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It's All Jake by Him!

June 8, 2006 By:
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DVD: Casey Affleck as "Lonesome Jim"
"Lonesome Jim" is making some friends.

The likeable oddball bittersweet comedy about a working-class man/kid working his way through adulthood attracted a crowd of well-wishers, and was well-liked at its screening earlier this year at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Now, away from the film-fest frame of reference, "Lonesome Jim" is on his own on DVD, with a release set this summer. Seems he's in good company again.

Critics and the public have given "Jim" a hug and a handshake, embracing him to their heart, as Casey Affleck portrays the dour, downtrodden title character with the right mix of mirth and misery that afflicts all prodigal sons de-preened as they come home with washed up dreams and a bagload of wash for dear old ma.

Lonesome Jim, meet Jake Abraham. If ever there were a friendship made in film heaven, this is it. For former Philadelphian Abraham - a class act while living here before graduating from Northwestern U., Class of '96 - this dusty road movie may be the path to recognition so richly deserved.

And that would be Jake by Abraham, whose home base - the ironically named InDigEnt, where he has been producing with founder Gary Winick winningly since 2002 - is the good company "Lonesome Jim" was lucky to find (along with IFC Films, co-producer).

Reeling off a reel list of credits - including "Land of Plenty," directed by Wim Wenders, and "November," released last July by Sony Classics - Abraham sacrifices a lot by building such a mazel-worthy career in just 10 years.

Sacrifice? "I feel incredibly lucky," says the self-effacing future face of cinema, whose digitally-inspired work - hence InDigEnt - has its finger on the industry's pulse.

That luck, he says, extends to his personal life; he may have befriended "Lonesome Jim," but he is no lonesome Jake. "I'm very lucky. I'm married," he says of lady luck, extolling the greatness of his wife Katie.

But luck has its limits and, when asked about being at home in the heart of Hollywood, Abraham cuts off the conversation with the knowing edge of an editor.

"The heart? I'm on the fringes of Hollywood, the tzitzit of Hollywood," he says. "That's what the indie film world is."

Indie Jake and the temple of domestic life? That story returns to Philadelphia, as Abraham grew up at the bimah of Germantown Jewish Centre, where his recently deceased stepfather, Rabbi Sanford Hahn, was for many years religious leader.

To have a prayer at making it in the film business requires more than talent - which Abraham produces readily - but serendipity, too. Because even though the story is coming along just fine, the backstory didn't start out as a script titled "Jake, the Movie Maker." "It's not what I wanted to do originally," he says.

Roll the credits: "While I was still a student in high school, I interned at Drexel University's radio station. And when I was at Camp Ramah, I loved the radio station there, too."

But the northern exposure that he faced at Northwestern exposed him to the film world, and he was hooked on a movie career.

Fade out Northwestern … fade out career? "After school, I came home and spent the next six months living at my mother's house; it wasn't the easiest six months. That," he says appreciatively, "was my 'Lonesome Jim' moment."

But the son's moment in the sun was to come, "and I hooked up with a couple of guys with a production house," and Abraham was off and rolling, and reeling.

By the fall, he was answering the question of "Are ya ready for some football?" with a resounding whistle, "doing commercials for the National Football League, the stuff that would be airing at half-time," he says of public-service material. He also touched down in the music-video field, working for such notables as Will Smith and the Spice Girls.

But Abraham just wasn't gettin' jiggy wit' it. "That wasn't what I set out to do."

But by 2000, his interest in the football work had flagged, and he didn't want his MTV as much. The future co-producer of "Land of Plenty" found his land of promise with Winick, serving as the producer's associate on "Tadpole," after leapfrogging from his role as production supervisor on Richard Linklater's "Tape."

The tale of the tape - and digital - has soared since. With "Lonesome Jim," Abraham may be getting the best attention of all - from family.

"I come from a family of rabbis, lawyers" - his father, Richard Abraham, cut an eminent profile as an attorney in local legal circles - "doctors and social workers. To work in the arts … took some getting used to. Certainly, now there's pride."

(Dad Richard and Mom Linda Hahn - who knows from kids as CEO of Planned Parenthood of Bucks County - would agree, as would stepmom Stephanie and brother Daniel. The kvell extends to the Klevits of Jenkintown, where his Uncle Jerold and Aunt Florence ticket their nephew as an up-and-comer.)

And the recent premiere here (erev DVD) of "Lonesome Jim" isn't the only party Abraham's celebrating; he's active as one of the young turks in the Democratic Party, who've had little chance to celebrate lately.

But it's his party and he'll cry for help if he wants to. Then again, maybe the Philly native is just the help that's called for; with young leaders like Abraham, maybe the donkey will start kicking back? It's all part of the "Democratic Agenda," of which Abraham is a founding member.

As he says: "We're looking to the future as a bright spot."

 

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