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Saturday November 22, 2014

Rutgers Alums Collaborate in Hollywood on Film with Autobiographical Echoes

Rutgers Alums Collaborate in Hollywood on Film with Autobiographical Echoes

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'I Was Never Here' explores possibility of hitting the reset button in life

Henry LeBlanc & Paul Bojack
Rutgers alums, actor and producer Henry LeBlanc and writer, director Paul Bojack, teamed up to make the film, 'I Was Never Here.'

'Life is very uneven and sometimes you’ve got to reload and start all over again.'
- Henry LeBlanc

What if you could scrap your existing life and start from scratch? It’s a scenario more than a few of us have fantasized about – and two Rutgers graduates are examining in the film I Was Never Here, based loosely on their lives.

The independent film, due out next year, explores the feeling that “Maybe there’s something else out there that’s better than what I have,” said Henry LeBlanc, 53, who graduated from Mason Gross in 1991 and is both acting in and producing the movie.  “I’ve had so many people read the script and say, ‘Oh my God, I know someone going through this right now.’ ”

Written by fellow Rutgers College alum Paul Bojack, 49, (born Roman Paul Boychuk), ’85, I Was Never Here follows its young protagonist writer Floyd as he attempts to change the course of his life. After living away for several years, Floyd returns to his native LA as a stranger, without telling any of his old friends and family of his homecoming and keeping a journal of his dark and unusal new experiences.

Bojack hopes Floyd’s actions inspire introspection among viewers. “I'd like audiences to come away with an understanding of why Floyd is trying to disconnect from his family as well as the provocative choices he makes in the course of reinventing himself,” said Bojack.

LeBlanc plays bachelor Louis, who is living the high life and throwing wild parties in LA. “Floyd happens to stumble into Louis's circle of friends and gets himself invited to one of his parties,” said LeBlanc of his supporting role. “It's an eye-opening experience to say the least.”

Reggie Watkins, from left,  Ed Deraney and Henry LeBlanc
Reggie Watkins, from left, Ed Deraney and Henry LeBlanc appear in a still from 'I Was Never Here,' due out in early 2014.
Though the film is not completely autobiographical, the idea of hitting life’s reset button resonates on a personal level for both Bojack and LeBlanc.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rutgers and a master’s in the subject from St. John University,  Bojack traded academia on the East Coast for a shot at playwriting in Los Angeles. “I decided I wanted a break from New York, something different,” said Bojack, a self-described “late-bloomer” who began writing character-driven short stories at Rutgers, where he minored in English. He later made the switch from the stage to writing, directing and producing films after a stint volunteering as a grip on a buddy’s film. That’s when the critics began taking note, lauding his Glass, Necktie in 2001 and 2006’s Resilience (available on iTunes and Amazon), which starred LeBlanc as the lead.

On the set, the pair bonded over their shared Rutgers experience and stayed close after Resilience wrapped.  When Bojack was gathering a crew for I Was Never Here, partnering with LeBlanc again seemed a natural fit. “There’s a certain sensibility that comes from being from the East Coast. I can rely on him to get stuff done,” Bojack said of LeBlanc. “He took the lead on casting. He has really good instincts for actors and performances.”

But the path that led LeBlanc to acting was a circuitous one. Before being accepted to Mason Gross, LeBlanc graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1977 with an engineering degree. “In my world, growing up outside Boston in a very small industrial town, everyone was geared toward going to college and getting a ‘real’ job,” he said.  “It never sunk in that you could have a real career as an actor.”

But the secure job he landed with Mobil never did fully satisfy him the way his community theater gigs did. So at 31 and recently divorced, LeBlanc entered Mason Gross and embarked on his second career. “I did a complete about face,” he said of the transition, which has led him to steady work as an actor, producer, model, acting teacher and a life in LA.   “Life is very uneven and sometimes you’ve got to reload and start all over again,” LeBlanc said.

Now in the editing phase, I Was Never Here was funded through various independent investors. LeBlanc and Bojack plan to shop it around on the festival circuit and see it distributed in a several major cities. It won’t be the next Batman, and that’s fine by Bojack.

“My goal is just making good movies,” said Bojack who lives with is wife in LA. “I try not to think too much about being famous.”

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