May 29, 2023

Creative, inventive Penn State alum completes innovative first feature film

Actors Bradley Whitford and Melvin Gregg (inset) helped bring "SHARE?" to life for alumnus Ira Rosensweig. Credit: Provided by Ira Rosensweig. All Rights Reserved.

June 6, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Award-winning Penn State alumnus Ira Rosensweig has built a career with funny and memorable advertising and promotional spots.

Anyone with a screen of almost any size has probably seen his work for broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, Fox) and cable outlets (A&E, Bravo, E!, HGTV, Freeform, MTV, Paramount Network) as well as a who's who list of top-tier clients (AT&T, Walmart, Pepsi, Nike and Toyota) and nonprofit organizations (American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association).

Still, after years of directing for brands, Rosensweig's first feature film — "SHARE?" — follows a different path.

He co-wrote, directed, co-produced and edited the sci-fi thriller with stars such as Bradley Whitford ("West Wing") and Alice Braga ("Elysium") that challenged him as a filmmaker and provided abundant personal reward. He said he enjoys comedy and the reputation for quality he's earned with that work. It's a little different when you’re bringing your own vision to life, though, as he did with the film, which is the first to ever be shot entirely from one fixed camera angle.

"I love comedy, and feel like I’ll always work in that space in commercials," Rosensweig said. "But projects like ‘SHARE?’ feed your creative soul because they allow you to look at the world through a different lens and ask the audience to do the same. I look forward to making more feature films or series with a more serious tone."

XYZ Films is currently fielding offers to distribute "SHARE?" and Rosensweig, who earned his bachelor's degree in film production in 1999, regularly participates in related meetings and phone calls.

A feature film represents one more chapter in Rosensweig's story of persistence and success.

From his first job out of college, editing sports highlights with music videos to be shown in arenas and stadiums, to his first film, a documentary that developed after a conversation with a massage therapist while he was getting treatment for a sore back, Rosensweig invariably makes the most of opportunities.

When the massage therapist said her best friend had won the New York Lottery, Rosensweig wondered aloud if he’d be interested in financing a film. If not that, how about a documentary about the lottery winner himself? The result was "One Man Show: A Musical Documentary."

While documentaries were not Rosensweig's passion, his why-not perspective continued to open doors. He got more opportunities after rewriting a promotion for Spike TV and then offering to reshoot the piece himself if his supervisors did not like his vision.

There was no re-shoot. Just a launching pad to a strong reputation and a string of success. Among his recent comedy promos were a series of commercials featuring Jason Momoa ("Aquaman") for Yas Island Resort in Abu Dhabi.

Along with his on-screen creativity, Rosensweig put that why-not perspective to work in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic shut down productions across the world. While some productions sent cameras and lights to actors and talent, he envisioned a better approach.

"The last thing you want talent to do is worry about filming themselves," Rosensweig said. "They need to be focused on their performance."

So, he recruited cinematographer Dallas Sterling and fellow Penn State alumnus Jeremy Fernsler, who earned a film degree in 1999, to develop Crew in a Box, a plug-and-play remote video production studio.

The idea was conceived in March 2020, with the first prototype ready three months later. The box — which contains an integrated 6K cinema camera, LED lights, microphones and a teleprompter/Interrotron — gets shipped to an actor or on-air talent and when plugged in and connected allows a remote operator to control every aspect of the shoot.

More than 15 different networks have used the technology and even with the pandemic over, the usefulness of Crew in a Box remains.

"Never did I imagine that I would be an inventor," Rosensweig said.

The alternative was doing nothing or waiting — and those were not options for him.

"SHARE?" started development in 2017 and was ultimately influenced by the pandemic as Rosensweig consistently overcame production challenges.

As almost all traditional production ceased during the lockdown, Rosensweig realized the film, about a man who struggles to survive after awakening alone, trapped in a society connected only by a primitive computer network, could be shot in a contained way. He embraced the challenge of employing a single-camera angle for the entirety of the movie, hoping it would also make the audience feel confined and allow them to better identify with the characters.

Building three identical sets, Rosensweig encouraged the actors to treat the filming as a stage play, and he and his team developed technology to ensure the actors could interact with each other even though they were in separate rooms.

The time needed to develop the film probably made the situation somewhat familiar to eventual viewers.

"When we first started writing, we wondered how people would relate to characters living in isolation," Rosensweig said. "At this point, it's something that everyone can understand all too well.

"After working on the movie for so long, I can't wait for people to finally see it."

Ira Rosensweig Credit: Temma Hankin. All Rights Reserved.

Get the news by email

A savvy creative An inventor, too