In an effort to pay tribute to his musical inspirations, actor Ryan O’Nan chose a band-centered project for his first effort as writer/director, Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best. Both casting and fate led him to his musical cohort, actor Michael Weston, and now they’re a fully functioning duo who are currently touring the U.S. while their film is playing in theaters.
I recently sat down with the Brooklyn Brothers and was able to glean a bunch of interesting information amidst their endless digressions, interruptions, and playful nonsense.
CINEDELPHIA: So what came first, the band or the film?
RYAN O’NAN: There was a script first, then we made the film. Some of the songs were written before, some were written while I was writing the script, some were written literally right before we started. Michael had never been in a band before…
MICHAEL WESTON: Yeah, I was-ill prepared for the whole band part of it. I got the part, I thought I was acting a role, and then suddenly Ryan threw baby toys at me.
RO: Yeah, his musical tastes…I don’t think he’s ever bought a CD.
C: Do you have anything that resembles a favorite band?
MW: Um…I like The Beatles.
RO: See what I’m saying? Not that The Beatles aren’t incredible, but see, he named the first band he could think of.
MW: Yeah, it’s like saying “carrot”. Y’know what I mean? Like, “What’s your favorite vegetable?” You didn’t get that, did you?
RO: I don’t even remember what you’re talking about at this point.
MW: So he said that I have to play instruments like a little Fisher Price piano and old Casios and kazoos and flugelhorns…
RO: And he did all of it. I can’t wait to see what I tell him to do next.
MW: Yeah, he was like bowing to me and saying how great it was that I’d do the movie…
RO: I assumed that he couldn’t play any music and I’d have to have someone off-screen playing everything, but then he said that he’d been playing piano all of his life and I stood up in the restaurant and hugged him.
C: You met each other during that casting process?
MW: Yeah, we hit it off right away. There was no casting process really…I was going into an audition, Ryan was coming out and he dropped his books and I picked them up and in that moment he praised me…
RO: I had a premiere of a movie that night called The Dry Land and I invited him as friendly actors do –
MW: That never happens with actors, actors never—
[They then simultaneously described contrasting accounts of their first meeting.]
C: You compared Oscilloscope to the indie record labels you listened to growing up, what were some of those?
RO: The music from this movie directly comes from the hours and hours of me sitting in my dad’s car after he picked me up from school when he would run errands and I’d be listening to The Cure and New Order and Cyndi Lauper, all of that fun, new wave 80s stuff. My musical career really came out of the punk scene, I was in a punk band and traveled around a lot. Propaghandi changed my whole life, so with my first movie I wanted to pay tribute to the music that influenced me.
RO: It’s definitely a family effort, which I feel like you have to learn as a band. You have to learn how to make things yourself and get out there and just do it. From that punk scene you get a sense that you can just make things with your friends and that lends itself really well to indie filmmaking. All of the music was recorded live, nothing was pre-recorded.
C: Even the scenes set in the car?
MW: Yeah, that was the scariest part for me with my minimal musical skills. Also, we had 18 days to shoot it. It’s total chaos, there’s no time to really get your bearings or rehearse so we’d shoot a full day and then get back to the hotel and then work for another five hours on the music. It was really fun and super intense, that kind of work is the most satisfying kind.
C: What led you to Oscilloscope?
RO: I really do think of them as one of those early indie labels that you could always count on. They approached us when the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and it seemed like such an awesome fit.
C: What are your future plans? Will you put Ryan in your first directorial effort?
MW: No way.
RO: I’m doing craft services for his film.
MW: I have a feeling we’ll work together again, we’re constantly thinking of stuff and we really hit it off. It was very easy to go in and start work and we really play off of each other in the movie and it carries on into our friendship.
RO: We have a group of people we love to work with and they can all work in different capacities.
MW: It’s such a luxury to work with people that you share a sense of humor and work ethic with, the more we can do it the better.
RO: It’s like this coagulation of kindred spirits.
MW: I’m like the witch doctor. The medicine man. That’s what you should call me from now on.
Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best opens Friday at Cinema 16:9.
Author: Eric Bresler
Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.