By: Alyssa Zauderer
Not everyone gets second chances in life. Sometimes even if you’ve received a second chance, the consequences will still follow. This concept is one that Ray Guarnieri kept close while directing his first feature film “Buffalo Boys.”
So originally you were an actor, how did you make the transition over to director?
I got into this business through acting. I graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts. I worked for about 2 years trying to get started as an actor. I got into acting to do theater originally. After I graduated I wasn’t getting cast in any plays. I was freelancing with an agency and I kept getting cast in indie films, short films and student films. I spent so much time on film sets with indie productions. If you have the right attitude you can learn a lot about the whole film making process and that’s what I did. I spoke with my friends Matt Tester and Mckenzie Trent who are two of the producers on Buffalo Boys. They’re also fellow actors and we would talk about not getting cast in the type of roles we would like to play…typical actors trying to make it in New York talk. So we decided we would start our own production company, buy some camera equipment and create our own roles with characters we wanted to explore.
And the film was inspired by a true story?
I was friends with this kid who the main character is inspired by in middle school. When we made that switch to high school we started to grow apart. It was those high school years that he started to go down the wrong path. He and this other boy get sucked into this plan to murder an old woman to collect her life insurance policy. So it’s a bit of a crime drama but it also has very strong family drama elements.
Because this was someone you knew, what were you looking for when you casting Ian. What was the most important thing for you to capture this person?
It’s funny; I was very stubborn during the casting process. For Ian I wanted someone that was going to be just like the real character both physically and personality-wise. The real character was a little guy but was very well built. He had a temper but he could be a really fun guy to be around, he was a pistol and I wanted to try and find that in a person. Being an indie production we had to go with what options we had. I was lucky enough to find Paul Castro Jr (plays Ian) who was a little guy. The two main characters are entering their junior year in high school. They had to be able to pull that off but also be mature enough to handle the emotional weight of the film. I was really lucky to find Paul and Rodney Mack.
Paul is not like the main character himself, but he’s such a great actor that after meeting and rehearsing with him prior to shooting, by the time we got to set I felt he really had a grasp of the character the way I thought he should be portrayed. It’s not exactly like who the real person was but a version of him that delivers the message of the story effectively.
The film was shot in Buffalo, will the places be very recognizable to people from Buffalo?
I think that there definitely will be some places that people will recognize. One of the things that was important to me when making this film was that it represents not just Buffalo, but any urban or suburban area of America which is most of the country. While the story is set in Buffalo and shot 100% on location; I wanted it to appeal to people everywhere. I didn’t try to make the film “you’re only going to get it if you’re from Buffalo. In my experience, talking to other people about the film and the story and the message behind it, I find people all the time saying “you know, I know someone who did something like this.” People have their own versions of this story and they know someone, they know someone who knows someone. It may not be something that everyone can relate to but can emphasize with. It’s one of those real life stories that you hear happen all the time and you don’t really get that insiders point of view. That’s what we really wanted to do with it.