Danny Boy Feature Drama

Action should enhance the story, not always be the story: Cory DeMeyers

Toronto: The 12-minute L.A. noir explores challenges the perceptions of friendship, loyalty, masculinity, and homophobia. Set against a heist in progress, Danny Boy delves into these topics through a very intimate lens.

Cory DeMeyers, director and producer of Danny Boy, is a former Red Bull world champion athlete,  turned stuntman, and the recipient of the 2020 Taurus World Stunt Award for his work on Tarantino’s Academy Award-nominated film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. 

Asha Bajaj discusses with Cory DeMeyers his unique attributes, features, and viewpoints in the film “Danny Boy.”

Following is the extract of the interview:

Asha to Cory: What inspires you as a filmmaker?

As a filmmaker, I continue to be more and more inspired by raw, gritty, authentic characters and stories in recent years. Stories make you think in a way you wouldn’t have considered before. Todd Phillips’ Joker makes you sympathetic to the man; However, you would still not condone his actions; you are offered an unadulterated lens into the hardships of his life and the wickedness that can easily overwhelm a person.

The idea of giving an audience a glimpse into another world, and the opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is inspiring to me.

Where did the idea for your film come from?

Sammy Horowitz and I rode home together one morning after a boxing session. He had recently started writing, and I was very excited about his stories. I wanted to direct a few narrative pieces to show that although I have been a career Stuntman to his point, I could handle actors and dialogue, not just action scenes. So Sammy & I decided we wanted to put together a short that could do just that. We tossed rough ideas around the rest of the ride back and some of that afternoon. Sammy sent me through the first iteration later that night, and we started going back and forth with little edits. We were both very excited!

Why is telling this story so important to you, and why are you the best person to say to it?

The story of “Danny Boy “started as a challenge for me as a Director, to hone in, keep it simple and focus on the two most important things; Character & Story, but it became much more than that as the story evolved.

The story itself became a reflection of how people often project onto a person what may well not be a true representation of who that person is or is not.

These projections are based on our own rules we create internally, then without the other party’s knowledge, we assign them to them, and if they break those rules… We get furious.

In ‘Danny Boy, we used the idea of Homosexuality vs. Masculinity; what Francis perceives to be manly or masculine may be wrong, along with that unfairly pointed assumption and his reaction to Danny Breaking the rules he’s set comes a consequence. I’ve known characters in my life like Danny and Francis, and I genuinely feel I have a deep understanding of the characters and stories Sammy writes. He tells stories in words, and I see words as images. All of this makes me the best person to say to Danny Boy’s story.

What was the most challenging or unusual part of making this film?

The fact that most of our film is set inside a vehicle does make for a very interesting challenge in and of itself. In order to keep things interesting and the story moving, we could have had more coverage in the vehicle and varied our framing, but in the end, I genuinely believe that would have detracted from the story and the tone.

I wanted the viewer to feel like they were along for the ride with Danny & Francis, it needed to be reminiscent of the feeling of riding with one of your friends or acquaintances and to do that we had to keep it simple.

In doing so, maybe you lose a bit of creativity with the camera, which helps keep a single location from feeling flat, but I knew that could be remedied with our actors& performances. To that end, damn, did Jett & Sammy deliver!

You know, originally, we were going into this shooting an owner with a wide two-shot over the hood, both actors were off book all ten pages, and it was going to be this little experimental piece. Coverage would be ancillary if we got what we wanted fast enough; coverage was our plan B. Funny enough, Jett and Sammy crushed the oners; we got it in 4 takes. It was so good that there was no way we were not giving them coverage, or we wouldn’t entirely do the story or their efforts justice. I knew what I wanted at that point; Deangelo Harding, our D.P., and George, our friend, and Camera Op on this one, had worked with me several times in the past, so the 3 of us were able to fall into a groove and knock out the coverage in single takes for the most part—shooting out the entire short in 4 ½ hours total!

We had no permits and were driving around a detective car with a RED Camera strapped to the hood in Downtown Los Angeles, but that’s another story.

Tell us about your creative process. What is unique or unusual about it?

My creative process is very open and collaborative; I believe that my unique experience in the industry so far has informed me very well of the value each player in the process has. I wouldn’t say I like to limit the possibilities of my vision; I tend to let my imagination run wild and start there. My colleagues would likely say I am a decisive filmmaker who leads with instinct.

Talk to us about the theme of your film and how you would like the audience to receive and/or interpret its message.

There is a lot to unpack in this film, but in its simplest form, it’s about not judging a book by its cover and not projecting your ideals, standards, and aspirations unfairly on others. Everything is not as it seems, especially in Francis’s mind; inside the ideal and construct of masculinity, Francis and Danny are both on the level until Danny becomes a champion of the people & defends the lifestyle of non-heterosexual males. Does that make Danny less of a man? Not at all, but to Francis’ this goes against his personal beliefs, and if he were to continue to consider Danny as a man, then what does that say about himself? It would potentially challenge everything he believes; in this situation, that choice of acceptance or persecution has dire consequences.

Don’t be so fast to pass judgment, understand that your ideals and beliefs are for yourself and it is not fair to project them on others who are unaware or unwilling to be included in your belief systems, and just because someone else doesn’t align with all of your views that doesn’t make them any less of a person.

Tell us about your cast. What is special about your actors, and why did you cast them?
When we were finally ready to shoot Danny Boy, there were only two people I wanted to play Danny & Francis, and I think they would agree that it was the right choice. Pulling double duty as Writer/Actor, Sammy stepped into the role of Francis, and honestly, he was perfect. He wrote the character, he is a former criminal or, as he will tell you Professional Stick-up artist, and he’s a fantastic bad buy. We met on the soon-to-be-released, Notorious Nick, where he played the main bad guy and did his stunts; it was a no-brainer.

Then there is Jett Jansen Fernandez. I’ve known this man for over ten years, and he’s so talented in many ways. I think his work ethic comes from being the 1st American Born, Cuban-American in his family; He can write, Direct, Produce, Perform gnarly stunts, and act his ass off. At the time, he also had a perfect look for the character of Danny; with his beard and long hair, we could make him look like a grimey street criminal easy, not to mention I knew with his extensive theater training from his youth, he would be able to be off-book all ten pages quick and live the character. Jett took direction very well and made some fantastic, nuanced choices that brought the character of Danny to life. I’m happy to see him in this role and very proud of his performance.
Cory, you have a long list of credits under your belt. Tell us about your transition into directing and how your career as a stunt performer affected your directing choices. Working as a stuntman has been my film school. Every show I’m on, I sit and watch what the director is doing, how they interact with the cast and crew, and what choices they make within a scene. If you pay attention, you will learn something new every time, not just from the director but from every department. Being a stuntman has allowed me this fantastic access to a wealth of knowledge and on-the-job training to continue growing in the film industry. I’ve had the opportunity to watch; Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, Ed Zwick, Zack Snyder, Ruben Fleischer, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Scott, and much more work while sitting quietly in the shadows taking notes of my own and learning. That is priceless.

It’s funny; most Stunt Professionals deciding to take a foray into filmmaking usually pursue it from a very action-heavy angle. Don’t get me wrong, I love action and hope to do a few original pieces down the line, but as the 2nd Unit Director Kevin Scott always says, “Action should be driven by the story & compliment it, not take away from it.” That tells us that story is king, and it is, so for me, I want to focus on great stories with complex characters.

Action should enhance the story, not always be the story. To be a good filmmaker you have to understand your characters and story, maybe down the line once I have a great comprehension of this side, we can create some amazing action films with deep storylines and interesting characters.

What’s next for you? Talk about your next project and where you’re at right now.
Currently, “DANNY BOY” is running the Film Festival Circuit. We have seen a good amount of success and interest in Europe, which is very exciting, and our team is working very hard in hopes of having a good run in the states as well. We’re excited to continue sharing it with audiences and getting a conversation started. Moving forward, I have just entered into an agreement with Sammy & his writing Partner Adam Pasen to Option and begin developing a feature film script they have titled “Musket & The Rat.” Together Adam and Sammy have been semifinalists for Bluecat, finalists for the Warner Bros. Writers&Workshop in 2020, and their Screenplay adaptation of Musket & The Rat from a play Sammy wrote of the same name is incredible. It had a limited run as a Theater Production in Los Angeles in January 2020 that opened to rave reviews from critics. When I sat in the audience, I knew it was something to be a part of.

In the meantime, we’ll keep shooting short-form content through development. We love the process and medium so much that we must constantly create. I have also been contacted by a friend of mine who is a talented Director & he has expressed interest in having me direct high-concept social media content and music videos for a few of his clients, so I’d love to pursue that as well if everything comes together.

What are you still looking for?

​I’m looking to continue creating, whether that be through Directing, Producing, or Action Designing.

Through creating in any form, you continue to gain valuable experiences you can apply to each new project as it manifests. I’m looking to continue that, growing my skills and helping to tell compelling stories.

Action should enhance the story, not always be the story. To be a good filmmaker you have to understand your characters and story, maybe down the line once I have a great comprehension of this side, we can create some amazing action films with deep storylines and interesting characters.