Written and directed by Thomas Baldinger, Who's Jenna...? is a newly-released, independently-produced comedy. The film stars Tracey Birdsall, Bill Sorvino, Garry Pastore, Vincent Pastore, Vic Dibitetto, Jeremy Gilbert, Edwin Guerrero, and Jill Christy Reiss; some of those folks ought to be very familiar faces for fans of The Sopranos.
As a New Jersey native, Tom Baldinger is no stranger to the sports world. The New York Yankees is his team of choice, but the creative force behind Who's Jenna...? also follows the New York Giants and the New York Rangers. In turn, he was a good fit for a Sportskeeda Q&A. More on Baldinger and Who's Jenna...? can be found online at www.624-productions.com.
Who's Jenna...? is your latest film. How long ago did you start working on it?
Tom Baldinger: We began shooting in the spring/summer of 2015. I actually wrote the script at the end of 2014 as a short film. I held a private reading with some close friends and potential investors in New York City not long after writing it.
The general consensus was that we had a good story but that I could expand it and make it a feature. It was a lot of fun making this movie. Even when we began shooting, the cast would bring their own ideas and we’d improve when it was necessary.
When in the creative process did the Sopranos cast angle come into play? Had people been cast before the script was finished?
Tom Baldinger: No, I began casting once I had a script done. And no, I wasn’t really going for a Sopranos angle when casting the film. Garry Pastore was the first Soprano that we cast. We met each other at the Garden State Film Festival in 2014 where his documentary film Destressed won Best Independent in 2014 and my first short film Two Sides Of Love won Best Homegrown Short Film.
We then ran into each other again at the Golden Door Film Festival, which was founded by Bill Sorvino. We started to talk about different projects and I knew I wanted to work with him. Garry then introduced me to his cousin, Vincent Pastore and his friend Lenny Venito, both who were on The Sopranos, so that’s how that whole thing played out.
When writing the film, did you also know that you would be directing it?
Tom Baldinger: Yes. I could have brought in another director to lead the way but being this was my first feature film, I felt very strongly about being wanting to direct this one. But believe me, I leaned heavily on the cast and the crew to make this film and without any of them, we would never have gotten it done.
I understand that you are a loyal fan of the New York Giants, the New York Rangers and the New York Yankees. Growing up in New Jersey, how did you feel about your local teams not being branded as being from New Jersey?
Tom Baldinger: I am a huge fan of those teams and I love those three sports. I play softball now so I love baseball, I don’t have the build to play football but I lose my head anytime the Giants lose, and I have two left feet when it comes to skating but I really love hockey.
In fact, my son plays hockey and is a goalie. We spend a lot of time around the ice rink these days supporting him and having multiple heart attacks during close games or when there is a breakaway.
To answer your question about local teams not being branded as New Jersey, it really never fazed me having the Giants play in New Jersey. In fact, I spend some much time in New York on a daily basis and I went to college in Staten Island, that even when I vacation and someone asks “Where are you from?” I answer “New York.”
At this point my wife just shakes her head with a smile and says, “No you’re not, we’re from New Jersey!” So I’m okay with the New York Giants playing in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It’s close enough to New York. (laughs)
Any relation to NFL player Gary Baldinger?
Tom Baldinger: None whatsoever. And the funny thing is, his middle name is Thomas -- Gary Thomas Baldinger. But no relation. I’ve been asked before if I had any relation to Brian Baldinger who also played in the NFL and is on the NFL Network.
Currently the Yankees are around .500 in the standings. How do you see the season playing out for them?
Tom Baldinger: Actually as I am writing this they are well above .500, 21-10. They are playing some good baseball. If you told me before the season started that on this day Brent Gardner is batting .194 -- that’s of May 4th -- and the Yankees were 21-10, I’d say you were crazy.
But let’s not forget baseball like hockey is a very long season, and streaks can end at any time. Look at the Mets, they are the “National League Champs” in April and now all of a sudden they are blowing pretty bad.
When did you first get into the Yankees?
Tom Baldinger: Early 90’s when I was in high school I started to really get into baseball. I was already a huge football fan and hockey fan at this point, but the Giants and the Rangers season was over and I wanted to get into another sport.
My whole family were Mets fans. I didn’t mind watching the Mets but I wanted to root for my own team. I started watching Yankees baseball and one player on the Yankees got me hooked -- Paul O’Neill. I’m willing to bet that my brother thinks I’m a bandwagon fan because of [Derek] Jeter and the championships they won. (laughs) But I’ve been a Yankee fan ever since.
Do you have an all-time favorite Yankee?
Tom Baldinger: Paul O’Neill. Watching his intensity at bat and on the field was great. He was a real student of the game and always expected the best out of himself. I gravitated to that mentality and still approach anything I do with that sense of intensity. Although I’ve never punched a Gatorade cooler.
How often do you get out to games at Yankee Stadium?
Tom Baldinger: Not as often as I’d like. Last year I went three games. Commuting to Yankee Stadium back to my house in New Jersey is a bit of a haul. Wow, now I sound like an old man! (laughs)
Some Yankee fans tolerate the Mets, while others loathe any team that isn't the Yankees. Where are you at?
Tom Baldinger: I tolerate the Mets. In fact, I don’t mind watching them. As I said earlier, they were a lot of fun to watch in April this year. They were playing some really good ball there.
A close friend of mine who will remain nameless but is in our film and a huge Met fan has said to me, “There is no way you can be a Yankee fan and watch the Mets! It’s impossible!” I just hope I haven’t upset any other Yankee fans with my comments here. (laughs)
Finally, Tom, any last words for the kids?
Tom Baldinger: Never stop doing what you believe in. I know this sounds like an after-school special message but I truly believe it: If you work hard, stay true to your values and make sure you lean on the support of your family & friends, you can accomplish anything.
When I was a sophomore in high school and doing the school plays, I always had a love for movies. I even worked in a movie theatre throughout high school and a few years in college. All I wanted ever do was make a movie.
And with the help of my family, my wife and my friends, I wouldn’t be here talking about Who’s Jenna…?. Sure I had a dream, but it was hard work, staying true to my own values and leaning on the support of my family and friends that got me here.
Who knows what’s next, but I know I’ll keep plugging away at making movies.