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Article on The Alternative Press, February 21, 2011

View article and pictures on TheAlternativePress.com

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – New Providence native and current resident Joe Tiboni wasn’t a good wrestler back in high school.  “Wrestling in high school when not good at it is one of the most humbling experiences.  You’re basically wearing tights and you get beat up in front of your friends and family,” he told The Alternative Press.  The humility that Joe was taught as a wrestler at New Providence High School is still evident today despite his successful law practice on South Street and his new-found stardom as the co-writer of Win-Win, set to hit theaters March 18th.  Tiboni co-wrote the story with childhood friend and wrestling teammate at New Providence High School Tom McCarthy, an award-winning screenwriter for films such as The Station Agent and The Visitor.  “We turned our wrestling humiliation into something positive – – it’s our own form of personal therapy,” Tiboni said.

Tiboni began gathering information for the screenplay several years ago at the encouragement of Tom who urged him to keep a notebook to record in general terms stories of Tiboni’s elder law clients.  “I have fascinating clients with terrific stories.  People who lived through World War II, Holocaust survivors, the Great Depression, people who fought in Vietnam, even the secretary to John Lennon,” Tiboni said.  “It’s a built-in story mill.  As a bonus for helping people, I get to hear their stories,” he added.

At Tom’s urging, Tiboni sent a few scenes to him to review.  Soon the childhood friends were working together meeting at Tom’s home, talking about ideas.   They sought to meld the wrestling aspect of their lives with Tiboni’s current profession being an elder law and estate planning attorney.  “People think of lawyers as portrayed on LA Law.  I specialize in elder law and estate planning.  We don’t have the trappings of a big firm.  People rarely see that depicted in movies,” Tiboni said.  “Plus my clients are just incredibly nice and caring people, who are facing tough times when medical tragedies strike.”

“We drew on experiences but the movie is not autobiographical,” Tiboni added.  “In the movie, Mike Flaherty is a down on his luck, solo practitioner, while I practice with my wife Jane and our practice is thriving.  Mike also does some things that were unconscionable.  These are the things that I try to protect my clients from.”

An observant New Providence resident will notice that the exterior of New Providence high school, South Street, some side streets in the Borough, and a hilltop view of New Providence are all seen in the movie.

Regarding pitching the screenplay, Tiboni said that “Tom repeatedly reminded me this probably would not happen.  It’s one in a million.  The financial crash had just happened.  Investing in a movie is very speculative.  We were very fortunate to have Fox Searchlight and Everest Entertainment fund the movie.  It’s phenomenal that they did.”

“Also, pivotal in getting our movie made was that Tom has such an incredible reputation as a Writer, Director and Actor,” Tiboni said.  “He had just been nominated for an Academy Award for Up and won the BAFTA award for Best Screenplay for the Station Agent a couple of years back. Besides being my oldest and dearest friend, Tom is truly top notch writer,” he continued.

As to the experience so far, Tiboni said it’s been “a hell of a ride.  Writing with Tom was pure joy.  I got to work with a great friend, and since Win Win is a comedy, we spent most of our time laughing.  I was able to see every aspect of making a moving, from developing a story into a screenplay, casting, watching it get funding, attending filming and even editing.”

Tiboni continued, “Filming was wild.  It was so cool to see something you and a friend dream up and work hard on and see all of these people on board make it their own, as well.  It was an extraordinary thing to see.”

“The actors that I worked with are the nicest people.  Very normal.   They have kids and families,” Tiboni told The Alternative Press.  Actors in Win-Win include Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Melanie Lynskey, Burt Young, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale and Alex Shafer.  Tiboni noted, “most people don’t know that Alex is an incredibly gifted wrestler.  He actually won the State Championship last year at 119 pounds.”  He added, “He’s a really good kid and I hope that he continues acting because I was really impressed by his skills.”

Tiboni was able to sit in on the filming in nearly every phase.  “It was really amazing.  The passion the actors exhibited.    It was a time-consuming process.  The filming was only surpassed by seeing the movie with a live audience.  You work so hard on it, you think it’s funny, you think it’s good and you hope people will like it.  At Sundance, the lights were off and people were laughing and clapping.  Then the press started coming out.  It was like reading about your kids in the newspaper,” he said.

Tiboni will travel to Austin for a movie premier with the cast.  He will also be at the New York premier and the premier at Dickinson College where he went to school.

So how has the movie impacted Tiboni?  “I have been working as an elderlaw and estate planning attorney for about 17 years.  I love my profession and helping people.  This experience   showed me it is possible to broaden what you’re doing and enrich it by taking a chance and reaching out.  I had a vision and followed through.  If we did this, other things are possible.  Just finishing the screenplay was a humongous success for me.”  He continued, “This reaffirmed my faith that I could do other things.  A lot of people don’t experience that.  They don’t take a chance, they really should,” he added.

A significant issue in the movie is the treatment of the elderly and how we as a society treat our elderly.  Tiboni told The Alternative Press, “It’s very important to me in my life and in my practice.  Jane and I advocate for our elderly clients every day.  Putting the elderly in nursing homes happens every day.  It’s a common issue we face regularly.  We use that as an option more than other countries.  Many times when you place a relative in a nursing home it’s necessary, however when it’s purely based on your convenience to the detriment of the relative, it’s something to really think about.  Believe it or not, comedies are a good way of illustrating these types of difficult issues because it doesn’t come across as preaching.  An audience can absorb the issue and hopefully think about it long after the movie experience is over.”

Win-Win comes to theaters March 18th.

2 Responses to “New Providence Native Joe Tiboni Sees Hard Work Pay Off; Win-Win in Theaters March 18th”

  • Rick Hartmann:

    Joe. Congratulations and thanks again for all your help with my brothers estate issues. P.S. My triglycerides are down to 164 hehe. Stay well.

  • Linda Fitzpatrick:

    Hi, Joe,

    John and I finally got to see Win Win on Sunday and loved it! Not only a good story, well written and acted, but we also got a kick out of the NP scenes and your 2-second screen presence (your debut??). Good job!

    Take care,
    Linda

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About the Movie
Win Win is based on the story by Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni. When a disheartened attorney moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach stumbles across a star athlete, things seem to be looking up. That is, until the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything. Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor.
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Tiboni & Tiboni, LLP
166 South Street
New Providence, NJ 07974
Ph: 908-286-1136
Fax: 908-286-1605