“I’m Like A Shark, I Need To Constantly Be Moving Forward:” A TDQ Q&A Filmmaker With Ryan Colucci

Ryan Colucci

Ryan Colucci (seen here on set behind the camera) didn’t originally account on being in the film industry but when he crunched the numbers he knew it was his destiny. (He was almost an accountant.)

This week’s TDQ Q&A is with writer, producer, director Ryan Colucci. Ryan spoke to us about how he got into show business, how he attacks each film he makes and his upcoming project, “Suburban Cowboy.” Here is this week’s TDQ Q&A with filmmaker Ryan Colucci:

The Daily Quarterly: What made you want to be in show business?

Ryan Colucci: First and foremost, I love the idea that someone can create a world… And other people can take a trip inside that world. I have always wanted to tell stories, I’m not the type of person to regale a room with a tale. I am rather introverted. So, writing/drawing was something I was drawn to as a child because it scratched that itch and was solitary (I was fortunate to be good at sports or I would have been a pretty isolated kid).

Growing up I wanted to be a comic book artist. It felt like that was the best way to share the stories I wanted to tell. As I became a teenager, that desire morphed into telling stories with a much different canvas – film.

However, I come from a fairly blue-collar background in New York where a career in the arts was not realistic, so I went to Villanova University and studied accounting, for no other reason than it was supposedly hard and I was good at it. I spent a year overseas studying economics and political science at Cambridge University – and when I was there I realized I was destined for another life. It was the first time I left the bubble that was my life, and really took stock of it. The books I was consuming in large quantities all had one thing in common – they were about filmmaking. Not the racy, exciting side of Hollywood… but books on lighting and editing and screenwriting. It dawned on me that people actually do this for a living.

So I came back, transferred to film school close to home and eventually got accepted to the Peter Stark Producing MFA Program at USC.

I didn’t completely abandon the comic world though. I’ve put out two graphic novels. In fact, my book Harbor Moon makes a few cameos in Suburban Cowboy because the lead is obsessed with werewolves (shameless self-promotion).

TDQ: Who was your favorite director growing up?

RC: Growing up, I knew nothing about directors and writers and stars. Since I was a child of the 80s, Star Wars basically defined my childhood. So, I’d have to say George Lucas. I also have a really strong connection with the Savage Steve Holland movies of the 80s – Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer and, less so, How I Got Into College. It wasn’t until high school I realized the same guy directed them all.

TDQ: What was your favorite movie growing up?

RC: “Rad.” It’s a BMX film from 1986 directed by one of the most legendary stuntmen/action directors – Hal Needham. There was a period of a few years in college where I supported my bar tabs bootlegging VHS copies. For those that weren’t alive back then, you didn’t hit record and it was done in a minute. You had to play the whole movie while another VHS deck (in this case multiple decks) recorded it. I never counted, but I have seen the film well over 500 times.

TDQ: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

RC: Find the best script you can do for the absolute least amount of money – then go make it.

I have a lot of scripts… some that I know aren’t ready and some I love. After shopping each one, realizing the market was shrinking, I would write another that was smaller. Until I eventually wrote one that I could actually just go do on my own.

TDQ: What is the worst advice you have ever gotten?

RC: Sometimes you hear, ‘pick one project and put all of your energy into it.’ I’m not sure I can get behind that idea. I give each of my projects everything I can, but there’s only so much you can do yourself… and then what do you do? Just wait around hoping for a miracle? That never made sense to me. I’m like a shark, I need to constantly be moving forward. Maybe that has hurt me early on, but now I have so much going on and it is amazing.

TDQ: Who are your influences?

RC: I’m influenced in my writing by the people in my life. Luckily, I’m surrounded by colorful characters.

In life I’m influenced by the competitive drive of athletes; Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Ronnie Lott, Royce Gracie and Gary Gait.

As a filmmaker, I’m influenced by every movie I see – good and bad. Sometimes it is more helpful to watch a handful of bad movies than one good one. That said, the two films that really inspired me to forge this career are Pi by Darren Aronofsky and Brothers McMullen by Ed Burns. These are two films that I saw and thought – films aren’t made in some fantasy land (Brothers McMullen was essentially made in my backyard on Long Island). I love these movies… and I think I can do this.

Ryan Colucci's Suburban Cowboy

A clip from Ryan Colucci’s Suburban Cowboy.

TDQ: Tell us about your latest movie, “Suburban Cowboy?”

RC: The film is about Jay, a mid-level weed supplier on Long Island. One of his dealers, also his childhood best friend, robs someone to pay Jay back for his last shipment. His friend disappears and the debt is left to our hero – because the person who got robbed was connected to Serbian gangsters in Queens. He sets off to collect the money he has on the street, but when he comes up short Jay is forced to take drastic measures.

It’s a raw, visceral look into a world you live in but probably don’t want to know exists. The story isn’t groundbreaking, but what fascinates me about it is this idea that the guy next door is a criminal. It’s not this stereotypical gangster story where the bad guys are obviously criminals. It’s more true to life, at least in the part of the world I come from.

The person I was working with on the story was actually arrested as I finished the first draft of the script. I rewrote the ending to reflect what was happening in real life. Of course things change based on budget, locations and particularly cast, but the details/specifics of the world are hopefully what makes this unique.

TDQ: Besides directing, you also wrote and produced “Suburban Cowboy.” Does wearing that many hats on one project make it harder to easier for you in the process of getting it completed?

RC: I don’t know if it is easier, but it means I have more control. Since I’m obsessive about the things I’m working on, I also know I will get it done at the level I expect and plan for.

I love every part of the process. I got into filmmaking to make movies. Not to take lunches. Not to try and be cool in LA. Not to walk red carpets. Not to date actresses. I went to producing school and got my MFA from USC for three reasons; it’s the best film school in the world, they were crazy enough to let me in… and I knew that the way for me to become the best filmmaker possible was to understand the process from start to finish. And that meant script, financing, working with studios, etc…

“Suburban Cowboy” was the first project that I got to do exactly how I wanted – meeting every cast and crew member personally before bringing them on. And it turned into a fine-tuned set. In fact, we were so efficient that we only went into over-time on one day and were able to shave a day off our shoot schedule – on what was a micro-budget film, which is pretty rare. I need to give credit to the cast and crew though. Regardless of how many hats I wear, filmmaking is a group effort and I had some people working on the film at reduced rates out of sheer belief in me.

Ryan Colucci

Ryan Colucci: Con man. You know, like comic convention. He has a background in graphic novels. He is starting an animation studio!

TDQ: What project are you working on next?

RC: I’m currently co-directing Orient City, a hand-drawn animated samurai spaghetti western with Zsombor Huszka (who did the animated titles for Suburban Cowboy). We just finished the short film, but dove right into the feature. I recently returned from a few months in Budapest laying out the storyboards.

Up next for me on the live action side is a contained sci-fi thriller called Andover, a project written by Dikran Ornekian and Rylend Grant. You never know what will happen in terms of financing, so I wanted a project that could be done at the same budget level as Suburban Cowboy, but with the ability to stretch that money further (limited locations, small cast). Those guys crushed the script and there is interest in doing it at what can best be described as a non-micro budget. At a certain budget level you lose your ability to take risks creatively and make something different, so we’ll see how fast it can come together. As nice as it would be to take a step up, I don’t want to be on the shelf that long.

TDQ: Where do you see yourself and your career in five years?

RC: On the set of Orient City, the live action version.

Seriously though, there are projects and avenues I want to pursue and I have a very definitive plan in terms of which projects I want to do in which order… but to a large degree that is out of my hands. I can only keep them in the back of my mind as I make decisions and move forward. I want to stay as active as possible, for as long as I’m physically able. We are essentially starting an animation studio, so the goal is to constantly go from one hand-drawn film to the next with Zsombor, while also pursuing live action features and television.

For all of that to happen people have to go watch Suburban Cowboy. It is currently available for rent/purchase digitally; iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Dish, DirecTV, OnDemand (Time Warner or Comcast)… If it sounds at all interesting, give us a shot!

Be sure and follow Ryan on Twitter and check out his website.

“Do Not Wait Around For People To Make Your Dreams Come True – Go Off And Do It On Your Own:” A TDQ Q&A Filmmaker With Dave Zani

David Zani

David Zani

This week’s TDQ Q&A is with producer/director/writer Dave Zani. Dave spoke to us about the inspiration of growing up in the 1990s, being an amateur archaeologist and learning about show business from “Homicide: Life on the Streets”, “The Wire” and “Law & Order SVU” star Richard Belzer. Here is this week’s TDQ Q&A with Dave Zani:

The Daily Quarterly: What made you want to get into show business?

Dave Zani: I always loved movies and animation but I think that true moment it clicked for me when I was very young, maybe 4th grade. My parents took me on a family vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. It was the first time I had gone to the Universal theme park and back then, in 1994, they still had a lot of classic rides like the original King Kong ride with a giant animatronic ape! This blew my mind, I remember being stunned by it all. At the gift shop I bought some foam bricks – props. I was fascinated with this concept – fake things that seem real for the purpose of entertainment. That was a light-bulb moment that changed my life forever.

TDQ: What was your favorite sic-fi/horror movie growing up?

DZ: As a kid growing up, “Star Wars” – hands down. I was a kid in the mid 90’s , a dark time for Star Wars fans. It was in between “Jedi” and Episode 1, the stores literally had no Star Wars toys or anything. I had VHS tapes of the 3 original movies, the original cuts! I watched these over and over again until the tracking lines in the tape became too much to see past. I use to paint my other action figures to represent Star Wars characters since no toys were on the market then. I often think about how lucky a 10 year-old is right now, the Star Wars world is their oyster, hahaha. In high school, my friends and I got really into “Alien” and “Aliens.” The tone of the film was something that was another wonderful memory discovering.

TDQ: Who are your influences?

DZ: Since I was very young I always admired Walt Disney and Jim Henson, mostly because my mom adored them and their work. Later on, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, of course. Any kid growing up in my time would say the same, I think. As I grew older my scope and tastes began to vary with people like Roger Corman, Mike Judge, Jim Wynorski, Quentin Tarantino, Tyler Perry, Paul Hertzberg, Samuel Arkoff. I am fascinated by many different types of film and filmmakers. Things you would think are not on my list, I might be a big fan of because I enjoy and respect the process the filmmaker developed.

David Zani's Work

When you look back on things what are you going to see? Did you work on your dream projects? It sure looks like David Zani is.

TDQ: What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

DZ: I hear the same advice from people – they either say it directly to me or I hear other people say it in interviews and speeches. Do not wait around for people to make your dreams come true – go off and do it on your own. I believe this statement like it is a religion.

TDQ: What is the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?

DZ: Great question! I was once told to keep my “stupid ideas” to myself. I made sure to never do that!

TDQ: You’re also a member of the American Society for Amateur Archaeology. How does producing a movie compare to finding a rare historical artifact on a dig in some desert?

DZ: Film making is fun, it is a fulfilling career. I love to tell stories and entertain people but I think uncovering artifacts and stepping in the footprints of people from long ago is the most magical thing and lifts my spirits to very high places because it is true adventure. It does not include much stress (for me). I am not true scientist, of course, dealing with the politics of it all (which I am sure is very stressful). I often think about the moment that Howard Carter opened the door to King Tut’s chamber for the first time in 5,000 years. To see things no one has laid eyes on in that amount of time – just sitting there as the days passed, remarkable to think about.

TDQ: You’ve also worked with Richard Belzer, developing content for his website and his production company. What did you learn from working with him?

DZ: I loved working with Richard. He is a great comedic talent with outrageous vision and wit. It was one of the first times I was really working with someone who was well known. I was young and nervous at first, but he was so humble and funny it was easy to create cool work. On the smaller scale of things, I learned timing from Richard, the importance of it and the basics of developing good timing. On a larger scale, I think just learning about him and his career and all the different projects he has worked on, really showed me that you can go anywhere in this world.

TDQ: What project are you working on next?

DZ: Right now I am working on something really special. It is more mainstream, animated and has a rich story, for which I am very proud! It is an epic mythology I am creating, with my own modern twist. I will have more to say soon! To keep in the loop my website OldMillEntertainment.com will have updates in time.

TDQ: Where do you see yourself and Old Mill Entertainment in five years?

DZ: I believe that we will continue to expand our horizons and to continue developing projects that increase in sophistication and audience reach. I am fascinated with the mixing of genres to create new and fresh things, I am fascinated with history and the story of people on Earth – this is the foundation of my work. As I continue to learn more about my interests I will continue to create new stories and characters that people can relate to, be inspired by and be entertained with.

Be sure and follow Dave on Twitter and on Instagram.

“It Kind Of Encapsulated All Of My Interests And Kinda Blew My Young Mind:” A TDQ Q&A With Writer/Director Jay Weisman

Shockwave Darkside

Shockwave Darkside, written and directed by Jay Weisman combines the mystery of space, along with all the feelings of camaraderie and adrenaline brought about by just war against a common foe all wrapped in a video game cut scene like presentation that makes the viewer eagerly waiting for their turn to join in. That was my take, anyway.

This week’s TDQ Q&A is with writer and director Jay Weisman. Jay spoke to us about his latest film, “Shockwave Darkside,” the difference between directing movies and TV and how he stays grounded. Here is this week’s TDQ Q&A With Jay Weisman:

The Daily Quarterly: What made you want to be in show business?

Jay Weisman: I come from a long line of storytellers. My dad is quite the raconteur and so was my grandfather – who acted in Yiddish theater when he came to this country – so on one hand, it was a natural interest. On the other, I was always into space travel and technology – so those passions kinda merged into wanting to be a filmmaker, I guess. Specifically being a science-fiction filmmaker because I figured if I couldn’t have NASA send me to the moon, I could do the next best thing and just get a set together and put myself there!

TDQ: Who was your favorite director growing up?

JW: I guess it depends at what point in my life you asked me! I had a really great film education growing up, so I went through my Lucas and Spielberg phase, then Coppola and Kubrick and then I started learning about some of the great directors of the 30s and 40s like Michael Curtiz and Howard Hawks.

Then there were directors like James Cameron, David Lean and Ridley Scott who also had a huge influence on me. I’d have the equivalent of director mix tapes where I’d binge-watch seminal movies from their body of work and try and see how their style developed, what where their recurring themes and how they grew in ability.

Shockwave Darkside

Jay Weisman’s take on war in the stars is probably exactly what it will be like in the inevitable future.

TDQ: What was your favorite movie growing up?

JW: “Star Wars” – the original. Hands down! That movie had such an impact because it kind of encapsulated all of my interests and kinda blew my young mind. There were so many ground-breaking things in that movie – but it also was the first time I could look at something that I might be able to do someday. It’s like a first love.

TDQ: What was your favorite TV show growing up?

JW: Classic “Star Trek” and “Twilight Zone.” It’s interesting – the older I got, the more I realized that these shows had a real depth to them. So when I was younger, I’d tune into all the space battles and Captain Kirk derring-do of “Star Trek,” and twist endings of the “Twilight Zone” – but as I got older, it would start occurring to me that these stories were actually about so much more than seemingly what was presented on the screen. That, to me, is really the power of science fiction.

And if you see “Shockwave Darkside,” you can definitely see those influences in the film. I think those shows managed to become really great cautionary tales about our flirtation and adolescence with technology – and through that they could comment on things like religion, politics, civil rights and science in a way that was pretty innovative.

My dad was a also a huge fan of both of these shows, so I that was really our thing as I was growing up. Some fathers and sons have baseball, and we had Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry.
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Seven Fun Facts About George Lucas

Love him or hate him, George Lucas‘ place in cinema history certainly can’t be overstated. But think you know everything there is to know about the man behind “Willow?” Then test your knowledge about the filmmaker by reading these seven little-known facts about him:

Frasier

Lucas in a screen test for the Frasier pilot.

1) Lucas was hired as the original actor for Roz on “Frasier.”
During the first few days of rehearsals for the pilot episode, however, the writers found themselves having to re-write the characters of Roz and Frasier. It seemed that while Lucas was funny, he just couldn’t play “forceful.” It soon became apparent that that the role of Roz would have to fall to someone who, although less educated than Dr. Crane, would be in control of things at the radio station. They needed a character who could hold her own whenever Frasier became too pompous, and that someone was Peri Gilpin.

Al Gore

Al Gore helps college roommate George Lucas with a short film.

2) During his college years, one of his roommates was Al Gore.
The two shared a room at USC and, like plenty of college roomies, chased skirts together, even joining a country music band to get girls. The unlikely duo also served as the inspiration for the character of Oliver in Love Story, written by fellow USC alum Erich Segal.

3) The character of George Costanza on “Seinfeld” was based on him.
Both Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David were huge fans of his, and cite “THX 1138” as their favorite film of all time. As an homage to their idol, they named Jason Alexander’s character after him, and made him neurotic and cheap, just like Lucas himself.

Indiana Jones

Lucas insisted on re-filming scenes of Indiana Jones with actor Harrison Ford wearing the mask.

4) He originally envisioned Indiana Jones as a hockey mask-wearing serial killer.
Lucas wanted the serial killer to find himself searching for the Ark of the Covenant at the same time he was carving up Nazis and summer campers alike, but the script underwent several re-writes when Steven Speilberg joined in the fun, and Lucas never got to see his creation wield a machete like he’d hoped.

Whiffle Ball

George Lucas and Alec Guiness on the set of Star Wars always at the ready to play some whiffle ball.

5) He actually went to high school with a dude named Boba Fett.
At their 30th reunion, Lucas learned that his former pal had become an actuary for a Nevada insurance company.

6) Lucas is a world-class Wiffle Ball player.
He would often delay filming on “Star Wars” while he and Alec Guinness had home run derbies.

Camaro

The cost for Lucas to reclaim his Camaro? A re-cut version of Episodes I to III that is enjoyable to watch.

7) In 1993, he was reunited with his old car that he sold to finance “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Lucas sold his Bumblebee-striped black-and-gold 1971½ Chevy Camaro Z28 in 1978 after he needed some quick cash to fund the sequel to “Star Wars,” but got it back 15 years later after a lengthy internet search. Continue reading

TDQ Investigates: Too Little, Too Late, George Lucas

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - Extra Footage

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi extra footage, brought to light 30 years after the fact, conveniently fills a major Lucas plot hole.

If you read the right websites (like we do), or even if you read the wrong websites (like we do), then you’ve come across the latest exciting “Star Wars” news involving some long-lost “footage” of Yoda exonerating Obi-Wan Kenobi of not telling Luke the truth about his parentage.

The Facebook page Return of the Jedi Long Lost Edit Droid Laserdisc Discovered has been posting snippets with this “footage,” a short clip at a time, and in doing so, has put on the web a cut scene where Yoda is yammering on and on while on his death… area in his hut/cave thing. And he supposedly tells Luke that Obi-Wan would have spilled the beans about Vader SPOILER ALERT being Luke’s deadbeat Force-choking father long before now if Yoda had only let him.

The footage also is supposed to prove that George Lucas had addressed the whole issue of why Obi-Wan was so lousy at providing details that were shown in the “prequel” trilogy.

But we have to call BS, George. Nice try, but do you really think that we Fan Boys are going to forget how miserably you’ve treated us the past 20 years and how you’ve sullied your reputation and alienated your fan base with your re-releases and bonuses and Hayden Christensen insertions? Nope.

And no “newly discovered revelations” about how you had filled one of perhaps the LARGEST PLOT HOLES IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA is going to repair the damage you’ve done.
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