The Interview: “Family On Board” and “The Sopranos” Actor & Filmmaker George Pogatsia

Official poster for Family on Board
Official poster for Family on Board

Opening up the NYCIFF gala on Thursday night was a heartbreaking film short from George Pogatsia called “Family on Board,” a story of a man who attempts to help save his neighbor who is being abducted after a burglary in their home.  What could be seen as being a heroic moment, he gets the book thrown at him by the justice system as he is portrayed as a violent vigilante and is sentenced to five years in prison.

Being a family man, he is forced to leave his wife and two children.  Because of the honorable circumstances surrounding the events of that night, the judge allows him to have a month with his family to get his affairs in order before he is ordered to report to prison.

The events that follow on that morning he reports to prison are the few short minutes that will leave you heartbroken.

Here is the official trailer for the film:


Mr. Pogatsia was kind enough to do a short email interview for

1. What was the inspiration behind the story? Was it based on a true story?

I read a story a while back about a man in Texas who called 911 about 2 guys burglarizing his neighbor’s home. He ended up shooting and killing both. He never recieved any jail time. It made me think, what if this happened in New York City? Also, I was living in downtown Manhattan on 9/11. The towers falling actually woke me from bed and I had a friend who was scheduled to report to prison downtown on 9/11 … I threw those stories into a pot, I sprinkled in my imagination and mixed it up. I came out with Family on Board.

2. While we take a look at the conflict between hero vs. vigilante, the main part of this story is about a man who has to leave his family. We see an outstanding citizen who was trying to do the right thing, but the court has decided differently and he has to leave his family. The irony of this story is that even though he was turning himself in, you have to wonder just what would have happened if he was asked to turn himself in on 9/12/2001 rather than 9/11/2001. He wasn’t just leaving his family for 5 years. He was saying goodbye to them forever. He was able to get those last moments with them that morning, something not too many people were able to do. Why did you choose to write the story this way?

On 9/12 Mike Petito would have reported to prison to serve out his jail sentence. I chose to tell the story this way because I enjoy having the audience participate. I like developing characters they can relate to and care about. I try get them invested in their lives then have them theorize on what happened in the end. Did he leave forever? I hope to provoke thought and discussion. Almost like thinking about an old love and what may have become of them.

3. Will this eventually be turned into a full feature film?

I’m developing a feature version of Family on Board. Tony Sirico (“The Sopranos”) is a big supporter of the project, his role will be considerably larger in the feature. Oscar winner John Avildsen (“Rocky”) wants to direct.

If you get a chance to see this film, I highly suggest seeing it. I contemplated leaving when I realized the day…9/11/01. I didn’t know how far he would take the actual events occurring in that moment.  9/11/01 was a real nightmare that many of us had to live through and haven’t quite healed from.  But luckily, the story quickly changed to post-9/11 and I was glued to my seat in those next couple of minutes.  It left you questioning just what happened to Mike Petito that day.

I would love to see this as a full feature film, especially with the same cast of characters.  It’s a story that will keep you wondering long after you’ve stepped out of the theater.

NYCIFF hosted their Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 7, 2015.