“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.

“I Often Joke That I Eat Elephants For A Living:” A TDQ Q&A With Director Brad Douglas

Brad Douglas

Brad Douglas, living the dream. Wearing all the hats! No, not real hats. Read the article.

This week’s TDQ Q&A is with writer/director/producer Brad Douglas. Brad spoke to us about his latest project, “Bestment,” all the hats he wore while making it and the joys of making movies in Oregon. Here is this week’s TDQ Q&A with Brad Douglas:

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

Brad Douglas: I grew up in small town Oregon with my grandparents. It was a pretty sleepy existence for a kid. I watched a lot of TV and movies and was enamoured by the medium. Spent some time doing back yard 8mm stuff and eventually video, but it has always been something that I love. Maybe because of the glamour of doing something you love for a living but mostly the process of creating.

TDQ: Who was your favorite writer/director growing up?

BD: I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to who wrote and directed films until I was in my late teens working at a video store. That was in the 80s so the regular suspects like Scorsese, Carpenter, Spielberg, etc. were prominent names that I associated good films with. I still don’t know if I have a favorite, but there are several that are damn good at what they do.

TDQ: What was your favorite movie growing up?

BD: I really loved “Saturday Night Fever” when it came out and also “Every Which Way But Loose” with that God-damned ape LOL. Then came “Star Wars”….need I say more?

TDQ: What was the best advice you ever got?

BD: My grandmother always told me to bite off more than you can chew and keep chewing. How relevant is that to the movie making world in a nut shell?

TDQ: What was the worst advice you ever got?

BD: I had some pretty negative Nellie’s in my family that told me I was foolish to think I could ever get into the business. If I would have stayed in that small town and listened to that s—, I probably never would have, but I didn’t and neither should anyone who believes in themselves.

TDQ: Who are your influences?

BD: That’s a great question that has many answers. I’ve looked at a lot of work from all types of directors over the years and for sure do have an influence on my creative. However, no one film maker is all 100% all good or all bad. For example, Spielberg teaches you to drive the movie with the story and the audience will forgive weaknesses, Lynch shows you how to mind screw your audience and not be ashamed that it makes no sense, Kevin Smith shoves a wild premise right down your throat (“Red State”) and like it. By learning successful elements from each you can essentially create a movie like a good soup. And everyone loves soup.

BradDouglas, <em>Besetment</em>

Look at how many times “Brad Douglas” appears in that credit block! That’s a lot of hats! No, not real hats. Read the article.

TDQ: Tell us about the latest movie you directed, “Besetment”

BD: I was living at a mountain resort in Oregon when I wrote it. It started out as a short but I just kept writing and pretty soon it was feature length. The story of an unemployed girl in a small town had a lot of relevance at the time. I had visited the town of Mitchell, Oregon earlier and decided I wanted to make a movie there so I intersected the two and ended up with “BESETMENT.” It’s a disturbing story that could very well be true I guess. I mean what’s really scary in life? Monsters or deranged people? I say the latter. I wrote the role of Mildred specifically for Marlyn Mason who in my opinion kills it! She took the movie to a whole other level. Abby Wathen came into my life on another film that fell apart so we were trying to do something else that summer and I just so happened to have the script on my shelf. She was a hell of a trooper through some pretty uncomfortable conditions. She was just what the role needed and I’m so glad she made me make this movie! I really enjoyed using a lot of characters along the way and a very diverse locations list. That’s the beauty of Oregon. Pick a location and write a movie around it rather that the opposite. There are many to choose from and you don’t need a back lot studio to do it. Plus the people are very welcoming of filmmaking, unlike a lot of Californians where they’re sick of it. And trust me, it’s not hard to get LA actors to spend a month in Oregon. It really is beautiful.

TDQ: You also wrote and produced “Bestement.” Did you find it a positive experience wearing so many hats on a project, or do you think it’s easier to just have one single role in making a film?

BD: I’m not going to lie, writing, producing and directing is an enormous amount of work but I did it out of necessity. Especially directing. I often joke that I eat elephants for a living and there’s a lot of truth to that. Thank God I had such a good cast so I could just concentrate on fundamentally shooting the film. I made some mistakes that I deserve to be pointed out for, but that’s what first films are for and I learned a ton. Near the end of fimling, Chuck Greenwood (DP) and I were really clicking and when we started the next film in December of this year we picked up right where we left off. Producing is super important and though I have a lot of support from my producing crew I am involved a lot. Pre-Production is crucial for principal to work. I haven’t written any more scripts mainly because I’m so busy in production. But it’s a love hate job. Maybe I’ll write the sequel to “Besement.” I think there’s enough there for it. Let’s see how the public likes the film before I lock myself in my head for a month LOL.

TDQ: What project are you working on next?

BD: I produced and directed a film in December called “Between the Trees,” written by Sam Klarreich, about a guy having relationship troubles taking his buddies up to a remote hunting cabin where they find out the real troubles are in the trees that surround them. It’s another twisted little flick. I am also in development on a script about the dark side of horse racing. Veteran writer, Michael Kane wrote it and Abby somehow got a hold of it and sent it to me. I have been racing thoroughbreds for most of my adult life so it seems like a good fit. It’s drama though, so we’ll see. Dramas scare me!

TDQ: Where do you see yourself in five years?

BD: Ha. Check with me in 5 days. Seriously, though I hope to knock out a couple films a year as long as we keep getting distribution and it pencils. The business changes so much year to year that it’s hard to see if this is going to be a viable endeavour and for how long. Let’s hope so because I’m having a blast.

Check out Brad’s Facebook page.

“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.

Famed Robot And Ewok Kenny Baker Passes Away At 83

Kenny Baker

Kenny Baker, bottom, with Brian DiMaio, middle, and Peter Mayhew, top, at an event promoting Return of the Jedi. DiMaio was told that his droid character ICUP-3O was going to replace C-3PO in the next Star Wars Episode due in 1986. Suffice to say that many were disappointed.

Lancashire, UK—Kenny Baker, who beep-beep-bopped his way into the hearts of millions of “Star Wars” fans acting inside R2-D2, has died after a long illness. He was 83.

Standing only three feet, eight inches tall, he also played the Ewok Paploo in “Return of the Jedi.”

Besides his very important parts in the first six “Star Wars” films, he also appeared in such films as “Time Bandits,” “Flash Gordon,” “RECOiL” and “Labyrinth.”

On television, Baker appeared in such programs as “Casualty,” “The Muppet Show,” “The Goodies” as well as a BBC production of “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

He was credited as a consultant in the most recent “Star Wars” film, “The Force Awakens.”

So far, no comment has been provided by his “Star Wars” co-star and well-known douche bag Anthony Daniels.

He is survived by two children.

“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.
Continue reading