Horror Movies

Ryan Colucci talks ‘Orient City’

Last week we showed you guys the thrilling intro to the blood drenched spaghetti western animated epic from Ryan Colucci ORIENT CITY.  Deep in Kickstarter the filmmaker has been spreading the word on why you should back his film. This is what it all entails:


Following the success of their critically acclaimed graphic novel, R.E.M., creators Ryan Colucci and Zsombor Huszka proudly announce the launch of their hand-drawn animated film, Orient City: Ronin & The Princess.

Orient City: Ronin & The Princess is a samurai spaghetti western that mixes the characteristics of the American Wild West and Feudal Asia. An unforgiving place, Orient City is a vertical tangle of rock and skyscrapers interconnected with waterways and cable cars. The poor, quite literally, dwell at the bottom. At the center of it all is Boshi, a fallen samurai who has sworn to protect a young girl whose family has been assassinated. Together they head to Orient City for one thing… revenge.
The team launched its Kickstarter campaign just this week to bring the striking 2D animation to life, and is already on their way toward their overall crowd-funding goal of $30,000 to help cover the total cost of the film.
We spoke to Colucci about it.

Where are from, sir?
I grew up on Long Island in New York.
And what brought you to L.A – I take it that’s where you are now?
I got my MFA from USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program. I had never been to California until I stepped off the plane for school – fresh out of an extended stay in the ICU from a ruptured kidney I got playing lacrosse. It was a whirlwind to say the least.
How long did it take you to make it in Hollywood? Remember your first gig?
Getting into Stark was a real turning point in my life. I was pretty ambitious right out of the gate, so even while at school I was pursuing material. My first gig was in development at Artisan/Lionsgate. I consumed every script that came through there.
You work as an animator by day?

The lead animator on the project will actually be Zsombor Huszka. We are co-directing the project together.
I am a film producer/writer by day (and night it seems). Right out of grad school at USC, the first film I produced was the CG-animated film Battle for Terra: 3D, which came out in 2009 through Lionsgate. We’ve got a great voice cast with Chris Evans, Ron Perlman, Evan Rachel Wood, Dennis Quaid and a lot more. We actually built the animation studio from scratch. It was intense and not at all what I had learned over the years of film schooling. I put that to use in my follow-up live-action feature, the vfx-heavy White Space, which is still in post-production. Last year I directed my first live-action film, Suburban Cowboy. It’s a small film… a gritty thriller that is being sold right now, so I try and keep myself busy and not freak out about that.
In fact, Zsombor and I came up with hand-drawn animated title sequences for the film and they were recently nominated for a SXSW Excellence in Title Design at this year’s festival, against films like Spectre, Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Marvel series Daredevil. Besides those, Zsombor animated music videos for artists like Grammy-nominated Dirty South and Viktor Kiraly, who was recently a finalist on The Voice. Viktor actually helped with the music for Orient City.
When did you decide it was time to start crafting your own film project?
Zsombor and I were on the road promoting the graphic novel R.E.M. and Zsombor was sketching a samurai Batman art print called Dark Ronin. As it took shape, we started spit-balling ideas of what this world could be… And Orient City was born.
We wanted this to exist in a world that was unlike anything either of us had seen. And the shape is something we feel is unique – a city that stretches vertically on top of four rocks connected by the channels of water at their base. As the city rises up, connected by stairways and cable cars, so do the classes and high society lives an opulent, wasteful lifestyle above the clouds. It’s not a ground-breaking concept of the poor living at the literal bottom, as Fritz Lang did it way back in Metropolis… but they weren’t samurai gunslingers.
In the center of it all is Boshi, our hero. Or the closest thing to it. He’s a fallen samurai who spends most of his time in an opium den. He’s hired by a man named Rooster to protect a wealthy family. Set up to fail, he winds up bonding with the daughter, Nessa. The little girl would rather become a great warrior than a princess and when she’s left all alone she must do exactly that.
Is the script written?
The script is written, the storyboards are done, the animatic is complete and edited and the scenery is built to the last tumbleweed. But there is a lot of work still to do… the film will have roughly 6,000 frames.
With the script, and those amazing storyboards, I’m surprised nobody has bitten yet. Or have they?
We actually haven’t shopped it. From the start, we knew we wanted to start with this story. So it made more sense to turn to the Kickstarter community, which was really supportive of the graphic novel R.E.M.
Since the Kickstarter launched, the response to the artwork/animation has been very kind… and I’ve gotten a bunch of emails from people in a position to see a feature film come to life. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that everyone is just talk until they actually have to put up the money. So we are just going to keep working as hard as possible, get this Kickstarter to its goal and then deliver a film that will hopefully make people’s jaws drop… and see where that takes us.
In an ideal world, would you like to direct the project?
For us to relinquish control of this project would take a Brinks truck so full of money we would be insane to say no. But that truck isn’t showing up and I’ve been living on almost no income for so long, I wouldn’t even know what it is like to have any. It’s not what drives me. It’s not what drives Zsombor. This project is our dream… so there’s a 99.9% chance we are directing this.
Who have you got attached, actor-wise?
So far, Dave Sheridan is going to be voicing a role. I’ve worked with him before and he really believes in the project. He’s better known for The Devil’s Rejects and comedies like Scary Movie and Haunted House, but I’ve seen him do drama and he is seriously under-rated.
How hard is it to crowdfund? How does one break through?
There’s a lot of planning that goes into it, and even then you stress that you didn’t do enough once it starts. I’m constantly revising the campaign, or hashtags on twitter/instagram. You question everything – if you set the right reward amounts that people will respond to, if you are offering the right rewards, if the video is concise and still gives everyone enough information… and if anyone will even visit the page.
I don’t want to be one of those creators who constantly posts ‘buy my thing’ – so you have to walk a fine line on social media. If I post about the Kickstarter, which is constantly lately… I bury it beneath quotes from filmmakers/movies or artwork from the project.
It seems like a fortune that we’re raising… but the reaction to the art itself has been amazing and I can only hope enough people want to see this come to life that we break through.
What kind of incentives are you offering to contributors?
We are offering some more sensible items, like the film itself, t-shirts and movie posters… and things that we would want ourselves which fit the world we created.
All of the rewards are based around the artwork. We have a series of art prints that reflect samurai or wild west culture, like The Dark Ronin – Batman as a Samurai. Backers can also get personalized commissions; from more classic black & white images to very stylized colored versions that put them into the world of Orient City. Something cool that relates back to the film is drawing someone as an ink-washed avatar. Because the film is traditional animation, we thought it appropriate to offer animated cels. You select a frame (out of 8 from the final film) and we are going to print each layer of animation on a cel – which is going to look very cool once framed.
If these sound at all interesting, check out the campaign. There is a ton of artwork that will give anyone a good idea of the look and feel of the film, and at the end of the intro video is the opening shot of the film – which is a long boom-up through Orient City, from the water to a saloon.
This looks like the kind of film Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez would dig. Have their films been an influence?
You hit the nail on the head. The world itself has been inspired by a lifetime of westerns, samurai films and everything in-between. It’s hard to pick just a few. But I know Tarantino has specifically inspired Zsombor on this… how he picks a genre or a type of movie, lifts all its elements and then exaggerates everything, even its flaws. The obvious film here is Kill Bill, which even has an anime sequence in it. Rodriguez has definitely been an influence as well. His films are these unique western-like worlds, with ultra-violence in a cool, almost beautiful way. Even more so, his sometimes-collaborator Frank Miller has been a huge influence on the art and overall tone.
Orient City has its roots in anime, but it’s more Miyazaki than anything. Outside of that, it is obviously heavily influenced by spaghetti westerns – my absolute favorite genre of films. Once Upon a Time in the West and The Man Without a Name trilogy are films that my dad would watch repeatedly and left an indelible impression on me. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Yojimbo are others that have been an influence specifically on this project.
Our story has similar themes to Leon: The Professional and Man on Fire… but hopefully unique, if I did a decent job with the script.
Quentin doesn’t have twitter, but I have been tweeting quotes of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez non-stop hoping they take notice. Rodriguez actually wanted to be a cartoonist at one point. I know he would dig this thing – and it would be a dream come true to get those guys to watch it.


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