Meet Richard Selvi: The Filmmaker of the Next Generation
Written by Serena Liegey
Born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, Richard Selvi has been a prime example of how a person can blaze his way through a gated industry with extraordinary success.
- I’d like to congratulate you on such an extraordinary film! What prompted you to make this piece?
Thank you very much! I’ve always wanted to make a film based off of the relationships I have and had with my siblings. It’s been very important to me all along through making the film that I maintain a clear understanding of which of my characters represented which of my siblings. When you watch the film and if you happen to know my family, I’m sure it is very apparent. I’d consider it successful in that way, as I’ve managed to convey a chemistry and a relationship on screen which did not exist prior to that based off of my life off screen.
- As a member of the audience, what makes this film so compelling?
My story is told through Mike Simms, the eldest brother of 3. In the beginning of the movie Mike sacrifices and surrenders himself to the police after a robbery gone wrong in order to save and better his younger sibling’s lives. Years later when he comes out of jail, Mike realizes his sacrifice did not amount to anything and the relationship he had with his siblings is now non-existent. All of their lives, interest and priorities have changed from the past and they have all singularly moved on. Mike is going to have to set the right example as an elder brother again in order to reconcile their broken relationship.
I believe anyone who has siblings, not only being the elder brother can relate to this film. We all know how it feels to love your sibling with all your heart for one second and the other second you want to throw him out the window. It’s a fun chemistry and relationship to explore, especially because it’s extremely different from family to family. Finding the common thread while talking to my friends, family, strangers has been a very fun process for the story development as well as the comedic aspect and most importantly, the drama.
The fun and charming thing about this movie as well is the fact it deals with seniors. In the beginning the characters are about 25 years old. In the rest of the film they are about 60 years old. You can imagine there is a lot of humor that comes out of the fact they have to stay in touch with the current technologically advanced world they live in even though they were brought up in the 50’s.
- What are the main themes in your film and how are they used to tell the story?
As I mentioned earlier, I think the theme that ties this movie together from beginning to end is the brotherhood reconciliation aspect. Ultimately, it’s what drives the story and pushes the characters to make the decisions they choose to make versus me trying to choose what plot event they should go through next. It’s organic and it feels more natural to have your story unfold through your theme rather than your plot. Right?
If there was no brotherhood tying the characters together on an emotional standpoint, Mike would have never put his life on the line, not once but twice to save a broken relationship.
I think that anyone who has a sibling relationship or any sort of strong quality bond will have their own interpretation of the situations portrayed in the film. Under the fun caper/comedy aspect of it, there is a real heart to the story which makes it relatable to an audience and therefore, very personal.
- How has the screenplay and film evolved over the course of the development and production stages?
Originally, “Oiled Up” had been written as a 110-page feature screenplay. In order for us to receive funding and prove we could handle such a story on both on an emotional and visual standpoint, a short format stand alone film based off of the feature was the best way to go.
Obviously from writing the feature to transforming the premise into a short and then shooting it, the film has considerably changed throughout its development stages (for the better!).
My actors have been one of the most rewarding learning experiences in my life and I am forever grateful that I was able to assemble such a beautifully talented cast.
When working with seasoned actors like Eric Roberts, Cathy Moriarty, Vincent Pastore or Chuck Zito, they bring so much to the table for you as a director to pick and choose from it makes your job both so much more fun, and spontaneous. It’s also a great stress relief when you can finally hear your lines and see your actions come to life. I remember this one interrogation scene, I sat down with Vinnie Pastore, Chuck Zito and Larry Romano for about 20 minutes away from the set during the first lighting set up of the day; we threw the whole scene away and rewrote it using the main structure and rehearsing it the day of. In the moment, it just felt like the right thing to do. It didn’t feel like the rehearsal room and both the actors and I agreed this would be better to modify the scene. That’s something I don’t think you can get with actors that are up and coming. Seasoned actors built more confidence through the years and therefore are able to throw a scene away, rewrite and rehearse it on the spot and still make it work. That’s the beauty of filmmaking: collaboration.
- What has the response of the viewers been like?
So far everyone that it has been shown to, including the cast, crew, my friends and family, all seemed like they enjoyed the film. Often times, I think: “If my mom thinks it’s bad, then I know I’m screwed”, but this time, she actually complimented me and could not be more proud, so I’m happy!
We have not screened in front of a festival audience or any type of showcase yet, so I am eager to see the reactions in the cinema room when the movie plays. I really would like to know, what makes people laugh? Was it what I had designed to be comical or are they laughing at something completely different? Are they going to engage with my characters? Are they going to be able to relate? Are they going to enjoy the film? If so, what did they enjoy?
All those questions are constantly running through my head, but I think ultimately if the movie comes from an honest, truthful place in your heart, and you as a filmmaker love it, then your audience will too.
- That’s amazing! What do you take away from the feedback you are given the most?
Honestly the greatest deal of feedback I have received was during the editing and post-production stages. You really feel like you are re-writing your film in the editing room. It’s a long and tedious process but I enjoy it so much. It’s like this huge puzzle you have to solve in order to build a story that works on screen. It might have worked on set, but when you get to the editing room, you find yourself constantly trying to tell your story in the best way possible. If you do too much it’ll be cliché and if you don’t do enough they’ll get bored. It’s fun because those are the most important moments to show your film to your close friends and family. After years of making movies I have realized that your best friends and your mother, will hit you with the truth any day. If your film doesn’t make sense, then they will tell you and you can go back and re-edit until it makes sense again. It’s really hard to see the flaws in an edit when you are sunk into it for 2 months 12 hours a day everyday, where as, a more exterior point of a view helps a great deal to spot the weaknesses.
- What is your prime objective in describing your film in such high detail and where do you think it will go?
I am beyond thankful to be able to write about the production of “Oiled Up”. The opportunity for filmmakers to have a platform to express themselves about their projects I believe is something crucial to their own development and growth as well as a great way to spotlight their work.
I am hoping that putting the word out on “Oiled Up” will help me showcase the different talents of the many people involved in the completion of the film as well as introduce myself as a new important voice in the filmmaking industry.
As of today, it’s been nothing but a rewarding experience and if I had to do it all over again, I would without changing a thing!
- In exceeding the pressing message of the film, which people come into play including producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors and so forth?
For now, I am not really looking to add anyone into the “Oiled Up” team per say, but I am looking to sell the story and the screenplay so it can be re-developed and brought to life as a feature film. I’d love to direct it, but I have many other stories up my sleeve I want to make as well which will require both funding and time.
- What is the ultimate feedback you would like to receive? Do you believe that this film will change the perception of familial backgrounds and relationships?
Obviously, I’d like for everyone to love the movie, but I know how taste works. As I said earlier, you, as a filmmaker, will never be able to please everybody. That’s something you have to face very early on as an artist and come to terms with. When I screen my film this week at the LA Shorts Festival, I know some people will love it and some people may not appreciate it- but I made that film for the audience I believe will enjoy it. I have made this film because I needed to tell that story the way I did. That should be the only thing that matters, because once again if you cared, nurtured, loved and worked towards its conception, then your audience will subconsciously feel the same way when they view this piece of work.
- What is a question that would trigger a conversation amongst people regarding “Oiled Up”?
I believe a key question I’d like to ask anyone that sees the film is: Do you have younger siblings? If so, do you ever feel like you have sacrificed yourself to benefit them? Have they interpreted it the same way you did, or did they feel it was something you had to do for them?
Asking those questions will allow me to identify both the elder brother’s opinions as well as the younger sibling’s perspectives. It will also allow my audience to compare themselves and their experience with the perspective I’ve showed them on screen and what my interpretation of brotherhood and ethics is.
- What are you developing or working on now?
Since the successful completion of “Oiled Up”, my producer, Richard D’Angelo has kept producing short films, advertisements, TV pilots and all sorts of video content.
More recently he has just finished producing a short film called “O2” directed by a close friend of mine, Sultan Al Saud. The film takes place in a world where the air is toxic and the government regulates distribution of oxygen. Marcus Davis, an Oxygen trafficker, is captured in order to help take down the resistance movement. The film stars Paul Telfer, Robert Bogue, Toni Belafonte, Anthony Robert Grasso & Aviad Bernstein. “O2” has been shot and edited by Andrew Pulaski which has also edited “Oiled Up”.
Both films have many similar crew and production members and I believe that is showcased in both of the film’s overall qualities.
Aside from that, I have been keeping busy developing my new feature screenplay about the perception and impact of divorce through the eyes of children. It’s a story that I keep very close to my heart and pretty much a fictionalized version of my childhood. I am co-writing the piece and hoping to go in production sometime next year. I believe it’s a story everyone should know about in order to change the way adults communicate with children including raising awareness about the consequences of handling divorce as it has become such a norm.
Film Title: “Oiled Up”
Logline: After Mike, the elder brother of three sacrifices his life as free man in order to benefit his younger sibling’s lives and relationships, when he comes out jail twenty years later, he comes to realize his sacrifice did not amount to anything. Mike will have to reconcile their broken relationship after all the years of being apart from each other.
Length: 14 minutes
Director: Richard Selvi
Producer: Richard D’Angelo, RDA Productions.
Casting Director: Donna McKenna, C.S.A
Cast: Chuck Zito, James Mcaffrey, Lou Martini Jr, Cathy Moriarty, Vincent Pastore, Larry Romano & Eric Roberts
Writer: Richard Selvi & John Faughnan
Original Score by: David James Rosen
Made in association with: S.L.V Pictures
Where can I watch it in the next month?
September 6th, 5.30pm. Regal Cinemas at L.A Live as part of the Official Selection of the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival.
Trailer on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/180781329