Irvington native premieres new short film

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MONTCLAIR, NJ — The most recent short film that Damon “Abwon” Clindinin’s production company released wasn’t actually supposed to be a short film. It was going to be a music video, until at the last possible second the artists fell through.

“We had the Airbnb booked and we had cast members coming,” Clindinin said in an interview with the Irvington Herald at the premiere of “Shawnie” at the 505 Theater in Montclair on May 31. “I wasn’t going to send them home.”

So the Irvington native and his producing partner, Jennifer Dominguez, decided to make use of the cast and set they had and turn the project into something else. The result was “Shawnie,” an 18-minute romantic thriller that was produced in one day and shot around New Jersey. Since it wasn’t supposed to be a film, there was no script; the team came up with a loose storyline, and the cast improvised most of their lines.

“Thank goodness for the cast,” Clindinin said. “It took a whole day, from starting around noon to late that night. We were going around looking for other places to shoot. What was in the area? Since it was a romance, some places had to look like where you would take someone on a date.”

Clindinin eventually found a bowling alley to film in, but the owners allowed only one camera and microphone to be used inside. They were filming on a Sunday during football season this past fall, so there was a crowd at the bowling alley that the production team couldn’t control, watching NFL games. Once the shoot was over, he and Dominguez had to start editing it. That was the longest part of the process.

“It wasn’t color graded, so we had to change the coloring of what the shots looked like,” Clindinin said. “Then we had to fix the audio, and that took the longest.”

The finished film can be streamed on Amazon Fire TV, Roku and DH-One TV Network. It’s the second of a two-film deal that the production company, Moonlight Media, produced for those platforms. Learn more about Moonlight Media at Now, Clindinin is working on writing another short film that he’ll submit to film festivals and try to sell on his own.

Moonlight Media has made four short films and produced music videos, photography and other videography for clients. Clindinin started making content on YouTube with a flip camera that he bought for $20 on Craigslist and, with a group of friends, started making Top 10 videos based on pop culture and trending topics. The views started adding up, and he and Dominguez started the company in 2018. They met while working at the Bellevue Theater in Montclair, where Clindinin was a manager for 10 years.

“I’m self-taught,” he said. “I started studying lighting and camera angles.”

Having spent so long working around movies, Clindinin is excited to finally be on the other side and making his own.

“My mom said when I was a kid, I was watching TV with a baseball bat because I wanted to break it and go inside,” he joked. “So she knew I would be working in entertainment.”

Photos Courtesy of Janelle Isaacs