Indie Romantic Comedy Filmed on Campus Stars Pace Students

  When Harry Tries to Marry Filming at Pace
    Familiar scenery? Pace University’s New York City campus provides the backdrop for much of the film.

When Nayan Padrai saw Rahul Rai dancing at a Slumdog Millionaire after-party at a New York City nightclub, there was just something about him that caught the filmmaker’s eye. He knew this young man would be perfect for the lead role in his upcoming film, When Harry Tries to Marry.

If Rai hadn’t been performing with his dance troupe that night, there’s a good chance he’d now be enrolled in New York University’s dental school. But he took a chance and, at the filmmaker’s request, he went on the casting call – with no previous acting experience – and got called back and eventually offered the lead role of Harry, an Indian-American 22-year-old college student, in the romantic comedy.

And, if Rai hadn’t been cast in the film, he wouldn’t have met Pace University Performing Arts Assistant Professor Grant Kretchik, and he probably never would have enrolled at Pace. But as luck had it, all of these things happened and whether the film is a hit or a flop at the box-office, the experience itself has already been a success for both Rai and Pace University.

Pace Students featured in film When Harry Tries to Marry  
  More than 100 Pace students, including these three, got involved in the action.  

“I have maintained all along that regardless of the result of this film the project for Pace has already been a success educationally. It’s not every day that performing arts students can walk onto campus and audition or be in a movie. Students have a full-length feature film credit on their resumes before they even graduate, I think that is extraordinary,” said Prof. Kretchik, who introduced the filmmaker to Pace’s New York City campus in the summer of 2009.

Prof. Kretchik attended a staged reading as a sort of fund-raiser for the film and suggested Pace as a shooting location.

“When we got the funding together, I called Grant to introduce us to the administration at Pace as we were scouting locations around town,” explained the filmmaker. “We just fell in love with the campus and the vibe we got. Filming often isn’t just about making the logistics work, but often more importantly about how one feels in an environment. The campus is very intimate yet large, friendly yet serious, and I loved that it was downtown where we found many other locations including City Hall Park. It sort of tied everything together.”

  Holy Party in film When Harry Tries to Marry
    Filming of the pivotal ‘Holy Party’ scene took place in Pace’s backyard.

It’s been kismet ever since. Six Pace acting students landed speaking parts; 14 students had featured background roles; and 100 extras and four interns played a role in making this film. And then, of course, there’s Rai who decided to come to Pace after filming wrapped.

Working with students was “awesome,” according to Padrai. “Pace has instilled a sense of professionalism in their students that we didn’t find in many so-called ‘working’ actors whom we auditioned.”

For Rai, what convinced him to attend Pace was partly his relationship with Prof. Kretchik, and partly the vibe he got from the university.

“It seemed very homey,” he said. “It didn’t seem very chaotic. In big schools sometimes you get lost in the mix.”

While not a household name yet, Rai’s already been featured in Filmfare, India’s version of Entertainment Weekly. He definitely wants to pursue acting. And while he’s glad to be part of a film that brings attention to Indian culture, “I think I’d like to eventually not just do stuff because I’m Indian. To just get a break and to have a gift like this is a gift and it’s humbling and you graciously take it.”

  Professor Kretchik on set of When Harry Tries to Marry
    Assistant Professor Grant Kretchik enjoys some downtime while filming on location in India.

The script has received considerable interest and acclaim in Hollywood and at film competitions around the country. Last year it placed in the Top-Ten finalists from thousands of submissions in the Creative Screenwriting’s Expo Screenplay contest and reached the quarter- finals of the Austin Film Festival. The project has been featured at the Sundance Institute Independent Producers’ Conference and was a member of the Winners’ Circle at the Texas Film Institute Screenplay Contest; The script was also a semi-finalist at the scr(i)pt Magazine, Radmin Company and Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Open-Door Contests. It was also included in the High-Value category in the Empire Screenplay Contest.

The film’s world premiere was at the Austin Film Festival in October. A release premiere of the film is planned for early 2011 on Pace’s New York City campus.

Learn more about the film on Facebook.com/whenharrytriestomarry.

Learn more about Pace’s Performing Arts program.