Gino McKoy: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker
If you don’t get your scripts made, be prepared to have it stolen if it lingers too long, my exec asst told me to tune into a famous tv series, and season 2 episode 2 was entirely my content taken from my script, down to the lines, nothing can prepare when you see your material on screen in front of the world.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gino McKoy.
A singer-songwriter, film director, producer and screenwriter, Gino McKoy was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and moved to Canada with his family at an early age. Canadian Director & Screenwriter Gino McKoy is releasing his upcoming Sci-fi Horror Thriller LUMINA, the very first sci-fi movie filmed entirely in Morocco. Starring Golden Globe nominee Eric Roberts, Ken Lawson and Eleanor Williams, LUMINA is bold and cerebral and distinctive from your standard alien movie fare.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
Thanks for having me, it’s a pleasure. Where do I begin, I was born in Trinidad and Tobago and migrated to Halifax, Canada with both of my parents at the age of three. My first musical concert was in Halifax, believe it or not, it was Tina Turner, my parents couldn’t find a babysitter that night, so they convinced the ticket person to allow me in. We were in the front row and Tina looked down at me and smiled, I remembered her legs and my ears were buzzing after, I was around 4 years old at the time. I also come from an ethnically mixed musical family. Both sides were into music, sang, played instruments etc. We moved to Brampton, Ontario not too long after. A city outside of Toronto, a lot of artists and people in entertainment also originated from there. Michael Cera went to my high school also, Heart Lake Secondary. I played high school basketball and cricket while I was there. I sang a lot growing up, and eventually around that time while attending University of Toronto and living in Mississauga, I decided to do a demo to see if music labels were interested after I graduated university.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Wow, well during my time working on my music demo, I walked into metalworks studios in Mississauga, one of the best in Canada and met a sound engineer there by the name of Nick Blagona. He heard my voice and said he wanted to work with me. I didn’t know who he was at the time so I checked on him and realized he worked with the police, cat Stevens, deep purple etc. And I love rock and alternative and that type of pop, so I said okay let’s work together. We decided on recording in LA, at ocean studios in Burbank instead of a studio in Miami which recorded a lot of Bob Marleys music.
I decided to give up my career in banking in Toronto and go full time into music, my love and my passion. My parents supported it and were also coming along for the crazy ride. Got out to LA and we did the album, after all, Nick said that I needed to move out to LA to really showcase my talent. SO we did, and my first few years was very tough, because the labels I had spoken to wanted to change my style of music but I didn’t. So I eventually came up with the idea to write my own movies and get it produced and put my music in it to break my music and get it the recognition I felt it deserved. And now we are here, with a lot of other unbelievable stories in between of course.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
I think the most interesting story was when I shot Lumina my debut film, it was the first sci fi film ever shot in its entirety in Moroccan cinema history. Also the biggest and only sci Fi interior sets ever built in Moroccan cinema history. Keep in mind, some of the filmmakers I look up to, shot in Morocco, like Ridley and Tony Scott for example. The filmmakers of Morocco and Dune Films, our service producers made us aware of this since they only film sword and sandal, action and crime movies that needed deserts or a middle eastern backdrop but never Sci FI. LUMINA created history which was great to hear and a blessing.
I would also add in here, my first script LMI, was also one of the very few scripts that was not made but I had consulted with the FBI on it. There was an article written on that as well. The FBI only consults on very few films.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Sir Ben Kingsley, I was invited to his home in Beverly Hills, he had read my first ever script I wrote in Hollywood, LMI, female action movie in the vein of Bourne identity and Bond, that I wrote in about 2 weeks, surprisingly. He was attached to play the antagonist. SBK has such a commanding presence in the room, he sat next to me and said, “don’t change what you write because people tell you to, stick to what you believe in”. That always stayed with me…
John McTiernan (director of Predator, Die Hard), John Met us around the same time of my meeting with Ben. He had just gotten out of jail for wiretapping, the FBI caught him and he went away for a year I believe. He read LMI and loved it and came out for a weekend with his wife to meet me to discuss us potentially working together, at this point I wasn’t directing, I was mainly writing and producing. I admired his work and Predator is still one of my favorite movies of all time. Sadly, we had creative differences and John wasn’t ready at that time to go to a dark place, because my script was pretty dark in tone and I wasn’t willing to change that. Of course we decided we would stay in touch for future projects but it was great hearing John’s process and how he operates and directs and his creative process as a director.
Another great Legend I met is Christopher Plummer, a truly wonderful very talented Canadian actor who was also interested working with me on LMI and Lumina. Due to his age, traveling and COVID a lot of actors could not commit to projects in 2020, but he wished us well. He passed a week after LUMINA completed production. Christopher also supported our charity Kinder Krisis at our TIFF private event for LMI in Toronto. The stories and jokes he shared with me will never be forgotten but it can’t be shared , lol.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
God firstly, my parents and their eternal support and love, never die attitude, and our dear friend David Seychell who always believed in me and supported us with my music and film. David is a producer with us, and he helped us get our first film off. On his way to visit us before I travelled to Morocco, with his private plane, he had an accident where his plane crashed in the Colorado mountains, he almost died, a third of his body was burnt and he survived miraculously. Thank God, without those 4 above, I would not be here..
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Never give up… no matter how hard it is or how dark it gets, keep fighting. There was many that wanted me to give up, quit, forget about film and music but I refused to. If you have a dream, passion or goal, stay with it till the end. You have one life and seize your opportunities and take the risk. Don’t ever be afraid to take the risk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
-We live in a diverse community in North America. The world is watching Hollywood and Hollywood wants the world to continue watching their movies and tv series.
Greater revenues for investors, studios and filmmakers, diversity sells internationally believe it or not
Every ethnicity has a story that needs to be told, that’s important to be told and heard, seen, it’s a part of humanity’s progression to a better more accepting and welcoming world, one world
It will affect our culture in a positive way because unity means strength, kids growing up and seeing the diversity and acceptance will strengthen the US. The nation needs to come together to be stronger and film, tv has the power of uniting and breaking down barriers. A mixed culture means stronger relations internationally and also a stronger domestic film sector that becomes much more marketable to the world.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I wrote a script with Michael Sloan, producer and creator of Equalizer the tv series and the movie with Denzel Washington. It’s a sci fi feature and he’s coming on to produce it and I’m directing.
I have a few others in the pipeline like reviving LMI, I’ve been told a very big actress is interested, so we will see how that goes, anything can happen in Hollywood lol.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
The creative process, writing a script and then seeing actors take what’s on the pages and deliver a performance. It’s inspiring and I’m very proud of what’s my actors and actresses on Lumina were able to do with my material. Seeing it come to life in those dailies is amazing, you can’t really explain that feeling seeing it take place on the monitors in video village.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
That you would face so much jealousy and undermining, at least I would have been better prepared with handling certain situations, like you’re going to be one of the top writers in the industry, but they really are working for you to fail.
That discrimination overrides money in certain instances, no matter how much money is involved, some people just don’t want you to progress and shoot that film even if they stand to profit from your success.
IF you don’t get your scripts made, be prepared to have it stolen if it lingers too long, my exec asst told me to tune into a famous tv series, and season 2 episode 2 was entirely my content taken from my script, down to the lines, nothing can prepare when you see your material on screen in front of the world.
Don’t trust someone fully in Hollywood even if they have a great resume until they follow through with what they promise to do in writing, an agent committed an A list actor to our project, verbally and then changed their mind in writing months after, putting our project and reputation at risk.
Get an agent or manager who can cut through the red tape and has relationships in the industry because you can waste a lot of your precious time trying to get agents and studios to trust you when they don’t really know you from Adam …
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
Great question, on my debut film because we were working with the financier and there was a trust built between us, it was solely my personal artistic vision. The cinematic choices made were based on what I love seeing in sci fi films and what I hope the viewers also love seeing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The unity movement, bringing all cultures and ethnicities together under one world, one God, erasing the division and a self-sufficient society where animals are no longer endangered and debt is no longer an issue. Where all humanity can travel freely without restrictions…. with a revised monetary system which will support all people and drive many to actually do what they love … real progression of humanity
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Richard Branson, because he started off in music and went to airlines and my other love, aerospace. I feel like I have a similar trajectory in terms of my career. But to be honest there are so many others I am open and would love to meet. I wouldn’t limit myself to just one person …
How can our readers further follow you online?
My IG is ginomckoy, or on fb also under the same name and also my music on Spotify, which will also be showcased in the feature film, “Lumina”…