Williston Park deli provides inspiration for film

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When he was growing up, Stolis Hadjicharalambous spent summers working in Harry’s Hilltop Delicatessen, his father Harry’s Williston Park deli, which has  become a mainstay on Hillside Avenue.

The 29-year-old Mineola resident still works there part-time when he’s not making corporate films or his own movies under the banner of Hilltop Studios, his film production company named after the deli.

“It’s a lot more intense behind the counter than behind the camera, I think, sometimes,” Hadjicharalambous said.

The “colorful clientele” Hadjicharalambous met behind that counter influenced “The Last Straw,” his second feature film, which will premiere Aug. 13 at the Bellmore Movies and Showplace in Bellmore.

Hadjicharalambous said he incorporated local words and phrases into the script for the film, a high school comedy about a group of teens who try to overthrow their school’s dean. For instance, Hadjicharalambous said he heard “shmegegge,” a Yiddish word for an annoying person, from a Harry’s Hilltop customer and later had one character throw the insult at another.

“You can ask anyone that comes to Harry’s Hilltop — it’s filled with characters, so I’d always keep my ear open for anything funny,” Hadjicharalambous said. “… Plus my dad’s a pretty funny guy, so his sense of humor kind of rubbed off on me.”

“The Last Straw” started as Hadjicharalambous’ thesis project at Manhattan’s School for the Visual Arts, he said.

The original short film centered on a dramatic action sequence where the characters shoot spitballs at each other rather than bullets, and “it spitballed from there,” he said.

Around that scene he built a full plot in which spitballs become the weapon of choice for the teens who decide they’ve had enough with their dean’s draconian ways, Hadjicharalambous said.

“It’s a light, fun comedy and it’s colorful and it’s goofy and it’s pure entertainment,” he said.

A native of Jackson Heights, Queens, Hadjicharalambous shot “The Last Straw” at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst, his alma mater, where he developed his love for film and where he met many of the film’s actors, he said.

Filming finished in 2015 and took two years because Hadjicharalambous and his crew were “at the mercy of the actual school schedule” and could only shoot on weekends, holidays and other times when classes weren’t in session, he said. But the school was accommodating, and he wasn’t interested in rushing anyway, he said.

“This day and age, you have a good movie, but a great movie is what’s going to get you seen and recognized, so we tried not to settle for anything less than great,” he said.

“The Last Straw” was admitted to the 34th annual Long Island Film Festival, based in Bellmore, and the all-online Fan Boy Film Festival. Hadjicharalambous said he’s working to get it into about a dozen more festivals so as many people can see it as possible.

In addition to “The Last Straw,” Hadjicharalambous has made dozens of short films and one other feature film, titled “Crossed,” he said. He also does freelance corporate filmmaking and video editing, he said.

Even when he’s hit roadblocks in his career, filmmaking has taught Hadjicharalambous many lessons and made him feel most like himself, he said.

“I feel like my strengths come out and my personality comes out and I’m just fascinated with the whole process of telling stories through film,” he said.

“The Last Straw” will premiere at 9 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Bellmore Movies and Showplace, located at 222 Pettit Ave. in Bellmore. Tickets are free.

By Noah Manskar

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