Charles Durning attached to $1mm comedy slated to shoot in June

When Marc Fienberg had the opportunity to meet Harold Ramis, he had one question for the legendary local filmmaker: how can I break into the business?

“?Write your ?Animal House,’ write a great script,'” Fienberg recalls being told. “I went in saying I’m going to write a script good enough that people can’t ignore it. I’d like to think I’ve reached that goal.”

Fienberg’s “Animal House” is “Play the Game,” a romantic comedy with Charles Durning attached that’s set to shoot in Chicago in June 2004.

Durning will play a grandfather learning from his grandson how to reenter the dating world, and teaching his grandson some valuable romantic lessons in return. Durning signed on in September.

“Getting Charles was based on the strength of the script,” Fienberg said. “He really gravitated to the story and liked the aspect of an 80-year-old man who has a love life.”

Fienberg is in talks with Mark Feuerstein, star of the NBC comedy “Good Morning, Miami,” to play the role of the grandson.

Fienberg’s Story Films is raising the just-over $1 million budget. He has lined up a little more than half of the budget from a Los Angeles film fund, and he’s searching for a lead investor to put up the other half. “Looking for financing is a lot like the script, a lot like dating,” he said. “We’re looking for someone we’re comfortable with, and who is comfortable with us.”

The writer-director-producer bills himself as “not your average indie producer ? I don’t really enjoy watching indie films. ?Play the Game’ is a very commercial story. The hook is the surprise ending. We’ve been told it’s the ?Sixth Sense’ of romantic comedies.”

A Lincolnwood native with an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business and a former software marketing executive, Fienberg lives in Boston but said he’ll “do everything in my power to keep the film in Chicago. There’s nothing like Wrigley Field, nothing like Lincoln Park, nothing like North Avenue Beach, and those all play a role in the script.”

Fienberg attended a reading of “Play the Game,” hosted by Chicago ScriptWorks, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29 at Kellogg Graduate School.

See ? by Ed M. Koziarski,