AR: As a successful Buffalo expat, did the Queen City influence your career goals either due to say, an inspirational teacher or any particular childhood experience?
BS: Of course! First, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue entertainment if I didn’t have parents who were 100% supportive from the beginning. I’m eternally grateful that they believed in me. Second, I had a drama teacher at Nichols, Colleen Porter, who shaped my future more than any other teacher. She was the one who pushed me to follow a creative path. In fact, I always thought I’d grow up to be a lawyer. It was Colleen and my parents that suggested I pursue acting.
AR: You’re recognized for diverse projects ranging from Fact Checkers Unit to Wolf of Wall Street. How did your career trajectory begin post-graduation from Nichols? What steps helped to accomplish your goals in the entertainment industry?
BS: After Nichols, I moved to New York City to attend NYU Tisch School of the Arts. While I learned a ton at NYU (while simultaneously being ridiculed for my WNY accent), I really found my path after college. That’s when I started creating my own work — plays, sketches, videos. Through this, I was able to both make money and find my original creative voice. That ability to write and perform is 100% why I was cast in Wolf since much of what we said on camera was improvised.
AR: Buffalo is considered one of the meccas of the debt collection industry, especially in its heyday of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Why was it the perfect ambiance and catalyst for the plot and characters of Buffaloed? How much information about debt collection had you known before writing the script?
BS: I had always wanted to set something I wrote in Buffalo. Buffalo has so many wonderfully weird quirks that not many people know about. I wanted to highlight what makes our town unique without relying on the Buffalo tropes (snow and the Superbowls). So, as I started hearing about the insane world of debt collection from friends and family, I saw the perfect catalyst for a Buffalonian narrative.
AR: The process of a film reaching its audience has become more involved and complicated than in years past. Once your screenplay was written, how was the Buffaloed team assembled? Did the process come together easily once director Tanya Wexler came on board?
BS: You’re right, it’s a long process. That said, Buffaloed came together relatively fast. Once I finished the script, we attached Lost City as producers/financiers. Their development executives Elizabeth Grave and Brooke Casanova flipped over the script for both its interesting world and strong female protagonist. Then, we sought a lead since it would be the heart of the movie. We all loved the idea of Zoey Deutch playing Peg since she is such a force on screen. We were thrilled when she reciprocated the feeling. Tayna came on board after Zoey. In fact, when Tanya and I met before she was hired to direct she said, “If you don’t hire me to shoot this movie, I will burn down your office.” I knew then and there that she was the one.
AR: Zoey Deutch has received glowing reviews for her portrayal of Peg, a complicated and three-dimensional female protagonist. Thank you for this — we need more of these! Was Peg based on anyone you’ve known? What would you like most for audiences to take from her on-screen journey?
BS: Every project I’ve written in the past five years has a strong female protagonist (including my three scripts currently in development). I think it is an atrocity that so many incredible actresses are underutilized in supporting roles. I’ll continue to amplify inclusion as a primary goal of my work.
As for Peg, she’s an amalgamation of many different people from my past and present. If anything, I hope Peg inspires young people to hustle hard to achieve their dreams (minus the going to jail part).
BR: Film productions are looking more and more to Buffalo for shooting locations. Several were utilized in Buffaloed. Was there a particular look and feel of the city you hoped would be incorporated into the film?
BS: Buffalo is so diverse in it’s “looks.” The city has brand new buildings a block away from crumbling factories, 50’s row houses around the corner from turn-of-the-century mansions, and restaurants celebrating their 1 year anniversary while other restaurants are celebrating their 100 year anniversary. It’s a perfect mix of past and present. Buffaloed reflects more of the past — of a city unashamed of its roots. So, we leaned more towards the older Buffalo “looks.”
AR: The title, Buffaloed, contains a cool double-entendre. The term means to intimidate, puzzle, or confuse and of course, references the film’s location. What meaning does the title have for you personally?
BS: When I moved to New York, everyone would always rag on Buffalo. So, I would tell them about the sentence — Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Nobody would ever understand until I explained that buffalo was a verb. They still didn’t understand. That’s why we define the word in the text at the beginning of the movie.
AR: Buffalo food and culture is a big part of Buffaloed. A long-standing tradition for other cities and talk show hosts has been to poke fun at Buffalo’s weather and sports teams. Has Buffalo’s reputation as an underdog influenced your film’s theme?
BS: I think Buffalo’s reputation as an underdog has influenced my life. I have relentlessly fought an uphill battle in an improbable industry because that’s what we Buffalonians do (yes, I identify as a Buffalonian even though I’m a Lockportian). We turn the bad into good. When there’s a blizzard, do we give up? No. We “stay inside, grab a six-pack, and watch a good football game.” Until the game is over and then we shovel the damned driveway or else we’re not getting to work tomorrow.
AR: We’re thrilled to be showing Buffaloed on the big screen in the newly renovated North Park Theatre. Will audiences be able to catch it next in nationwide cinemas or through a popular streaming service?
BS: YES. I don’t know the details yet but it will be early 2020.
AR: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
BS: I would go Biff on myself. Not the festival BIFF, Biff from “Back to the Future 2.” I’d advise myself on all the sweet stocks to buy. “Go long on aapl, Young Brian!”