Miami Family Breaks Out with Breakup at a Wedding

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When Breakup at a Wedding has its Miami premiere at O Cinema tomorrow night, there may be almost as many Miami natives on screen as in the theater. That's because the director and the star of the comedy are brothers Victor and Philip Quinaz, who are returning home with their debut feature film.

"Born and raised," Vic says proudly. "We grew up in Miami Shores, at 93rd and North Miami Avenue." Vic went to New World, Phil to MAST Academy. Much of their family still lives here, their mother a high school teacher and their dad running the Johnson's Duplicating print shop on Flagler.

"Miami is one of the funniest places on the planet," Vic says, "and it's a part of everything we do."

The film -- which the brothers wrote with Vic's partner Anna Martemucci, also in the movie -- is constructed as an elaborate wedding video made by a videographer who refuses to respect the couple's boundaries. The videographer, played by Vic, ends up discovering all manner of breakdowns and freak outs by the couple and their guests, many of whom are played by Vic and Phil's Miami family.

"Our mom plays Phil's mom, the mother of the groom," Vic says. "She was a model back in the day and so as kids, we spent a lot of time outside the dressing rooms at Burdines."

Vic and Phil have been working together since nearly as far back as then, Vic making videos with the neighborhood kids. Later, Phil composed the music for Vic's first short film, which was shortlisted for the Academy Awards.

Though Breakup at a Wedding was made in New York, Vic says, "We are dying to shoot in Miami. We want to do a comedy down there so badly."

Phil says, "We're kicking around an idea for a TV show about a treasure hunter. He's a Florida chain mall guy who owns a few Supercuts. But on the weekends, he goes down to the Keys to dive for treasure. It'd be about beer koozie culture."

Work necessities have moved the brothers to Los Angeles where, other than taking meetings with idols of theirs like Ivan Reitman, they are expanding the Periods project with the Nerdist website and gearing up for the television pitch season.

"But one of the first pitches that we're going out with in the fall for cable takes place in Miami," Vic says. Though he can't go into the details of the show, he insists that "the goal is to shoot something there."

Don't believe him? Short of having a colada tattooed on his neck or naming his first-born child "Mofongo, Jr.", Vic has one of the most authentic Miami lifer bona fides around.

"I actually grew up with Billy Cohen, now known as Billy Corben. We were best friends in high school but went different ways after."

The pair was the president and vice president of the student council at New World and was in charge of planning their prom together. Or at least Vic was.

"Billy had a special deal so he could graduate early, to finish his film," Vic remembers. "So I had to take over prom duties. I had to pick the hotel. I had to pick the theme. I had to pick chicken or steak."

Vic picked steak. He picked the rare and elusive No Theme. "But it was New World, so it was an alternative school. Most people just wanted the prom to be over so they could start the festivities of an alternative nature."

A taste of that does make it into the reception scenes in Breakup at a Wedding, although much of the Quinaz brothers' insight into the wedding world comes from Phil's side gigs as a wedding DJ. He estimates that during the season prior to making Breakup at a Wedding, he DJ-ed 35 weddings; this weekend, after the movie he stars in premieres, he has another one.

"So much of the peripheral action comes from things I've seen," he says. He says characters like the photographer who moonlights as a pornographer and the eager-to-please officiant are based on people he's worked with.

By the way, if you're curious about a song that's guaranteed to clear the dance floor, industry professional Phil recommends, "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

"That one's pretty terrible," he says. "My mom sings that. And I love my mom but that's a hard one to accept. She does it as a celebratory sort of thing."

Aside from family members, most of the roles in Breakup at a Wedding were written for the actors who played them, close friends with whom the Quinaz brothers had worked before.

"I've gotten close on several features before this one," Vic says. "At one point, I had Chris Rock attached to one and spent a really cool summer rewriting with him. But with this one - it was Anna's suggestion that all of us do it together. And something wonderful happened. I don't know if this chance will arise again to work with so many friends and with family. But it just worked. We made it in 11 days for half a million dollars and barely spent that."

Part of why the production went so smoothly was that the cast and crew had all worked together on many earlier Quinaz projects.

"The [wedding] ritual itself is something everyone can relate to. But the idea of having an event like that allowed us to show off an ensemble of characters and performers," Vic says. "There may be no stars in this movie but every one of these people will become stars. I believe that."

The ensemble includes Mary Grill from FOX's The Mindy Project, British novelist Damian Lanigan, and Chris Manley, a professional clown whose drunk and mustachioed best man character nearly steals the film.

The team is sticking together as much as they can. They've just finished making a show for Adult Swim called Dog CEO, for which Vic directed, Phil worked on production and Anna starred. "It's like Damages but with a dog at the center of it," Vic says.

And much of the cast will be recognizable to fans of the Quinaz brothers' popular, bizarre and very funny historical comedy shorts called Periods. Of the series, Vic says, "We wanted to work on things that we want to see. They're very much inspired by Mel Brooks and Monty Python but really, we're always trying to figure out what weird costumes we can put Phil in."

"Our approach," Phil says, "is that everything will eventually become period. Things don't change so much but the language does. So we grab a group of our friends and family and steal shots in costume, to entertain us and, yeah, to find an audience."

The most recent short is "Big City, Bright Lights."

"It's set in the 1980s and there's cocaine. A lot of Miami made it in, not just the drug use."

"So much a part of our imagination," according to Phil, "was being able to be outside all the time. Miami gives you that. We were like The Goonies. Vic was the guy whose imagination was bigger than most. And as the younger brother, to earn my rank with the older kids, I had to volunteer first. So he's been directing me for years."

Breakup at a Wedding screens at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19 at O Cinema Wynwood (90 NW 29th St., Miami). Tickets are free for O Cinema members, $10.50 for general admission, $9 for students/seniors. A Q&A with the cast and crew will follow.

Visit BreakupAtAWedding.com.

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