Saturday, September 16, 2017

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with 'Suburban Cowboy' Director, Ryan Colucci

Suburban Cowboy, from Ryan Colucci and Grammy-nominated EDM artist Dragan Roganovic (aka Dirty South), is a gritty story that offers insight into the otherwise hidden world of drug dealing and its consequences. It follows a drug dealer on Long Island who finds himself over his head when one of his soldiers robs a connection to ruthless Serbian gangsters. When the debt falls on his shoulders, he is forced to take drastic measures. Frank Raducz Jr, Alandrea Martin, Louie Iaccarrino, and Matty Finocchio star and the film is currently out of VOD platforms.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the director, Ryan Colucci about the film.  Here is my exclusive interview where we talk about what it takes to get started in movie making and the issue of how piracy affects the movie making industry.

MARLA REED: When was it that you first decided you wanted to make movies? 

RYAN COLUCCI: Somewhere around my junior year of college. 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 – which was my big break into the industry. 

MR: Did you have a lot of support in that decision? 

RC: Dropping out of Villanova and going to film school was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Having just studied at what is arguably the best school in the world at Cambridge, I was near the top of my class in the finance school at Villanova and well on my way to being financially successful after graduation. Having that conversation was easily the most difficult talk I’ve ever had. They weren’t necessarily pleased, because of where my life was headed if I stayed on the current path… but they never once waivered in their support of me. My mom and dad have always been there for me with this crazy decision I made… no matter how low I’ve sunk or high I’ve risen. I can only hope to be half the parents they are. 
And my entire family, from siblings to uncles and aunts and cousins (a sprawling Irish-Italian family), have always been there for me. 

MR: How does one start though? Do you enroll in film school or just go out there with your camera and shoot something – I imagine it’s different for everyone? 

RC: I can only speak for myself, because my path was not a straight line. I dropped out of Villanova and finished undergrad at Hofstra University on Long Island. Then getting accepted to the Peter Stark Producing MFA Program at USC was really my break into the industry. It was the first time I was surrounded by people that were just as passionate about film as I was… and it opened a lot of doors someone like me had zero access to. But it is just an invitation into this world… any real momentum and traction takes a lot of sacrifice, patience and really hard work to really break through. As good as USC is, and high profile the Stark program is – out of 24 students in my year, over half of them aren’t even in the industry in any capacity anymore. 

MR: How did you come up with the name Spoke Lane, Entertainment for your production company? 

RC: It is named after the street I grew up on in Levittown, NY. My father grew up on the same street, then my dad bought the house from my grandfather – and my uncle and my cousins bought the house directly across the street.  My mom grew up around the corner. We’re a close Italian-Irish family and I just thought it made sense.

MR: Regarding your latest movie. Suburban Cowboy, how did you come up with the concept for this film? 
RC: I have a lot of scripts… some that I know aren’t ready and some I love but are more expensive. After shopping each one, realizing the market was shrinking, I would write another that was smaller.  Until I eventually sat down to write one where I said to myself, “I can do this for 50k if need be with natural light.” 

That brought me to Suburban Cowboy, which is inspired by true events. Someone I know pretty well was involved in the weed trade and when he got out of prison the first time he passed me a notebook that he called an autobiography. It was very episodic and didn’t really add up to much… but the world was exciting to me. The idea that the really normal looking guy who lives next to you is a criminal is interesting. When people conjure up drug dealers and crime lords, they are these stocks characters in genre films. So I wanted to make something that was more realistic, especially for where I grew up on Long Island. I cherry picked some of the best stories he had and crafted something that actually had a plot, and I leaned on him and a few other friends in terms of making the smallest details as realistic as possible. 

MR: And why was it decided to make the movie now?

RCWith Suburban Cowboy, everything sort of feel into place.  My previous film with Dragan Roganovic (aka Dirty South to electronic music fans) went to #1 on iTunes in the US and 16 other countries. After that it was less, ‘are we going to do something next’ and more, ‘what is next?’  He read Suburban Cowboy and it was like he could see the score/soundtrack immediately, which I’m sure is the first step for him mentally… and it was off to the races. It was a great partnership, of two very type-A people who somehow never fought. The things he’s good at, I’m not… and vice versa. It helps when you share a common vision for the final product. 

MR: What’s your take on what Netflix has announced in recent weeks? Is that good or bad for the film industry? 

RC: I love Netflix and what they are doing, but I have to be honest that I don’t know what they announced in recent weeks. I just back from two months in Budapest where I was laying out the storyboards for a hand-drawn samurai spaghetti western called 'Orient City'.

MR: In terms of VOD channels, do you have a favorite? 

RC: I have two Roku boxes, but would say that I use iTunes the most in terms of renting/buying films. Sometimes I will also use Amazon (because I have Prime and use the streaming service).  I live out of a suitcase and sometimes it is easier to watch a film on my ipad – and that’s probably why I use iTunes more than the rest. 

MR: What’s your take on all these pirate boxes – like KODI – will the powers-that-be be able to stop them? 

RC: I think piracy needs to be addressed if we want to sustain the middle-class of filmmaking. It isn’t going to kill the tentpoles, but for filmmakers like myself who aren’t even close to that level… I go film to film.  And with a film like Suburban Cowboy, I took no fee on it because that enabled me to get the film made.  On one hand, I understand it. Films can be expensive and then you have to sit through FBI warnings and advertisements/trailers before the actual film starts.  Where as you can download a film and watch it immediately.  Does anyone not realize that pirating a movie is illegal?  Do studios/distributors actually think the FBI warning at the beginning of a movie has deterred a single person from doing so?  Make the process easier, price things accordingly and it will help remove piracy.  Take a page out of the music industry – albums and singles were really expensive until Napster came along.  Then iTunes priced singles at 99 cents and albums accordingly… and it was almost like ‘why bother trying to steal this?’
You are never going to eliminate this stuff entirely. They should crack down as hard as possible, but not at the audience’s expense. 

MR: How much does piracy hurt filmmakers? 

RC: I won’t know for a few months how it has hurt me in regard to Suburban Cowboy specifically… but it definitely makes it harder to do this for a living. I am a pretty open book – most of the years I have been doing this it has been well under minimum wage. There have been moments where I had $200 to my name. The last year or so has been good, and I am finally starting to pay off some massive debt – but I honestly have no idea where the next monies are coming from. It could never happen, it could be next week or in six months. I’m not complaining – I do what I love and there are sacrifices you have to make for that to happen… but I’d be living in a fairy tale land if I didn’t think piracy hurt the bottom line. 

MR: What are your hopes for this movie? 
RC: I’d love for people to watch the film and be unnerved by it, just knowing that this world exists right under your nose… but also enjoy the ride you go on. 
For that to happen people need to actually watch the film.  So my hope, more than anything, is that as many eyeballs as possible see it.  It’s really hard, especially when you make a small movie, and marketing is that one side of the film business I am truly deficient in… but I’m working my butt off and hopefully we can crack through even a tiny bit. It is currently available for rent/purchase digitally. If it sounds at all interesting, give us a shot!

We here at Merc with a Movie Blog would like to give a big shout out of thanks to Ryan Colucci and October Coast Publicity for the opportunity to have such an amazing interview with Ryan.
You can stream Suburban Cowboy on any one of the following platforms:

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