Buffalo Boys on the big screen
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Outsiders might have preconceived notions of Buffalo, but they don’t call it “the rough Buff” for nothing.
Buffalo Boysis a film that examines the theme of fatherlessness and its damage in a young person’s life. This adaptation of atrue story takes place in Buffalo, but according to director Raymond Guarnieri, it could have taken place anywhere in American suburbia.
The main character of the film grows up in a home where he is misled about who his real father is. After discovering his “father” is merely his stepfather, the 15-year-old falls into a world of drugs and violence along with a friend, as they plot to murder an elderly woman and collect her life insurance.
Guarnieri was a witness to this story as a youth growing up in Buffalo. Although he is not at liberty to share details on the real-life characters, he knew the main character and said his tough-guy attitude depicted on screen is true to his real-life persona. Guarnieri and this boy grew apart as they entered high school, but the boy’s death inspired him to start writing the film in 2010.
“Many things in the film are exactly as they happened, while many things aren’t even close,” Guarnieri said. “The only people who can judge how it really was are the people who knew these boys.”
Guarnieri was born and raised in the Buffalo area and attended Clarence High School. Although he feels a strong connection to this area, it was immediately after high school that he left for New York City to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
“I had a strong feeling of needing to get out and see the world,” Guarnieri said. “As great of a place as [Buffalo] is, it’s very bubble-like. I mean that in the nicest way, but you have to get out and experience different things.”
Strong feelings and memoriesbrought Guarnieri back for his film.
In an attempt to maintain a level of authenticity, Guarnieri knew filming in Buffalo was a must. Many of the film’s scenes take place in the actual locations where the main characters lived their daily lives.
“There’s a certain kind of energy that you lose if you try to fake that,” Guarnieri said.
Despite staying true to the story’s real location, Guarnieri is willing to defend Buffalo as an excellent area to shoot films. Working in Buffalo is cheaper than New York City or Los Angeles, and Guarnieri found the people of Buffalo to be particularly helpful and friendly.
Buffalo Boys’production manager, Joel Resnikoff, runs Buffalo Film Group, a non-profit organization that works to promote the infrastructure for fostering film and TV production in Buffalo.
“Buffalo has fantastic architecture,” Resnikoff said. “You can shoot any time period – almost any era from the mid-1800s and even some older than that. There’s all these parks and Letchworth, the lake and Niagara Falls are close by.”
Buffalo Boyswas filmed entirely in August after four months of pre-production. Locations include the old Pierce Arrow administrative building on Elmwood Avenue for a rave scene and Buffalo landmark Mighty Taco.
Approximately 150 people contributed to making this film, and many came from the Western New York area. The first round of casting was held at Samuel’s Grand Manor in Williamsville, where 80 percent of the roles were cast. Guarnieri praised the talented actors who worked on the film and said actors from the area are often limited in the number of creative projects available in Buffalo.
“The cast came to set already knowing what to do,” Guarnieri said. “It’s really rare that a director will be like ‘great!’ on the first take and not have that many acting notes.”
Guarnieri is a founding member of production company Better Stir Fry Productions. Co-founders McKenzie Trent and Matt Tester are both executive producers of Buffalo Boys, along with Jason Montalvo and Resnikoff.
Guarnieri and Tester play small roles in the film, while Trent has a larger role as the main character’s mother. The group all started in the entertainment industry as aspiring actors and met on other projects. When they formed their current production company, their aim was to maintain roles in various levels of filmmaking.
Guarnieri has drifted toward a writing/directing mindset, and he was last featured as an actor in the 2010 film Payin’ the Price, where he worked alongside one of the lead actors in Buffalo Boys, Ro Mack.
Buffalo Boysis now in its editing stages. Guarnieri will do a rough cut on his own before working alongside other editors to complete the finished product.
His work has just begun.
Guarnieri and his crew are considering submitting their project to the Sundance Film Festival, where the film will be premiered in 2014 if it is selected.
Better Stir Fry is also considering a debut at the 2013 Buffalo International Film Festival.
Guarnieri has high hopes for his film and maintains a great deal of faith in his work because of the positive reaction he has noticed in others who have worked on the project.
As for aspiring film students, the director sent his best advice back to Buffalo for anyone considering a similar path.
“The biggest rule should be don’t ever stop working,” Guarnieri said. “Do me and everyone else who really knows they want to be a filmmaker a favor and only get into [film] if you’re going to be passionate about it. If that first part speaks to you, then don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you want to do.”