Buffalo boy brings it home
Director Raymond Guarnieri’s first feature film ready for theaters
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 18:03
The last time The Spectrum covered Buffalo Boys, Raymond Guarnieri’s real work was just getting started. He has since edited tirelessly, lost countless hours of sleep and put all of his time, money and resources into his first feature film.
The finished project has exceeded his expectations.
Buffalo Boysis based on a true story that 23-year-old actor and director Ray Guarnieri witnessed first hand while growing up in the suburbs of Buffalo. As an outsider looking in on the life of the film’s troubled main character, Guarnieri knew the story was worth sharing with the world.
But he has a story of his own.
Guarnieri left Buffalo immediately after high school to chase his dream of finding work in the film industry. After a positive experience with acting in high school and the go-ahead from his family, he chose to radically change his surroundings and move to New York City in order to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA).
“The first night I was terrified,” Guarnieri said. “My parents left me in this tiny little box of a dorm room in the middle of Midtown Manhattan where it’s constantly loud with thousands and thousands of people all around you all the time. I knew no one. I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing? I miss my bedroom.’”
Guarnieri learned to adapt and found New York City to be the perfect place to start his career. The friends he made in his small Midtown dorm are still his best friends today. Together with Matt Tester and Mckenzie Trent, Guarnieri co-founded Better StirFry Productions in 2010.
Both Tester and Trent worked on Buffalo Boys as actors and producers. Tester, a 24-year-old from London, England said the project was first planned out in his Brooklyn apartment.
“It’s a passion project for Ray,” Tester said. “He put everything into it and really drove the project forward. It’s been really crazy – two years in the making with lots of ups and downs. When we started, we didn’t envision it being this big, but now we’ve put the time and effort in and the experience has been very fulfilling.”
For Guarnieri, it meant a great deal to make his first big project a story that brought him back to his roots in Buffalo. Not only was the story close to home, so to speak,but the City of Buffalo itself offered unique opportunities for making a film that other cities don’t have.
“You can shoot a movie that takes place just about anywhere [in Buffalo],” Guarnieri said. “There’s tons of really old architecture, you can shoot period pieces, you’ve got four seasons and it’s very diverse. Buffalo needs another industry … Buffalo having a really strong film industry is a better Buffalo. Period. I will shoot as much of every one of my [future] films in Buffalo as I can.”
Guarnieri took full advantage of Buffalo’s resources and diversity while shooting his film, and he even chose to return for part of the editing process.
His original plan was to edit the entire project himself, but this proved to be too daunting of a task to take on alone. Guarnieri’s search for an editing partner brought him back to Buffalo where he hired the help of his close friend Don Burns.
At the time, Burns, a 32-year-old Buffalo native, had recently left a position at Full Circle Studios, a production company in Buffalo. Burns had already worked on Buffalo Boys as the cinematographer and director of photography, and his strong ties with Full Circle made him a perfect fit for the editing position.
Guarnieri said the “stars aligned” when he asked Burns to sign on for post-production.
“We hit it off right away,” Burns said. “We saw eye to eye with making creative decisions. I was really impressed with Ray’s level of knowledge and leadership for only being 22 years old [at the time]. That was refreshing to see.”
Guarnieri and Burns were able to use the facilities at Full Circle, where they worked tirelessly for more than three and a half months making the rough cut of the film into a finished product – segment by segment.
While Burns was not the first person that Guarnieri approached for the editing job, he was ultimately the perfect fit.
“He’s the kind of guy you want to have a beer with, but at the same time, he knows how to switch that off and remain hyper-focused and do what he needs to do to get the best result,” Guarnieri said of Burns. “To find someone who’s like that is, in my opinion, pretty rare. I like to think of Buffalo Boys as only the beginning of my working relationship with him and our friendship, too.”
Burns’ embodiment of Buffalo’s “City of Good Neighbors” spirit was a common thread within the crew that consisted almost entirely of Buffalo natives.
Guarnieri has been working that same charm to get his film funded and recognized by critics and audiences alike before submitting to a list of coveted film festivals.
The most crucial element of this process is the Buffalo Boys Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is an online funding program that allows people with creative projects to set a goal for fundraising with one simple rule: meet or exceed the pledged goal within a specific deadline and receive whatever funds have been raised. Miss the goal – receive nothing.
Guarnieri described Kickstarter as the newest, most popular way to fund a project of this kind.