Nicholas Gyeney – A Rising Talent Who Wants To
Make Seattle The Next Hollywood
By Brian Taylor
I had the pleasure to talk with the director, writer, and sometimes actor Nick Gyeney, and it was a lively conversation. Gyeney is an impressive individual who is fiercely determined, with a keen grasp on the business and how to create compelling, interesting stories while never losing sight of what is called show-business. He is young, but don’t let that fool you — he already has a decade or more of experience and continues to gain validation from those in the industry in the form of nominations, awards, and job offers. And I can tell you he is wise beyond his years.
Gyeney is the writer/director of Matt’s Chance, a darkly comedic tale of love, revenge, and the fickle nature of human morality. It includes a wide array of characters as Matt (Edward Furlong) learns the true depth of his fiancée’s betrayal; he comes across an eccentric pawn-shop owner played by none other than Gary Busey, an aging stripper played by Margot Kidder, and a barber with an agenda played by Lee Majors.
Matt’s Chance will have it theatrical release in December, correct?
“Yes, Christmas day, actually. It’s going to be a very interesting indie experiment because generally, the films that are most successful on the holidays are the big-studio movies, but a lot of research has been showing that releasing alternative indie films on the same day because there are a lot of intelligent young couples you might be looking for something a little darker or not the latest family comedy.”
What was the catalyst for Matt’s Chance? In the film it says it was based on Matt’s life, but is there any truth to it?
“Yes, it is loosely based on a true story . . . a couple of years ago . . . I was looking for my next project . . . I was looking for something I could make in the million-dollar range, and I was at this bar in Seattle and I met this guy Matt, who’s now a really good friend of mine . . . and [it’s] just like in the beginning of the film when the two friends are sitting at the bar . . . one of the guys is Matt and the other is his friend, and he’s basically unloading his story about he met this girl . . . and when he told me all the details of how he walked in on her with this other guy and I thought, wow what a tragic Seattle tale. My twisted sense of humor got away with itself and I embellished a little bit…the movie has some supernatural elements that are not apparent until about three-quarters of the way through the movie. There is a big twist on the resolution…what I feel is what makes the film worth watching. It is a game changer and makes you look back at the events of the movie in a different way…it’s a very dark, dark commentary on society and where we are today, but hopefully laced with some stuff that makes people laugh.”
I believe it was Shaw who said, “If you are going to tell them the truth, you better make them laugh.”
How did you establish such an eclectic and experienced cast?
“It’s a lot easier than you may think. I think one of the biggest faults that most young filmmakers have is that they don’t understand that you have to marry the creative and the business from the ground up. You have to think creatively in a business mindset. So you are making decisions that will only make the film better on a creative level, but also [from a] business standpoint. So, I kind of designed this movie to catered to have a few small roles for named actors and then, of course for Matt himself, and since this movie has the themes of falling off the path and finding yourself and he comes across these wise men characters who advise him and guide him along his path, I thought it would be really interesting to cast actors that may have gone a similar way in their career. On one hand that makes for an interesting package on a creative level. When you see a poster and you see Lee Majors, Gary Busey, Margot Kidder [you wonder,] ‘What have they been in?’ On the other hand, they are also more affordable and it makes it easier to attract this kind of talent when you are working with especially dollars. So basically, I sent them the script and they liked it. It’s that simple. All you really have to do is subscribe to IMDB Pro. That’s it. You call their agent, and you make them an offer…if you have money in the bank….if you have the financing…I’m also a huge movie geek, too. There are all sorts of references in there…there is a flashback scene where Edward Furlong wears the Public Enemy shirts from T-2. Terminator 2 is my favorite movie of all time, and so that was a real coup for me — he really did not want to get into that shirt, but he finally, finally put it on for me.”
Seattle is where you prefer to work and shoot your films?
“Well, I grew up in Seattle, and it is such a beautiful, beautiful city that is really underutilized when it comes to film. Everything is shot in L.A. or Canada or New York, and Seattle has such a unique skyline I think it is a shame that not more films are being produced up here . . . it’s harder to get the film office to cut breaks and give deals to these incoming film productions because they are a little bit self-righteous and I am working on that part of it . . . There is a great crew base up here. It’s a small art community, so you can get a lot of really interesting deals and cut a lot of corners, i.e. you can have an amazing DP [cinematographer] who brings $200,000 worth of grip gear at no cost to your production. So you can do all of these things up here you would not be able to do in L.A. or N.Y. and only because of the personal relationships that you have built over time. On the other hand, I have also been focusing on Seattle as well because the definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It seems filmmakers, they move to L.A. and they try and try and try and make it, then they fall on their ass and go home…After seven years in film school at [University of Southern California], once I graduated I said, ‘You know, I’m not going to try to make it down here, I’m going to try and make it at home, and if I can try to make a name for myself up there, then I can come back to L.A.’ I might have more of an ability to walk in the door and have people take me seriously rather than just hang up the phone, and that’s been kind of my plan . . .I think it’s important to always grow and learn, and I’m hoping that fortune keeps smiling.”
Technically speaking, what did you shoot Matt’s Chance on?
“We shot on the Sony F-3. It’s akin to the RED — it’s a beautiful camera and captures image really well, but it’s a lot cheaper than the RED packages. Our team had a couple of them and full gear for all that, so that helped alleviate some costs.”
Is there any advice that you can give to a rising filmmaker?
“You have to collaborate. Always. It is so vital to have people around you to riff off of and to someone around you to tell you, ‘That ideas sucks,’ and, ‘That idea is good.’ There is no ego when making a movie. You have to be able to work together and understand is that no great film is made by one person.”
Is there a project that you are passionate to do in the future, that you have been itching to do if budget and locations were no issue?
“Well, there are two answers to this question. One, I have seven screenplays that are fully developed and packaged with casts attached . . . and I am making my way through that . . . each one is bigger than the previous one. It culminates with a medieval rock musical . . . an intimate epic along the lines of Centurion with Michael Fassbender. My dream project, if there were no rules or limitations, would be a remake or reboot of Highlander or Terminator 2.”
You seem wise beyond your years and have had a lot of critical acclaim already. What’s the secret to your success?
“I’m 27 years old; I got a really early start. My father passed away when I was 12, and that is the reason I became a filmmaker. I grew up overnight . . . it’s like a game changer. I think anyone who really does something important or puts a lot of drive into their life does so because of some kind of event that pushes them into that direction and that happed way early for me . . . I made my first feature when I was 17 in high school, and that’s how I got into USC and [the school] gave me a full scholarship. It’s the biggest piece of shit you can imagine, but someone at the film school must have been [thinking], ‘Oh cute! He’s trying.’ I have always been really impatient, too, and that’s another fault of mine, and so when I was 19 in film school I made my first — I’m going to say legit feature because it came out, but it’s a really, really, really bad —movie . . . my last film Penitent Man and Matt’s Chance I am proud of. They are not perfect movies; there is a lot you could change to make them better, but they’re watchable . . . I learned from my first film that although it’s awful, it showed producers I know how to make a film and get a return. I started meeting a lot of producers and investors, and I worked for the next three years developing my directing skills and working with actors so the next time I try to make a movie, maybe it wouldn’t suck as much, and that’s what led to Penitent Man.”
Read Brian's interview with Lee Majors here.