Filmmaker Danny Abeckaser on ‘Mob Town’ and New York’s Mafia

ATM: What can you reflect on the sensitive side to the mob characters?

DA: It is based on a true story. We tried to stay as close as we can to the story. A lot of the characters were well-known gangsters. We can do some homework on them. It is like any other movie. There is the same kind of funny in their way.

ATM: In Apalachin, in real life over 100 mafia leaders met here to discuss business and their daily operations.

DA: Yes, it was in Apalachin. We ended up shooting an hour outside of the city in a small town. It was difficult to shoot. It was in 1957. We tried to duplicate 1957 with cars in the world. It was challenging, but we did a great job.

ATM: How did you plan to set the scenery of his house compared to his house in real life?

DA: We documented what the housed looked like. He went out scouting for houses to match it. We finally found one with the one level, and it has brick on it. In some movies you will see the first few meetings are of the Apalachin Meeting. They just used some brand white house.

ATM: Express a few moments you had with the location scouts.

DA: We were shooting in a town in 2018. How do we do this? The location scout moved around. You will be surprised. It was more so how to match houses to something that would match to the town itself. So basically, the conversation was like, “Give me something else that would match.” This conversation went on for months.  

ATM: What can you reflect on your role in this film and with the different production hats you wore?

DA: I acted, produced, and directed in it. This was very challenging. As for the acting part, I believed in this character and studied it. It was very jarring moving as a director to wear all these hats. I felt like I was the best guy for the job. I felt like I was secure in this world.

ATM: Your character Joseph Barbara, whose real nickname was Joe the Barber.

DA: Yes.

ATM: So was there a distinguishing difference with the man he was with his mafia colleagues and the man he was with his wife in communication?

DA: This is a good question. His wife was a big part of him keeping it together in the movie. She is a big part of how this whole thing comes around. We do not get to see Joe deal with anyone besides his wife in the movie. His wife is very confident and crazy. He was more of a low-level gangster.

ATM: Who was your character when he was by himself, in around any communication?

DA: He was a wannabe be. I was a bad guy and a high real in being a gangster. Around the guys, he was like a wannabe gangster. But by himself, he was insecure and trying to make his kind of guy.

ATM: What can you observe from the adrenaline rush he got after committing a crime or horrible duty?

DA: I play wirily and all over the place. He is always in and out. He does not realize he was committing a crime. He did not commit a crime. They put together this dinner. The reason people ran was that they were criminals. When you see the police, you run. Nobody got in trouble because of the actual meeting and the fact that they got arrested at the meeting. They let everyone go. There was nothing they could hold them on. The reality is Joe the Barber got blamed for everything. It was his house. He ended up going to jail and never got out. He died in prison afterward.

ATM: What did women and his wife signify to him?

DA: This is the 50s. You have to remember this is 1957. This is more like a housewife type of feel. He would say to her, “We are going to have 30-50 people here for dinner for a barbecue. Start cooking.” She is doing everything for him. So, without her, he realizes he would be dead. Their relationship was great. She was very supportive of him. She wanted this to happen for him. She felt like it would be a big deal with all the people in their house to see what a great guy he was. Also, to help him out in the mob and bump him up to a bigger position.

ATM: What did your character mean to his wife?

DA: He was the breadwinner. He saw her as a housewife. She did anything his husband wanted. He was the man of the house. It is very difficult to understand currently. Women worked.