Inspired by his two sons, Tony Spiridakis set out to share the story of his family.
A Hollywood writer, producer and director who splits his time between California and Greenport, Mr. Spiridakis created a pilot for a television show, entitled “Greenport,” which does just that.
The comedy showcases the challenges of a divorced dad raising a son with autism while moving his parents into Peconic Landing and trying to find his professional footing. Mr. Spiridakis’ son Nikos has dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and his younger son, Dimitri, has autism.
Shot almost entirely in Greenport, featuring such well-known locations such as D’Latte, Mitchell Park, Peconic Landing, Preston’s Marine Supply and docks and Eastern Long Island Hospital’s Opportunity Shop, the show, in which Dimitri, now 18, stars as Danny, emerged from an idea originally meant to become a feature film.
“The start is being a parent, a father of two children on the spectrum. I wanted to do a feature film that sort of encapsulated what that experience was,” he said. “I sort of amalgamated the experience with both of my children and created a film with a script that I wrote.”
The film, called “Inappropriate Behavior,” is the story of a dad sharing custody of an autistic 10-year-old son with his ex-wife while trying to make it as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles. The script got a good initial response — it received financial backing and Charlie Sheen was at one point eager to play the father — but bumps in the road derailed the project.
It was during that time a friend suggested Mr. Spiridakis’ story could be adapted to a television format.
Also a co-founder of the Manhattan Film Institute, which began offering summer classes at Brecknock Hall six years ago, Mr. Spiridakis turned the script into a television pilot and was able to use MFI students as actors to fill many of the roles, an enjoyable advantage of filming in Greenport.
Mr. Spiridakis didn’t tell his son’s story alone, however. Dimitri played a role in creating scenes for the pilot, including one that opens the trailer for the show. In it, Dimitri is “stimming,” or repeatedly moves his hands and arms in different directions — a behavior he goes on to explain.
“That was his idea, so people understood that he was high-functioning,” Mr. Spiridakis said. “Because you have to be high-functioning to have that kind of awareness, that was a big thing to Dimitri.”
Mr. Spiridakis said his son has also been “innately funny” from a young age.
“Once I saw how naturally funny he was … when I saw that in a 6-year-old I was like, ‘That’s talent,’ ” Mr. Spiridakis said.
Another positive aspect of filming in Greenport was that Mr. Spiridakis got to show off the maritime village he calls home.
Mr. Spiridakis said he’s in currently setting up meetings to raise the money to finance nine more episodes or find a network that will pick up the series.
The pilot will be screened for the first time at the North Fork TV Festival on Thursday, Sept. 7.
Photo caption: Dimitri Spiridakis, left, as Danny and Robert Hancock as Tony in a scene from ‘Greenport.’ (Courtesy photo)