Griffith returns in new Florida-based film

C.J. Risak

Staff writer

The framework of Marc Fienberg's first-ever full-length director's venture is common enough: One guy teaching another the tricks of landing a girl.

What makes Fienberg's film somewhat different is who's teaching who what. In this case, it comes from his own personal experiences, and the advice he was asked to give and to whom -- his 89-year-old grandfather.

The film Fienberg has written, produced and directed is entitled "Play the Game" and it features an all-star cast, including Andy Griffith playing the grandfather figure who is trying to return to dating.

The film also stars Paul Campbell of "Battlestar Galactica" fame as the grandson who's trying to help his grandfather.

"I was inspired by my own grandfather," Fienberg explained in a phone interview. "He started dating again when he was 89-years-old, and that's when I realized I was watching this 89-year-old man go through all the same things we all go through."

The movie is listed as a romantic comedy and it will be released on a limited basis today in 22 theaters in south Florida and at the Rialto in The Villages.

If it does well on that limited basis, it will be released in a wider range of theaters in the rest of Florida. If it continues to do well, a nationwide release date could come by April.

If early indicators are worth noting, the wider release could be forthcoming. At both the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival and at the Sante Fe (N.M.) Film Festival, "Play the Game" collected the Audience Award.

For Fienberg, who has directed such short films as "Sunday Morning", "Playing It Safe" and "Hard Jobs", success would come in the shape of those wider releases. Certainly working with a cast like this one validated the Hollywood-based adage that directing is "90 percent casting and 10 percent talent".

"The first day on the set, it was intimidating," he admitted. "But after that, it wasn't a problem."

Others in the cast include Doris Roberts, Liz Sheridan, Marla Sokoloff (also of "Battlestar Galactica"), Clint Howard, Rance Howard, Geoffrey Owens and Juliette Jeffers.

As much as Fienberg has invested in this film -- his inspiration for the movie, his own grandparents, lived in Florida -- his dreams are somewhat modest.

"I hope a lot of people show up Friday night to see the film," he said.

And that it's still playing come spring break.