The filmmakers behind the short drama/ thriller film “Bullified” aren’t your average filmmaker. They are experienced, eager, and educated, but they also have some amazing stories to tell. From their experience working together less than a year ago to shoot “Bullified”, read on to learn some of their awesome stories!
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KW: How did you guys meet and come up with the idea for “Bullified”?
Steve: When I met Lee on the set of Send No Flowers, I already kind of’ knew who he was, I have been friends with his cousin since high school, who is also a fellow filmmaker. So, I introduced myself to Lee and we connected right away, I was telling him I would love to make a short. I never completed my college thesis film and I felt the urge to get this off my back and we started talking about different ideas that I had. A guy in a therapist office, maybe he is an ex bully then people die..ect… Two weeks later Lee called me up and emailed me the first draft of “Bullified”… I couldn’t stop reading it and I instantly knew what needed to be done…We partnered up and made the film. We called on MaryAnn Giannino, a legend on Long Island for casting and we started the ball rolling.
Lee: I met Steve and Russ on the set of Send No Flowers, a film I co-wrote for Long Island Director Fred Carpenter. Steve, unbeknownst to me grew up with my cousin who is also a film guy. Steve said he wanted to make a short, a bully movie that had some horror/slasher elements to it. It took me a couple of weeks to think about how we would make a bully movie that’s smart, suspenseful and where people were killed. So I thought about the residual effects of being bullied as a child and how it transferred into adulthood. I wanted to explore the aftermath of bullying in the adult years. When I finished the script, Steve immediately thought it would be a great story to film. And we thought Russ would be perfect for the role of Riley Samuel.
KW: Steve, the subject of bullying is one you have been tackling for a while, and you have been recognized by the National Bully Society. Can you tell me about that?
Steve: I made a bully based music video with the band Toxin and the label Kickin’ It, a kids anti bullying center loved it and picked it up to show at their events.
KW: Lee, you have been writing for over 10 years with accolades left and right. What led you to writing screenplays and film?
LEE: I always wanted to be in film. I grew up in a family owned video store and would watch countless hours of movies. I probably saw the first Superman movie like 50 times. To me, writing the story is the best part. The foundation of a film is a good story and that’s where I like to spend my time.
KW: Russ, you have worked on several excellent productions, including "The Night Never Sleeps" with Eric Roberts. How did you get started in the film industry?
RUSS: I originally started as an actor in theater 20+ years ago. I did a lot of regional and off (and off-off) Broadway theater. I ran with an improv troupe in the 90s and was a director and actor at a Shakespeare company in NYC in the early 2000s. I decided to start producing and directing my own independent film productions in 2003 and have never looked back. I have gotten to direct, produce and or star in 6 features films and numerous short films. Everything from dramatic narrative features to a documentary I shot and produced in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I taught acting for a while as well. I just love all aspects of each craft and I hope I can continue to find great people like the folks on "Bullified" to work with going forward.
KW: Your team was able to complete the production extremely quickly it appears. Can you talk about the production and the teamwork surrounding it?
Steve: The production was amazing. We generated donations from great friends and family. The money for the film was used wisely. We had a small crew and great actors. We were able to build a set and feed our actors/crews thanks to Dix Hills Pizzeria in the Deer Hills shopping center in Deer Park.
Lee: The quickness of the shoot is a testament to Steve’s passion for a subject and his ability to find others who believed in it. Our casting agent and producer MaryAnn Giannino was critical to making the shoot go smoothly. Her dedication to casting experienced actors and crew helped enormously with the filming. If you have seasoned people, a shoot goes a lot more smoothly.
KW: What are the plans with "Bullified"? I see it is starting to hit the film festival circuit.
Lee: We submitted “Bullified” to about a dozen film festivals. We’re very excited about getting into the Long Island International Film Expo and we hope we get into a few others before distribution. We have some online avenues lined up.
KW: On the Facebook page, there was mention of a feature? Are you turning "Bullified" into a feature film or is there something else in the works?
Steve: Things are always in the works.
Lee: We have a few stories in the works that we’re thinking about and a feature for “Bullified” is on our table.
KW: What was your favorite moment on set of "Bullified"?
Steve: If I told you I’d give away the movie, but one of my favorite scenes that we shot was the crime scene outside Evolution Sound Stage location in 10 degree weather.
Lee: My favorite moment on set was when I had the chance to be a crime scene investigator. I am not an actor by any means and by nature of being a writer I like to be behind the scenes. So when they gave me a gun and a badge, I was pretty excited about being in the movie. You barely see me in it, but it was fun to be an actor for a day.
Russ: As an actor the set was a real treat. It was exactly the kind of project I love. Not a lot of "extra" stuff… Just two actors, (usually) across from each other have to react truthfully, moment to moment. That is what I have been trained to do and love when I can get to do it.
KW: For each of your respective roles on "Bullified", what is your advice to independent filmmakers who want to start their own film production?
Steve: Advice is — have a good script, know your script and every detail including the characters in the script. Keep shooting as much as you can and practice. The more practice we get the more lessons we learn to make better films.
Lee: Know your script backward and forward. Things can change rapidly on set if you’re unsure of the script and what direction you’re going to take. If you know your material and stay on course you may not have to fix something in post that could have easily been prevented by sticking with the script.
Russ: My advice to young filmmakers is always the same…go out and shoot. Film schools are terrific learning places and even better places to network for future connections but, take some of that money, buy the equipment and go out and shoot. Make mistakes but keep producing. There is NO substitute for DOING IT. And for young directors and writers out there… take and acting class. Understand the craft that you are charged to guide on a film set. Speak the language of "story" first and "plot" second. The most important thing is get across what it is you are trying to say with your piece.. So go out and say it… truthfully. Truth is always more important than Perfect.
Thank you guys! It should be noted that after this article was written, “Bullified” won Best First Film at the Long Island International Film Expo! Congratulations guys!