a film by uzef gavrilov

Billy Castigliano is a Baseball Card hustler and semi-famous YouTuber from Brooklyn, New York. His obsession with baseball cards has driven his family away from him and now he must choose between the baseball card score of a lifetime and his family. Or does he swing for the fences and try to have them both?

the story

Billy is a family man who works in the baseball card business. He also has his own popular YouTube channel where he makes videos of himself opening boxes and packs of new and old baseball cards. He helps manage a traditional collectible card shop with his sister, Toni. He has a wife Candice, two kids and lives a comfortable working middle class existence in Brooklyn, New York. 

His job requires him to visit baseball card shows, flea markets and the homes of various private collectors in order to make purchases and then flip the cards at a huge markup. He also spends a considerable amount of time making his YouTube videos. 

One day after coming home from a large collectible card show, he notices his wife and 2 kids are gone. He assumes they went out for a walk and starts sorting the cards he purchased at the show, filming it for his YouTube channel. Eventually he checks his email and sees that his wife has written him a long message, detailing that she has left him and taken the kids, citing his “baseball card obsession”. He is shocked and devastated. 

He spends the next few weeks moping around the house, crying and half heartedly still trying to run his business. 

One day, he gets a tip about a big collection coming up for sale possibly containing a baseball card worth millions of dollars. He arranges a day and time to see the cards.  

He makes a YouTube video  where he details his situation to his fans as he opens packs of old and fairly worthless cards. His wife sees the video and uses it to not let him see his kids during the separation, saying that he is becoming unstable and vindictive and she doesn’t trust him with the kids. This enrages him and he goes off to meet with his lawyer. The lawyer tells him his behavior actually is erratic and the video could be used as evidence against him in a custody hearing. He argues with his lawyer as well and storms out of his office.   

As time passes he becomes more and more depressed and isolated. He visits a young man who is selling his card collection because of the birth of his first child. At the young man’s house he sees the guy put off interest in the cards in order to be with his family and this deeply affects Billy. After he leaves his house he calls his wife crying, telling her she was right about everything and that he’s ready to give up everything baseball related in order to get his family back. She doesn’t believe him but then he tells her he has listed his entire collection for sale and that he’s quitting his job at the card shop and ready to work a less demanding, more conventional job to support them. She reluctantly agrees to meet up with him for a coffee so they could just talk face to face. When Billy goes to enter the meet in his calendar he sees that it overlaps with when he was supposed to meet with the widow about the mickey mantle card. This sets the stage for Billy to make a big decision: does he try to reconcile his marriage and family or does he go for the glory of acquiring a baseball card collection that could be worth millions of dollars? Does he hit the walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning or strike out to end the game?

behind the scenes

The script for Gem Mint was written over a five day span in January of 2020 with principle photography beginning in early March of the same year. Several scenes were already in the can when the global COVID 19 pandemic struck New York City, effectively shutting down all film productions. Then in June another set back: the lead actor cast to play the main character, Billy, had to drop out of the film. Like so many others, he had moved away from New York City as it was gripped by the pandemic as well as the socioeconomic impact of a city wide shut down. 

Unperturbed, the production decided to move forward with a new lead actor, native New Yorker Michael Micalizzi. Shooting resumed in late July as cases dropped and the weather heated up, allowing for many scenes to be filmed outdoors while socially distancing. The crew devised a COVID safety protocol, modeled after the Screen Actor’s Guild pandemic protocols, including mandatory 2 week quarantine for all cast members before and after shooting, self-isolation on off days, COVID testing before and after shooting, mandatory mask policy for anyone not acting on camera as well as self-makeup application, socially distanced outdoor lunch breaks and no one was allowed to show up to a set if they felt sick. Principle photography wrapped in mid October with no members of the cast or crew getting sick during the 3 week long shoot (with the exception of one mild hangover).     

for brooklyn, by brooklyn

One of the many inspirations for this film was a desire to portray authentic Brooklynites doing authentic Brooklyn shit. As a life long native of Brooklyn and a film fan, Uzef was usually disappointed when he saw his fellow Brooklynites portrayed not just in film, but in any media. Often reduced to either an unintelligible, rude criminal or an economically elite hipster transplant, Uzef struggled to relate to Brooklyn characters in films. So he set about to tell the story of what he considered to be REAL Brooklynites. A story about the kind of person you could actually run into walking the streets of South Brooklyn. 

Another deeply important aspect of the story for Uzef was to make sure that as much of the film as possible was shot on location throughout various parts of the South Brooklyn neighborhoods. Scenes for the film were shot in iconic and fiercely local Brooklyn parks such as Owls Head and John Paul Jones Park. Additional scenes were shot at the legendary Hot Corner Baseball Card Shop, various infamous parking lots and late night hangout spots as well as local small businesses. 

Most of the cast is also made up of native New York actors and non-actors.

cast and crew

uzef gavrilov

writer & director

Uzef was born and raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn. He started making short films in 2018, figuring out the technical aspects of filmmaking as he went. Gem Mint is his second full length film. His previous full length film, Waiting Room, has won prizes and been shown at multiple film festivals. At various points of his life Uzef has been: a cigar salesman, web designer for adult entertainment websites, a bookkeeper, clinical exercise specialist, champion power lifter, ranked table tennis player, YouTube Psychonaut and medical technician. He attended the same Coney Island Junior High School in as fellow famous South Brooklynite Jews Darren Aronofsky and Jeffrey Epstein.      

michael micalizzi

as billy castigliano

Michael is a native New Yorker and a veteran of stage and screen acting. He received his training at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Institute and his acting credits include Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Theater), Army Wives (TV) as well as Fidelio and Out Of Order (Film). He enjoys cooking, photography and spoiling his pets. 

mary marxen

as toni castigliano

Mary is a New York Based stage and on camera actor, filmmaker, art director, and visual artist. Her award winning short dance film, Mirrors, was featured in seven film festivals including the 2019 San Francisco Dance Film Festival and was written about in Psychology Today as well as Dance Cinema Organization. Her work intersects the visual and dramatic arts, contributing unique ideas to filmmaking, theater, and design. This will be her fifth performance in a Narrioch film.

lisa fernandez

as candy castigliano

Lisa Fernandez is an actor, writer and producer from New Orleans, Louisiana. She has studied with Larry Moss and Patsy Rodenburg. This is her 7th appearance in a Narrioch Film. She is a prolific song writer but most of her songs are 10 seconds or less. She is responsible for such hits as “cats in the yard”, “peaceful drivers” and “nice to me”.

sal rendino

as vinny dykstra

Sal Rendino was born as Salvatore Carmello Francesco D’Assisi Rendino. He is an actor and writer, known for The Americans (2013), Billions (2016) and The Get Down (2016). He has been married to Sylvia De La Torre since July 11, 2001. He is known for doing his best acting OFF camera but luckily he saved some of the good stuff for Gem Mint. 

jason duval

as jays ball

Jason was born and raised in New York City. He was once an internationally ranked Men’s Tennis Player as well as free throw making champion. He had a cameo in the film Waiting Room but this is his first major role in a film.