Colby Cyrus (25) is the writer, director, and star of his directorial debut "Muddy Water." Colby grew up in the small town of Moosup, CT. Colby went to the Acting Studio in NYC. Colby started as an actor but has matured nicely into the other aspects of filmmaking. Colby works now as a co-owner of Ski Productions with his colleague Andrew Medeiros. Muddy Water has really hit the ground running for the pair, and the film hopes to be the start of a promising production company. Colby is excited to grow as an artist and wants to make a permanent career out of directing the film.
Andrew Medeiros (28) is the Executive Producer of Muddy Water. Andrew and Colby Cyrus (the director of Muddy Water) are co-owners of their own independent production company Ski Productions LLC, in which they co-write, co-direct, and co-star together in the films they make. Andrew and Colby have just started to get their production company off the ground with their first short film Muddy Water. Andrew met Colby when Andrew started the sketch comedy youtube channel Not That Clever. A youtube channel Andrew Co-created when he was struggling to book professional auditions in New York. Andrew cast Colby as a writer, and actor in the channel's first season of production and the two have been friends and creative collaborators ever since.
What was the inspiration behind the making of Muddy Water?
Colby Cyrus (CC): The inspiration behind the making of Muddy Water is that it is a reality of many people I knew growing up. Granted, the circumstances portrayed in the film are more extreme, but the idea that people go down wrong paths because they don’t have another option. Growing up in a small town you are surrounded by people who can’t get out of their own way and keep doing the rat race. In the same sense, there is beauty in a small town in the USA. The people from those areas are trying hard to change their ways for the better, but with the limited resources and options they become desperate. Desperate people act out of character due to their surroundings. Muddy Water attempts to illustrate the lengths people will go to get a step ahead.
What were some of the challenges of making the film?
CC: There were many challenges making Muddy Water. The main challenge was Covid-19. Due to the pandemic shooting was delayed for 2 months. Since the shooting was delayed we had to shorten our shooting schedule to two days. We shot the entire film in two days, the running time of Muddy Water is 35 minutes. We had to shoot it this way to ensure the safety of everyone involved. As a team, we quarantined and sacrificed to shoot the film in a compressed schedule. Besides unprecedented challenges, there were numerous challenges that come with being a low budget film team. We had to shoot at public locations where there were constant distractions from the public and even the police. Challenges were of plenty but my team rose above all and really focused on the final product.
Andrew Medeiros (AM): Time. I believe that to be the biggest challenge for most filmmakers. Much like with any aspect of life, time is something we all wish we had more of. The concept of filming anything in a limited timeframe is a daunting task in itself; you factor in the limited availability of cast and crew members and the issue of time almost consumes you as a filmmaker. Finances are always a bit tricky at this level as well, but even within that, you can make some things work on a small budget.
When did you realize that you wanted to make films and what was the first film project that you created?
CC: I realized I wanted to make films when I was 18 years old. The medium was always attractive to me. Filmmaking wasn’t my first passion, I started as an actor and developed into a writer/director. As an actor, I always knew that would be my natural progression. I started directing on a youtube sketch comedy show, where the video length would be anywhere between 2-5 minutes. That ability to learn on the fly and really dive into the directing side allowed me to naturally mature into the filmmaker I am today.
AM: For me, I realized I wanted to make films when I started really going after auditions in New York as an actor. The competition is unlike anything you'll experience. Interviewing for a standard 9-5 job, you might be competing with 10-15 people for that one position. Auditioning on a professional level you're competing with hundreds sometimes thousands of people, who look just like you, for one role. The concept of creating our own avenue of success in this industry really struck a chord in me and I believe in Colby as well. We aren't relying on casting directors and managers to like us enough to give us a chance, we're taking the matter into our own hands in away.
Which directors have been influential in your work and why?
CC: The directors that were influential in my work for Muddy Water were The Coen Brothers and their film “No Country for Old Men.’’ They inspired me when it came to the screenplay and overall pacing of the film. The Coen Brothers convey their films in such a way the audience doesn’t have time to relax. With the constant pressure on the audience to stay tuned to what’s happening, it makes your film feel more focused. They made me realize no matter how big or small, every scene is as important as the next.
AM: Spike Lee is a big one. He is the master of making great films on a small budget. His stories are great through their dialogue and plotlines rather than big special effects or big budget aspects. You watch an impactful film like Do The Right Thing and find out it was made on a budget of about 6 million dollars; it changes your view on the concept of filmmaking and what it takes to make a good film. If your art is good enough, no matter how much money you spend on it, it'll get people's attention.
What genre of filmmaking do you like to work on?
CC: I enjoy working on all genres of filmmaking. I’m sure I am a better writer/director in certain genres than others, but I will never know if I could conquer a genre without trying it.
AM: We started in comedy and there is something so gratifying when people find your film to be funny. Comedy is subjective which makes it harder to find success when making those films in my opinion. I have enjoyed working in Drama lately though. It seems as if we are a little bit better suited for that genre. I like the thought of connecting with people's real emotions and views of the world through our films. For right now my answer is Drama, but who knows what it'll be in a year. We don't want to put ourselves in a box, and we enjoy exploring multiple genres.
What is the most challenging aspect of making an independent film?
CC: The most challenging aspect of making an independent film is finding the right people to work with. Of course, the low budget, equipment, and location issues are the obvious answers but once that’s covered, it really does come down to surrounding yourself with the right people. With such a small crew and cast the chemistry really does matter. One sour apple can derail a whole project, but once you have a committed cast and crew who are working towards one common goal, the sky's the limit.
AM: I believe it's accessibility. There are a lot of bad independent films (believe me we've made a couple) but I don't think that's due to a lack of effort. Look at our film, for example, there are two warehouse scenes, we are fortunate enough to have access to a warehouse that we were able to film in. You can write a great script that takes place in a hospital or a school, but then you're faced with the reality of "how am I going to get access to a school or a hospital to film in"? Maybe your film has a lot of characters, then the questions become "how am I going to find all of these actors, that are good, that are local, that are available all on the same day? And that'll do the work for little pay?" Accessibility is such a big hurdle when making Indie films.
What is your plan for further distribution of your film?
CC: Due to the film being in the festival circuit, my team and I are waiting to start distribution. When the time comes we will push towards independent distribution companies. Hoping to get streamed as a short, or possibly funded for a feature version of Muddy Water.
AM: We've looked into some distribution companies that work exclusively with Indie film projects. Our goal is to wait until we've heard back from a few more film festivals before we explore that aspect.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
CC: Cinema can change the world, and have an impact on society by allowing stories to be told that normally wouldn’t be. There are many places in the world where people know little about, and cinema takes back that curtain and allows the public to live in that world for a while. Cinema allows the audience to understand human beings, I believe cinema makes people more kind towards one another because it allows the voiceless to have a voice.
AM: Cinema already changes the world and impacts our society, today. Documentaries are more popular now than ever. The Social Dilemma is one of the biggest documentaries on streaming platforms right now. I also think right now we are seeing some of the most real, well represented, bold films in the history of filmmaking. Good films aren't just about entertainment value, they're about connection, a reflection of society, and/or true human emotion.
What is your next film project?
CC: Our next film will be a horror film called “Exitus”. It will be a film that focuses on the theme of all actions having a reaction, and nobody can escape the consequences of their decisions. The film is looking at an early 2021 release date.
AM: We are filming pretty soon and are excited about the process. We feel so fortunate that we are in a place that we can continue to make our projects during the pandemic.
Why do you make films and what draws you to the language of cinema and directing?
CC: I make films because I want to challenge not only myself but humans in general. Growing up, certain films had such a profound impact on my development and really shaped my view of the world. Whether those films had a positive or negative impact, they had an impact. The language of cinema is universal, we all are familiar with human behavior. We all have felt happy, angry, sad in our everyday lives. Cinema reminds us that it is ok to feel something. I’ll leave you on this, if one day a child can see one of my films and relate to a character in it and get inspiration from it, I will be one happy filmmaker.
AM: The films we make are an extension of ourselves creatively, physically, and emotionally. We've never forced ourselves to write something that we haven't felt connected to or drawn to in any way. We have a lot of ideas and we both trust each other enough to have an open dialogue about those ideas and what we're drawn to. What draws me to the language of cinema, not to keep harping on one idea, again is that aspect of connecting on a human level to a story. That is present through all genres of film. That fact that you can watch 3 movies on the same day and one will make you laugh, one will make you cry, and one will scare the crap out of you, is a beautiful thing. From a filmmaking standpoint, just the concept of having some control and vision of this fictional world you're creating is what really draws me in.