Sanford (Sandy) Nadelstein has found a way to combine his love of dentistry with his desire to write comedy. With his brother, Brad, and a good friend from his college days at Brandeis, Fred Hessler, the 49-year-old Vineyard Haven dentist and father of two is committed to producing a pilot for a situation comedy called “M.V. Blues.”
The threesome, whose business name is Corndog Entertainment, are taking on the lead roles as well as writing and producing the show, which Mr. Nadelstein describes as “a cross between ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Wings.'” Mr. Nadelstein plays a dentist on Martha’s Vineyard, his brother plays a veterinary ophthalmologist, and Mr. Hessler plays a business consultant, which just happens to be what they do in real life.
The pilot will be filmed over the next two weekends at a number of Island locations and businesses: the Katama Store, the West Tisbury Library, Atria, and Humphreys, among others.
How it began
Mr. Nadelstein says that the three friends have thought they could write comedy for years. As he recalls, in about 1994 he was talking to Island resident and Hollywood comedic screenplay writer Marty Nadler, a new friend. He said he had been thinking of writing comedy but didn’t know where to begin. Mr. Nadler asked him what kind of comedy he liked, and when he said “Seinfeld,” Mr. Nadler told him he should write a “Seinfeld” episode.
Mr. Nadelstein called both his brother and friend with a plan to meet for a writing weekend at a cheap hotel in Framingham. His brother couldn’t make it so the two showed up armed with little more than the idea to write a “Seinfeld” script and a fondness for the word “Zamboni.”
Once finished, they gave it to Mr. Nadler. Mr. Nadelstein remembers Mr. Nadler saying it was, “A great script. You guys should definitely keep doing this.” Mr. Nadler also sent it to the “Seinfeld” executive producer who said he really liked it but they were going off the air. “The script was dead in the water,” recalls Mr. Nadelstein.
Then he met Bob Mone, now proprietor of Mone Insurance, at his office as a patient. Mr. Mone said he had to get home to watch “Seinfeld.” The two got to talking and Mr. Mone told him about his friends who had also written a “Seinfeld” script, Bob and Peter Farrelly (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”). Mr. Mone passed the Corndog group’s script to the Farrellys.
“I didn’t hear anything for six months. One day I was at my dental office and Peter Farrelly called me and said ‘I’ve got to tell you this is one of the best scripts I’ve read in 10 years.'” Mr. Farrelly suggested some changes, so they re-wrote. Mr. Farrelly was impressed enough to ask if he could buy some of their jokes and if they would be interested in helping with the fine tuning or punch-up work, as it is called, on their current project, which turned out to be “There’s Something About Mary.”
They jumped at the chance, and “That’s how the whole writing deal was born,” said Mr. Nadelstein.
After “There’s Something about Mary,” which came out in 1998, Mr. Farrelly came back to Corndog for more ideas. Their best was “J-Men,” about a secret division of the National Security Agency that makes up jokes to help people deal with tragedy by boosting their morale. Mr. Farrelly thought it had comic potential and helped Corndog secure a writing development deal with Twentieth Century Fox. They worked for almost five years on “J-Men,” meeting at irregular intervals.
The project was eventually vetoed by one person at the studio. Fox owns the “J-Men” script. Mr. Nadelstein now says that he thinks moviemaking is often more about who you know than how well you can do something.
They were almost beaten, but they persevered, spending a year and a half writing a romantic comedy called “Little Black Book” and a movie called “God Only Knows,” neither of which went anywhere according to Nadelstein. Then Mr. Hessler had to pull out. It was taking too much time from his family and job.
Mr. Nadelstein told his brother, “I’m not going to let this dream die. We’ve been working on this for so long and not getting anywhere let’s just forget the studios.”
From idea to realization
The two attended the Nantucket Film Festival in July, 2011, to do research. They met a young filmmaker, Jason Reulet, who had entered a film. He read “M.V. Blues,” and said he would really like to be involved. He is now directing the project.
Mr. Hessler rejoined the Nadelsteins to work on the pilot.
Mr. Nadelstein said they plan to shop the pilot around film festivals, studios, and people they know in the film industry when production is finished in several months.
There are at least a half a dozen people who are working without any pay on the project. “People have given their time and energy to this project, donated the use of locations,” Mr. Nadelstein said. “A friend is volunteering his plane for aerial shots. It is magical.
“If there is such a thing as karma in the world this thing has to take off, there is so much good will, so many amazing people have given their time.”
Mr. Nadelstein said that it will be hard to keep writing if “M.V. Blues” doesn’t work out, but that if they make enough to pay the people who have helped that would be enough.
When asked about his future if this project succeeds, he said, “I love being a dentist. I can be a happy guy as a dentist, writing comedy, and being a good father and husband. I think I can do it all.”