Canadian-born Bobby Del Rio is a true multi-hyphenate – although trained as an actor, he has also gained experience as a playwright, screenwriter and director. In this interview with Courageous Nerd, Bobby discusses his film The Market, which he wrote and directed, based upon one of his plays.
Outside of our recorded discussion, Bobby also mentioned that he is in early stages of developing a film with a major studio. A well-known actor has been attached to the project, however, it is too early at this stage to release any specifics on the matter.
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Bobby Del Rio (BDR): Thanks for having me.
How have you been staying creative during the pandemic?
BDR: I’ve actually been extremely busy during the pandemic, developing projects. I’ve had maybe 10 projects in development. Many of which had been start at the outset of the pandemic. But, I’ve had some very high-profile people attached. Not everybody is comfortable shooting during the pandemic.
So, a lot of what I’m doing in terms of production is on hold, until presumably there’s a vaccine or restrictions are fully lifted, when people feel safe. I have quite a few things ready to go. It sounds somewhat counter-intuitive but watching television for me is actually a job. So, historically great franchises that I never had the time to watch, because of the investment of time required. I watched Lost in its entirety, Sopranos, halfway through Game of Thrones. To have those contextual references at my disposal, I think definitely makes me a better writer.
Speaking of creativity, what made you decide to pursue a career as a filmmaker?
BDR: Very good question. It’s funny, because I actually had no desire to be a filmmaker, really at any point in my life. I trained as an actor and then became an award-winning playwright whilst an undergraduate at the University of Toronto. Then, shockingly became a writer and actor at the same time. My mother was a writer, she studied at a very prestigious journalism school – Ryerson. My dad was a lawyer, so there was a lot of education in my house. There was a lot of respect for education and language.
Even though I had no desire to be a writer, it was kind of in my blood, a little bit. So, I became a very critically acclaimed playwright while an undergraduate – in fact, I was the subject of a 30-minute documentary that aired across Canada, on Bravo Television. So, as soon as I came out of school, I had all this publicity that I may or may not have deserved. I don’t know, I was only 23 years old. All of a sudden, people kept asking me to write things, I kept getting attention and, you know, just went on from there.
Let’s discuss The Market, which you wrote and directed. How would you describe the film for anyone who is unfamiliar?
BDR: Usually what I do is I have maybe three different descriptions. Depending on the person, I cherry-pick. I think the safest, most generic way to describe the movie is it’s basically a gangster movie about Wall Street bond traders. It essentially serves as an allegory for capitalism. I think it’s often misunderstood because the language is so vicious but it was intentional and well-researched. The characters are quite vicious and we employ toxic masculinity as a tool, which is funny, because some people will presume the personalities of my characters are somehow a vehicle for my own toxic masculinity.
Nothing could be further from the truth, it’s an excoriation of those values. It creates a lot of controversy but it’s okay.
Between writing and directing, which did you find more challenging while working on The Market?
BDR: Well, the writing was quite simple. When I wrote The Market, it was originally a play, maybe the 10th or 15th I’d written. I wrote the entire script in 5 days, I think. When I produced [The Market], it was sort of an underground hit, had so much momentum and many people loved it. In fact, it was the audience that wanted it to be a movie. That thought had never even entered my head.
Sometimes, I would describe it in the theatre as “Glengarry Glen Ross with guns”, it naturally lends itself to cinema in a way that I didn’t intend. I maybe had 50-100 people during our theatrical run tell me that this had to be a movie. And that’s actually where the journey began to turn it into a movie. By the time we made the movie, the script is 99% identical to the theatrical script. I didn’t really do too much to adapt it.
I’d never really directed a film before, so that entire part of it… I learned from my team every single day.
In your opinion, how different was The Market in its first draft, compared to the final shooting draft?
BDR: Almost identical. It was so similar that I don’t even know if I even had an actual screenplay version of The Market. So, when we did the play, the two leads are played by Julian De Zotti and Kyle McDonald – they were the two leads in the play and the film. Both of them are brilliant actors, good friends of mine. So, when we did the movie, they already knew their lines, they knew the characters. To be honest, I did very little to direct their performances because they’re both so good and knew every single line.
They knew the lines better than me, especially Kyle. He’s a really classically trained actor. I mean, we went to theatre school together so we’re both classically trained, but he really did emphasise Shakespeare in his career. It’s funny, there are many times where I’d be like: “I think this is the line” and he’d be like: “No, it’s actually this.” He was always right, it made it very simple.
By the time we went to shoot the movie, I had to replace two of the actors just because the actors in the play were unavailable. It was a very simple transition. Essentially, it was all ready to go. And then I just had to incorporate the cinematography.
For anyone who has written/is considering writing a screenplay, how important is hearing your words being spoken by actors?
BDR: I mean, it’s essential. I’m biased because, you know, my training and background is theatre. I think I was maybe 37 years old when I directed The Market and I’m 42 now. This is quite rare. I’m attached as the star of a couple of feature films with very young filmmakers. It’s funny because they’re in their early 20s and making feature films. I didn’t even attempt to make a feature film until I was 37.
I spent many many years in theatre and for us, development readings are essential. They’re the life blood of story, in my opinion. You need actors to breathe life into your work or you don’t know if your words land.
Who would you describe as your creative inspiration – whether as a writer or director?
BDR: I really love all writers, I have a theatre degree so I’ve been influenced by many, many of the top playwrights. I also worked as a film programmer for five years, so I watched a lot of movies as well. I will say for The Market specifically, I’ve certainly been influenced by David Mamet, Neil LaBute, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese. More broadly, people like Tom Stoppard, Woody Allen. I think that’s enough for now.
As you have said, you’re also an actor – how much of a focus is acting for you, right now?
BDR: I have an interesting career because I think we do have a lot of hyphenates now. I’m really a hyphenate, like, I have odd combinations of commitments to projects. Some projects, I’m the writer-director like The Market, some I’m just an actor, some I’m the star and writing the screenplay. I’m as much an actor as I am a writer or director. I think it’s just whatever makes sense creatively.
I’m happy to play a lead role, happy to write or co-write the script, happy to direct. For me, it’s about helping the work so whatever makes the most sense, for me – in terms of contributing to the project, that’s what I’ll do.
Have you ever been in a situation where you combined all three creative pursuits – writing, acting and directing?
BDR: Not at the professional level. I’ve done things in school. Obviously, I know how to do all those things. I’m pretty established, equally, I think as an actor, writer and director. For me, the reason I haven’t done all those things at the same time – and I’m not sure I ever will, quite frankly – especially when you have a lead role, when you’re the actor you have to view the work through the lens of that character.
When you’re the director, you have to be more objective about the larger puzzle. You can’t really do those things simultaneously. I just think that you’re going to compromise something – either the performance because while you’re supposed to be playing your role, you’re paying attention to other people and not invested in the acting. Or, you’re going to compromise the directing because you’re only looking through the lens of the character. Film is different than theatre because at least in film, you can look at takes. For me, it’s very difficult to rationalise doing all of those things and acheiving your utmost potential while doing them. I will probably only doing a maximum of two of those three major positions at the same time.
In terms of The Market, do any days stand out as being particularly challenging or well executed?
BDR: The most challenging days for sure were the two days where we shot one-third of the entire movie. I believe we shot 30 pages in two days. Now, we had a great crew who was willing to have a long day. One of those days ended up being 16 hours long. In the movie, we had these two very long dialogue scenes that are essential to the plot – pivotal scenes. We rehearsed the movie like a play, so those scenes, especially very specific as a writer.
What I find in film and television is people being willing to change the dialogue. As a playwright, the dialogue is the lifeblood of your craft. You’ve very, very meticulous about it. So, because we were so studious and rehearsed, it’s almost like each of those scenes, I approached as the execution of a 15-20 minute play. In a way, we had to perform 20 minute plays perfectly on back-to-back days. I do think that everybody pulled it off and in those scenes, where they’re playing board games or a poker scene that’s quite notable in the film. All the actors and crew were excellent, I’m extremely proud of the film. It was a really great team effort.
Assuming this discussion is the first time some people have heard of The Market, where could they find more information or potentially try to see it?
BDR: Well, in the UK and the United States, The Market is available on Amazon Prime. In Canada, it’s we’re available on Vimeo on Demand. I think actually it’s also accessible in the US and the UK through Vimeo on demand.
Other than The Market, are there any other projects you want to mention?
BDR: I have a new project that we will be shooting in early 2021 called The Kult that I’ve co-created with Megan Laursen, who is a 22-year-old prodigy. We wrote it together, she’ll be directing, I’ll be playing one of the lead roles. We’ve assembled a cast of some of the very best actors in the country. We’ll be releasing the cast in early 2021 but basically, we’re ready to shoot. As soon as COVID is over, we will go into production. I’m extremely excited about it, I think it will do really well.
Everyone is living in tough times during COVID, what advice would you give to fans of your work or you personally?
BDR: Stay positive and stay safe. I think it’s going to be over before you know it. I think it’s going to be amazing times ahead. I’m definitely preparing for a busy 2021. Even though I know things are tough right now, I think once we get through the winter, it’s going to be really really great. Now’s a very good time to get organised.
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