished send up of Brown’s tale, which features TV personality Fritz Wetherbee as the ill-fated curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum, who comes to an untimely end inside the museum in a grisly incident involving a harpoon and a can of tuna.

The symbologist called on to untangle the seafaring mystery is the son of the fictional Barney Fife (from “The Andy Griffith Show”), played by actor Mike Walsh, who nails the quirky character – and solves the crime in about a half-hour.

“It was tricky, putting a 35-minute film online, but ultimately quite successful. What really launched it was making Entertainment Weekly’s ‘The Must List,’ which resulted in a million views in three months,” Catalfo said.

A pet project of his that continues to gain traction is “Bighorn,” produced in 2010. It’s an intriguing tale Catalfo developed from a single historical fact that tickled his imagination.

After the New England Patriots won the 2002 Super Bowl on Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard kick, a commentator mentioned that Vinatieri’s great-great-grandfather, Felix Vinatieri, was General Custer’s band leader. On their way to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer decided to leave the band behind. The band, including Felix Vinatieri, survived. In “Bighorn,” Catalfo gets to play out how things might have gone for the Patriots if Felix Vinatieri hadn’t survived.

“I found that fact fascinating, and it was just one of those things that reminds you of how tenuous life is. I decided the story would be like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode that starts out in Boston the day after the Super Bowl, after the Patriots lost because their lousy kicker choked and missed the field goal,” Catalfo says.

“Bighorn” was screened at the Little Bighorn symposium in Montana where Catalfo was then invited to take part in the Native American reenactment of the battle. “I died next to Custer on the banks of the Little Bighorn River,” Catalfo remembers. “How many times do you get to do something like that?”

Down the road, Catalfo would like to produce an independent feature-length film.

“I do get a lot of satisfaction from being an attorney and helping people who have been injured,” Catalfo said. “I also enjoy having a creative outlet that allows me to explore different aspects of storytelling. Since winning some of these awards for “Vulture’s Row,” I’ve received requests from studios and Los Angeles production companies for the script. But I like the idea, now that the technology and distribution have changed, that you can hold your fate in your own hands. So we’ll see.”

You can find links to some of Catalfo’s movie trailers and more on www.catalfo.com.

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