Locals craft true detective tale for television
Bellport High School alums and natives Joe Forbrich and Zach Towlen are in the midst of a sizzle reel for a television pilot pitch based on Forbrich’s Fort Lauderdale detective uncle, Joe Roubicek.
It’s a compelling premise. Roubicek wrote a book, “Financial Abuse of the Elderly: A Detective’s Case Files of Exploitation Crimes,” about cases that occurred during his stint working for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in the early-1990s. Appalled by the numerous scammers who filched significant savings from trusting elderly citizens, Roubicek worked doggedly on these abuses, testifying in numerous criminal files and depositions, and the series is based on his experiences.
The time frame is 1994. Doubling for the Florida locales and shortening the name a bit, to “Rubicek,” scenes for this short, intro video were shot in Union Square and in an apartment in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Forbrich has lined up Chris McDonald, Maura Tierney, Trish Conolly, Rosemary Prinz and Lev Gorn for the leads. He plays his uncle.
Towlen, who shot the scenes with an Arri Amira camera, describes Roubicek as an anti-hero. “He can’t seem to get ahead,” he explained of the guy trying to protect an overlooked population.
Forbrich toured the police station his uncle worked at, ultimately meeting his fellow officers. “I’ve added some fictional aspects,” he said.
“He has one ally, the captain of the detectives,” Towlen said.
“But even he has secrets and motives of his own,” commented Forbrich.
They shot five scenes, directed by Towlen.
“One of the big aspects of this was a priest dipping into old ladies’ pockets while pretending to be poor,” Towlen said. It’s a true detail that’s included in one of the scenes; the priest got away with it.
Producer Stephanie Dawson, whose credits include “Hypothetically,” with Vincent Pastore, Mickey Sumner and Forbrich, as well a series on the People Entertainment Network called “American Doers,” said she was first drawn to the project because of Forbrich, who she’s known for a number of years.
“I believe Joe is wonderfully talented and wanted to work with him again,” Dawson said. “Once I read the script and was introduced to Zach, I was all in.”
Forbrich said he had heard about his uncle growing up, but didn’t meet him until the book came out in 2008; that inspired him to write it into a film. “To an extent, he was a pioneer, because he helped get laws changed in his state,” Forbrich said of his uncle, who experienced initial disinterest, witnessing scam artists getting away with their deceptions, legal frustrations, and the dissolution of his marriage in the process.
But as the crimes stacked up and lawmakers began to realize the impact, thanks to Roubicek’s efforts and eventually others, protective legislation began emerging. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 33 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico addressed financial exploitation of the elderly in the 2016 legislative session.
Roubicek currently heads up Roubicek Consulting Group. His website, exploitationelderly.net, offers resources on the subject; he’s been tapped for many articles and is also a speaker.
Towlen is a 2016 School of Visual Arts graduate.
The sizzle reel took two full days to shoot, Forbrich said.
“It’s something they use in the film industry,” Towlen explained. “You can show the look and performance instead of just reading the script. We took the highlights and will condense those into a two-minute overview.”
Forbrich, an actor and writer, has played numerous roles in television including “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Blue Bloods” and “Conviction,” as well as the movie, “Bridge of Spies,” and as an understudy in Broadway’s “Lucky Guy” starring Tom Hanks, “The Front Page” and “The Crucible.” He has more than a few contacts in the industry.
They’re hoping to connect with a company like DreamWorks, HBO or a streaming network, or a major station.
“We want a show created by Joe,” said Towlen. “Then there is a team of writers and someone is the team captain.” Towlen would like to be involved in the writers’ room. “A lot of the time, writers become executive producers creating characters,” he said.
“We would negotiate what our jobs would be,” Forbrich said. Forbrich would like to play his uncle. The resemblance is striking.
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