BY JUSTIN CHAN
On Saturday, June 26, the Vision Fest in Tribeca will be showing the award-winning film “MY RUN,” which was produced by a Flushing native, at 7:30 p.m. at the Tribeca Cinemas.
Winner of the “Best Documentary Award” at the 2009 Mammoth Film Festival and many other awards, “MY RUN” tells the story of Terry Hitchcock, a man who lost his wife to breast cancer and subsequently ran 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days in order to raise awareness about the hardships faced by single-parent families.
The film is narrated by Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton, produced by director Tim VandeSteeg and produced by Mark Castaldo, a native of Flushing.
Castaldo attended P.S. 214 and later Flushing High School. Prior to becoming a producer, he worked at the Playboy Casino in Atlantic City for four years. He later worked as a craps dealer at the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas for seven years.
It was only a matter of time before he decided to pursue film production in Hollywood.
“Originally, I decided to pursue acting,” Castaldo said. “[But] I felt that maybe my forte was more into producing and more into putting things together, collaborating with people and to get the film off the ground.”
Though he resides in California, Castaldo still remembers the times he spent in Queens. He recalled the years he spent going to the RKO Keith’s Theatre on Main Street and the Quarter Theatre that once occupied Northern Boulevard.
“Growing up, I was always a big movie buff. I was always interested in what moved people and evoking emotions from people. I think being able to tell a story on a screen and being able to evoke something out somebody is something so rewarding to a filmmaker,” he added.
Castaldo credits his years in Queens with helping him in the film business.
“I think growing up in Queens, and just New York in general, you get street savvy. You meet people from all different ethnicities, and I think you get to be a good judge of character,” he said. “In the film business, you need to be a good judge of character because you get to meet all types of people and you need to know who to trust and who you want to work with.”
As an independent film producer and judge for The Academy of Motion Pictures’ prestigious Nicholls Fellowship in screenwriting, Castaldo has spent countless hours at coffee shops, noting that they are important to independent film producers who cannot afford their own office. In fact, his involvement with “MY RUN” first began when he met VandeSteeg at a coffee shop in Los Angeles.
While Castaldo was in a coffee shop reading scripts, VandeSteeg came in and the two started talking. VandeSteeg eventually began talking about a story he had the rights to.
“He was trying to get the film off the ground, and I had just come off making a thriller. My mom had died of cancer, so there was a little personal touch,” Castaldo explained. “When he talked about the message and themes, I was touched as well. We continued to talk and continued to meet, and we decided to collaborate.”
Although he has produced a number of horror and thriller films, Castaldo believes his production of “MY RUN” has been his greatest achievement. Noting that he was particularly inspired by Terry Hitchcock’s “perseverance and heart,” Castaldo said that the main message of the film is “what we can do when a tragedy happens and how we can move on.”