Film Courage: How did you develop the idea for your short film CANDY & RONNIE?
Skyko: Lucy and I (Skyko) developed a friendship with actor Tyler Tackett after hiring him to workshop a couple scenes for a feature that we are developing entitled Love Dust Revolver. All three of us wanted to film a different, complete piece so we chatted and came up with a couple different ideas. We all agreed that it would be a strong dramatic choice to do a short film that showed both sides of the coin of taking drugs, the ecstasy, and the agony.
Film Courage: How long was the script? How long did it take you to write it? Where did you write it?
Skyko: I wrote a two-page synopsis in a couple of hours and presented it to Lucy and Ty the next day. They both liked it and agreed that it would be a solid project. Initially, the film was going to be a super short 5-8 minute piece with little or no dialogue. We wanted it to be a good programming fit for the festival circuit, just a story told in images, sound effects, and music.
We needed to cast two other lead actors, so I wrote out a few scenes to use during auditions. It was important for me to find actors that were accomplished and could handle dialogue. During the auditions, the scenes came to life wonderfully – and we had so much fun with the actors that we all agreed on incorporating the dialogue scenes into the film.
The final draft of the script was 11.5 pages and it took me a week to write. I wrote it in our sound/editing studio Skylab Sound. We knew it would now be a longer movie (now planning on a 12-minute film) but it was important for us to include those scenes because the actors worked so hard memorizing them – it really felt a shame to just discard all of that hard work… plus it would be a great opportunity for us as filmmakers to hone our storytelling/editing abilities by filming the dialogue scenes.
“That story absolutely motivated me to write Candy & Ronnie. It is so unreal, so unbelievable, but it happens and it happens to normal, sane, everyday people. Drugs are fun until they’re not – and then it might be just too damn late.”
Film Courage: Did you write it alone or did anyone else contribute?
Skyko: I wrote it alone, but it was surely an accomplishment for all three of us.
Film Courage: Is the film rated mature? Does this hurt or help your promotion?
Skyko: Great question. The film is rated mature and I don’t really know if it will hurt or help with promotion. My guess is that the graphic drug use in the trailer will attract interest, but all of the promotional things we’ve been doing have been geared towards drug awareness.
I was a little concerned that people might think that we were using the drugs and love scenes gratuitously and then riding on the drug awareness campaign. It all came down to whether or not the actors could emotionally move the audience with the heavy, unexpected ending. Tyler Tackett, Mair Mulroney, and Paul Stanczak were exceptional, they really hit it out of the park. Even though Lucy and I have seen the movie thousands of times in the editing process, it still knocks us out every time we watch the ending.
All of the nudity was talked about in its entirety even in the casting breakdown. We needed to be completely transparent with our vision so to attract like minded cast & crew to the project and not have any unexpected trepidation on the day of. The way the love scene was shot was exactly how I planned and envisioned it would be. The actors and crew brought themselves to the scene and checked their ego’s at the door. We were all “love scene virgins” before we shot, so it was a first for all of us!
Film Courage: Have viewers expressed to you feelings regarding certain scenes in terms of their own experiences or family members facing addiction and how it felt to watch?
Skyko: Only a handful of people have seen the film so far, so it’s really hard to say.
We did get an eye opening amount of comments during the casting process though. We like to have a short email correspondence with the actors we bring in to read so that we can mutually get a feel for each other before the audition. During those exchanges, we heard from quite a few actors that they had someone close to them battle addiction and that it had directly affected them and their families. It was comforting for us to hear these candid stories and it also helped reassure us that we were on the right path.
Film Courage: What was the entire budget for the film? What amount did you raise on Indiegogo? Where did the remainder come from? Were you able to do other costly things in production or post yourself?
Skyko: We raised a total of $9,100 through Indiegogo, minus their fees we kept $8,370 towards funding the film. We added another $4,000 out of pocket. The budget went to paying cast & crew, meals, props (the fake pills were surprisingly expensive!), costumes, picture vehicles, festival submissions and relocating the residents of the house we used as the location to an Airbnb.
All of the camera & grip equipment used to make the film we own except for the jib and a few filters we rented. I did all of the post production including grading, music, and sound so we were able to save a huge chunk of change there! We had a small but mighty crew that even doubled up on jobs. For instance, Lee Peacher was our gaffer, sound mixer and also did a good deal of gripping. Angie Bulmer was our amazing makeup artist, but also did hair and light SFX tattoos etc. Hussain Najam was co-cinematographer and pulled focus for a good bit of the shoot. Lucy did everything and anything that one person was capable of and a ton more, she even designed and built the film’s website which saved us a good chunk of change.
Film Courage: How long is the final version of the film?
Skyko: Our first cut was 17 minutes. It was longer than we had planned for and wanted a fresh set of eyes, so we brought in a wonderfully talented consultant Roberta Munroe. Roberta gave us detailed notes and we cut the film down to just under 15 minutes. After the color grading process, we decided to split the difference and edit back in a minute. The final running time is 16:08.
We understand that for a short, the shorter the better. We know that we were possibly lowering our festival opportunities with a longer cut, but we had to stay true to the film, the actors, and our gut. We are ultimately aiming for long form projects so it was important for us to put forth full scenes and not chopped up versions just so we could fit a mold. Our first “short” was 38 minutes, so we definitely made an improvement…
A thought for filmmakers: We all know that roughly 1 page of script = 1 minute of screen time. Steadicam/gimbal shots can increase running time dramatically! We only had three definite planned Ronin shots and we had to cut one out entirely because those three shots alone accounted for nearly 4 minutes of screen time and for a short that’s an eternity.
Film Courage: Tell us about the CANDY & RONNIE ‘On-Set playlist?’ Was some of the music in the film or on set your own creation?
Skyko: Music is very, very important to us because it can either set a particular mood or lighten up the atmosphere. The Spotify playlist that we shared on our website is a general one that we like to play in-between auditions, before most shooting days and during wrap. It is made up of mostly upbeat 80’s such as The Cure, Missing Persons, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds etc. We needed a little boost for sleep deprived start times on Candy & Ronnie so we augmented with Spotify playlists of Rammstein & Metallica.
During dinner, If we had Italian food we listened to Verdi or Puccini, Mexican cuisine we dined to the trumpets of Mariachi and when we ate good ‘ol American grub we chowed down with Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Bill Evans. Our co-cinematographer Hussain Najam (in care of Mine Design Co.) donated the really expensive candles needed for props and we dined by candlelight each night (that was the brilliant idea of our set dresser, Marina Grozdanova). While I’m on the subject of dinner, we also had ice cream donated, flown in, packed in dry ice, directly from New Orleans Ice Cream Co. for dessert each evening, Thank you Adrian! This shoot will forever be emblazoned upon my/our memories.
As well as our talented leading lady, Mair Mulroney is also a gifted singer/songwriter. She graciously donated her time to come into the studio and record the vocals for a song I had written specifically for C&R entitled El Diablo. I wrote and performed most of the other music in the film in that same studio.
Film Courage: Tell me about your musical background, you score all of your films yourself correct?
Skyko: This could be a different interview all together so briefly… I began private classical violin lessons when I was eight and studied until I was eighteen, picking it back up again in my 30’s. (The Strad in Strad Films comes from Antonio Stradivari the famous Italian luthier and crafter of violins). Those in-between years I was either in rock bands playing the Sunset Strip or in the early 2000’s writing electronic music and DJing in Japan, Vietnam and at home in the US.
During the early 90’s I vowed to master music on the computer so that’s when I began experimenting with orchestral scoring. Technology has made such dramatic advances since then, I am grateful to have made the leap when I did. My love for music is tantamount with the respect and admiration for the great independent directors of the 60’s and 70’s that paved the way for all of us independent filmmakers.
Film Courage: What song got the cast & crew through the toughest part?
Skyko: Definitely Super Freak by Rick James.
Lee our gaffer/sound mixer shared a comment to me months after the shoot that made me feel awesome. There was a time midway through the shoot where we were WAY behind. I felt we had surely lost momentum. It was approaching 3 AM, everyone was utterly exhausted and we still had LOTS to shoot. (I was nearly in panic mode).
Out of nowhere came a thought to immediately halt production and call everyone into the living room – even though we were short on time. I grabbed our portable Bluetooth player (a “JBL Charge 3″… HIGHLY recommended!) and instinctively flipped the playlist to Rick James and invited everyone to begin clapping and moving around. (Lee told me after the fact that he said to himself, “Oh shit you gotta be kidding me – I don’t go for that crap…”) but honestly, after a couple minutes of blasting Super Freak and engaging in a little fun everyone was clapping, singing, dancing infused with a renewed energy, it was like magic!
At the end of the day, Lee came up, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You the man Sky… That was some Tarantino type shit you did back there, I’m on board for this entire shoot – whatever it takes… you got the gift brother…” (or something close to that…). That made my f’n day, such a proud moment and I didn’t plan it or think about doing it – it was just a reaction, and it possibly saved the day. Thanks Rick!
“We understand that for a short, the shorter the better. We know that we were possibly lowering our festival opportunities with a longer cut, but we had to stay true to the film, the actors, and our gut. We are ultimately aiming for long form projects so it was important for us to put forth full scenes and not chopped up versions just so we could fit a mold.”
Film Courage: How did you make it more comfortable for the actors to engage in certain scenes of CANDY & RONNIE?
Skyko: You’ll probably laugh because it seems so cliche´ but the love scene was shot MOS so we played a mix of Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and even a couple Air Supply tunes. If I remember correctly our (most romantic) Marina Grozdanova handled that playlist.
For the intense scenes in the back house after they’ve been up partying for days we didn’t play any music. I think the world without music would be like a world without color (we chose to slightly desaturate that scene as well). When the actors were gearing up, the air was so thick you could slice it. It was 100 degrees outside and no music before or during the filming just felt appropriate.
Film Courage: Did you do anything with the cast to make them more crazed for the intense “come down” scenes?
Skyko: Ty went on an unbelievably strict diet for three or four weeks before we shot and also during production so he was already in a heightened state for the shoot. That coupled with the fact he was puffing on cigarettes take after take made him nauseous to the point where we had to break for 10 so he could, um… go outside and get some air. I’m sure that sick feeling certainly added to the reality we were trying to create.
No members of the cast really were that “method” in the way they approached the scenes. It is really up to the individual actor how they approach these types of situations. This type of scene was a great learning experience for me because even though we did numerous takes, there were only one or two where I felt that the actors were at their peak performance. That kind of intensity requires an enormous amount of energy and concentration and if you hit it too many times, it is possible to lose some of the ferocity, especially considering we only had an 11-12 hour turnaround each night. This is when it pays to have two cameras running, one for the wide and one for a closeup so you can conserve your actors energy.
Mair and Ty did have a shot of tequila (or two) before their love scene which Lucy and I thought was adorable. That ended up being the last scene of the shoot and they both definitely deserved it! We shot the love scene on a closed set where only Lucy, Hussain (pulling focus) and I were actually in the room with Mair and Ty.
Hussain confessed that he had to watch the monitor and not the actors directly because it made him feel as if he was intruding on their privacy… Lucy and I felt the same, what an interesting reaction! I did, of course, have to watch both the actors and the monitor because I was operating camera, but it did seem like I was a voyeur at times because the two actors were doing a wonderful job at being very private in a public setting. Their professionalism added a deeper dimension to the film and we are grateful for their fearlessness.
Film Courage: At times, did you feel your brother Jimmy with you on set?
Skyko: No. I’m not sure exactly why maybe it was a defense mechanism. I much prefer to remember him during our closest, more positive moments when we were younger and when he wasn’t battling drugs.
The Lash Tavis poster on the back wall was made from a blow up of our old backstage passes we had when we were kids playing clubs on The Sunset Strip (Circa 1986). Having that picture there brought a presence of Jimmy before the ’94 California earthquake, before he was able to walk into doctors offices, get prescriptions and purchase a discounted assortment of painkillers that would soon rule and ruin his life.
Your producer/UPM Lucy Macedo (and beautiful wife) wrote an informative piece for CandyRonnie.com where she breaks down the casting process and provides tips for fellow actors and producers. How easy or difficult was it to narrow down your cast for the three main actors, Tyler Tackett, Mair Mulroney and Paul Stanczak?
Skyko: It’s always difficult for Lucy and I to pick out only one actor for a part because we wish we could hire all the amazing talent that shows up on time for the audition, confidently walks through the door, does the work and lights up the room.
Tyler Tackett our co-producer, and friend was already onboard as the lead Billy Isaaks, so we only had to find our leading lady, the pizza guy and of course the police and paramedics. There is a wonderful pool of talented actors in Los Angeles. Even with the required nudity and hard drug scenes we had thousands of submissions, looking at over 500 reels on LA Casting for the two parts.
Paul Stanczak really made us laugh with his read and his improv was hilarious. He bonded really well with us so I think that was our easiest choice. Mair who played Alice Murphy was unquestionably the most personable and easy to talk with regarding the sensitive material, providing candid answers to the intimate questions that we asked of her and all the actors.
During the callbacks, we brought along some props to use during a “party table” improvisation, empty beer bottles, fake cocaine, Jack Daniels bottle, cigarettes, lighter etc. We think that was the most fun of all because we were able to see what these actors could bring to the table (pun intended) that we hadn’t written or thought of.
Lucy and I enjoy the casting process because we get to interact with so many talented, dedicated people! We wish that we were able to add more of the outstanding work of our police and paramedics, actors David Hill, Roni Weissman, John Crickellas, James Bahman and Drew Mason but there just wasn’t time to include everything that we wanted to. We had to cut a lot of great performances and are looking forward to hiring Hollywood TV Cops on another production.
Film Courage: What’s some of the gear you’re using to achieve such excellent production value on CANDY & RONNIE?
Skyko: Thank you for that compliment! We broke the bank and invested in a Red Epic Dragon last year so it’s our current camera of choice. We shot in 6k (which was absolutely overkill) and used fast photo lenses so nothing fancy there, but we are using the new Foolcontrol application on iPhone for wireless camera control pulling focus, aperture etc. which gives us an edge with the electronically controlled photo lenses. For camera movement, we used a Ronin gimbal with a Ready Rig vest, a Dana Dolly (often with an 18″ riser) and we rented an Intel-A-Jib from our friends at Hollywood Depot in Burbank.
Most of the internal lighting was lit with the new Kino Flo Select 30 LED’s. Being able to dial in any RGB color with the flick of a switch is simply mind-blowing. We got the pink-purple wash on the back wall during the electric boot shot just by dialing in the Kino’s!
I have an extensive sound background so when I’m not directing or shooting I record location sound on a Sound Devices 633 with Sennheiser microphones and Sanken lavalier mics. We used that gear on the shoot and as I said earlier, Lee Peacher doubled up on gaffing and recorded crystal clear sound for us.
I decided to try something new this shoot by not putting body mics on any of the actors. The boom mic is always the go to source for dialogue and we planned on moving so quickly that I figured the body mics might slow us down and be more of a liability. I don’t regret the decision at all. Except for a line or two (which we grabbed in a quick ADR session) the boom did the job. Thanks Lee!
I cut the film on Final Cut Pro X, did the sound mix and music in Cubase 8 and graded it using DaVinci Resolve.
Film Courage: How much did you allow the actors to develop their own lines or emotion?
Skyko: I love to see what the actors are bringing to their character before I even say a word. We were able to have three solid rehearsals mainly for blocking and getting to know each other better. I like to hear the actors try and say the words as written but if they replace words or embellish to a point where it feels natural and gets to the heart of the scene I’m all for it!
The part in C&R where Tyler goes off and does the whole rant about the world being a tomato was completely improvised by him, in fact after he did the take I was concerned whether or not he was plagiarizing it from something he had memorized in the past. Truly, in the moment superb improvisation.
I think it was a hilarious improv when Paul Stanczak slapped Mair on the butt during the oner from the party table through the backyard into the back house. Nearly all of the bathroom scene was the brainchild of Paul as well, I let him take the ball and run with it. When he did the masturbation thing, the entire crew was watching unaware in video village and the laughter when we called cut was unreal! So much fun!
Film Courage: You have a line in the film where Billy Isaaks (Tyler Tackett) says “I came out here for something, F*ck…what was it?” Is this an important line to the theme of the movie?
Skyko: Yes. Billy is in denial as well as possibly on his way to a deadly overdose. He’s so out of touch he doesn’t remember why he’s sitting in his living room, what happened to his girlfriend, if it’s 6:30 in the morning or at night, or that he just recently dialed 911.
Film Courage: Can you share thoughts on watching the Oxycontin Express? Who recommended this movie to you and why? How did you feel after watching it?
Skyko: A friend recommended Oxycontin Express to me shortly after my brother Jimmy passed away after a 15 year battle with an alcohol opiate/opioid addiction. It answered a lot of questions such as why I found little pieces of tin foil with black wavy lines scattered all around his apartment when I went to rescue him a couple times. For the life of me, I could never figure it out. I had the feeling that it had something to do with drugs, but I had no idea of knowing that he was putting OxyContin pills on the tin foil, lighting them underneath with a torch or lighter and inhaling them through a straw.
It was devastating to watch the addict in the documentary relate his story about the time he woke up after he and his wife had been smoking pills and found her dead next to him in bed. He called 911 and smoked more pills until the police and ambulance arrived. He was apparently still addicted to them during the filming of the doc which shot months later.
After watching OxyContin Express it infuriated me. If people only knew what these giant, evil, corporations are doing to the population of the world – and how we are allowing it to happen… I’ll just say this, the only way to really understand what is going on is if you dig for it, read about it and research for yourself. That may only ever happen if someone you know and love is already addicted and then it is quite possibly too late.
That story absolutely motivated me to write Candy & Ronnie. It is so unreal, so unbelievable, but it happens and it happens to normal, sane, everyday people. Drugs are fun until they’re not – and then it might be just too damn late.
Film Courage: Any words of advice to another dealing with a loved one facing addiction (who feel they don’t have a problem or have left recovery)? Any words of comfort to another person having lost someone from addiction? What helps on the really tough days where it seems like “just yesterday…”
Skyko: Tough, tough, tough, tough, question.
When my brother hit rock bottom, I had nowhere to turn. I asked Dr. Joseph Sugerman (my doctor) for his advice knowing that he was in a similar position when his brother Danny was battling drugs. Danny Sugerman was one of the managers of the band “The Doors” and close friends of Jim Morrison. Danny gave me a call… Well… I will never ever, EVER forget that conversation.
Danny hit me square on, pulled no punches and laid it on the line to me. He said, “Sky I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if your brother is addicted to heroin or opiates/opioids, he is going to end up in jail or dead. If he gets to jail first thank your lucky stars because then you have a chance, a tiny chance, that when he gets out he can kick it. Not many people do, I did and a friend or two has but 90 percent of the people I know who were hooked are now gone.”
Everyone’s story is different. Jimmy lived clean like Superman for about 5 years after his first “episode”. He went to Gold’s Gym at Venice Beach at 6:00 AM every morning, ran miles on the beach, drank protein shakes, built a successful sales business for himself and his new wife and then poof, just like that, out of the blue he was slowly back on the pills again.
On the tough days remembering Jimmy I just cry, simple as that. Cry, let it out, let it all wash over me and then take a breath, let it go and move on, move forward with my life and Lucy’s life. Lucy and I are best friends and soul mates. She was by my side every painful step of the way during my grieving years, I couldn’t have done it without her.
The only advice I can give to someone who’s loved one is facing addiction is to love them the best you can for the longest time that you can because when the drugs grab hold of them they can turn. They can turn like a werewolf in the light of the full moon. This may sound selfish, but after years upon years of pulling your hair out, worrying, blaming, suffering, you have to save yourself. Give them ALL that you can give – but save yourself because it’s not your fault.
Film Courage: What is your aim with the section on CandyRonnie.com entitled Gone 2 Soon?
Skyko: Lucy came up with the concept of sharing images of famous artists, musicians, writers and friends who have died drug related deaths as a reminder that we are all such fragile souls and that life is so precious. Unless someone loses a loved one to addiction or drug abuse, it usually does not affect them directly so we all need to be reminded. What better way to remind ourselves than to revisit the sad endings of the people we look up to. Even those blessed with fame and fortune are not immune to the tragic effects of burning the candle at both ends.
This awareness campaign was a team effort. Lucy started by researching how many famous people had died from drug related circumstances whether it was recreational drugs, alcohol, prescription medication or a combination. Gilbert Ramirez our 2nd AC and BTS video editor created a list of names, then Lucy expanded on the list because unfortunately there were so many. Layan Bitar contributed by writing blurbs about each person. Lucy connected with graphic designer Rebecca Penton to assemble the frames with the images and finally, Danielle Jones came up with the hashtag #Gone2Soon.
Many of these famous people died young. We still include the ones who didn’t die at an early age. Who knows how long they would have lived and contributed their talents had they lived a drug-free life. Every Friday we share a portrait and short bio on our website and social media platforms.
If you have a loved one who died of an overdose and would like us to honor their memory by creating a portrait, please send Lucy an email at lucy[at]stradfilms[dot]com.
Film Courage: With recent drug-related deaths or suicides of top musicians, any words of advice for aspiring musicians or actors wishing to attain similar success?
Skyko: Again, this is a really tough question because it rarely gets answered honestly. The easy and correct answer is, “Just say no”. Just don’t f’n go there! But if everyone that you admire is going there, if your peers are going there, if all of your friends are going there it is going to seem impossible to resist the temptation to at least try it. You see people having fun, you see peoples inhibitions breaking down, people seemingly “Break On Through” you see, you see, you see… But you don’t see the bad! You don’t see the abominable, diabolical tearing apart of the soul that happens when drugs become your savior. And many, many people have no idea which drugs are, but dangerous and which drugs (opiates/opioids) that are lethal and deadly. Unlike many other street drugs, your body gets physically addicted to opiates/opioids and they tear you apart limb from limb.
I remember a time where Jimmy tried coming off of the pills and he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t sleep for days, upon days, upon days. He told me he would watch old reruns of films he had on VCR, go to all night coffee shops around LA, walk, jog and even after 9-10 days he was SO exhausted but his body rebelled. The opiates rebelled and said, “If you don’t give me what I want, I’m not giving you what you want”. I could never imagine how that must’a felt. Ten or more days with NO SLEEP. He said it was a living hell.
With the exception of opiates/opioids and other heavy drugs, there are some people who can do a line, take a hit, smoke a bowl for a couple of months then put it down, never touch it again and continue on as if nothing ever happened. Other people are hooked into the lifestyle after one, fun, successful experiment with it. The problem is that EVERYONE thinks that they have the gene that can kick the habit at will and this is just not the case. In my opinion, some people are absolutely more susceptible to addiction than others.
I believe the reason why I have not been hooked is that I have such a driving, unquenchable thirst, and passion to make films, music, props, costumes, music videos, artwork – that supersedes any high any drug can give me. If musicians, actors, and filmmakers really knew what it really takes to become successful I think they would react very differently. There just are NOT enough hours in the day for a life on drugs and a focused, successful creative lifestyle.
I see the many, immensely talented 5 and 6-year-old child actors that are actively, auditioning, acting, competing, tearing it up! It’s no wonder that Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Shia LaBeouf, Zac Efron, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling all got their start as kids working (their butts off) for Disney. This is what the actors fresh out of college are competing and auditioning against. It’s insane to want to throw drugs into the mix with this high caliber of competition.
To paraphrase a quote I read a number of years ago by Mark Duplass, “I remember when there came a time in my career where I had a realization that the cavalry isn’t coming. No one is going to save me. No one, but me is going to put me on the map”.
What do you want?!? What is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing in YOUR LIFE? If success in Hollywood is what you are after, seek out like minded people and not the fly-by-nights that may spend a year or two here in LA pretending to have a career.
“There just are NOT enough hours in the day for a life on drugs and a focused, successful creative lifestyle.”
Film Courage: What do you feel are reasons social dialogue is lacking about drugs which are the real killers in the addiction community?
Skyko: Big Pharma makes so much money off of these drugs there is no way in the world they would ever let the mainstream expose them to the public. They have lobbyists in Washington, their parent corporations own the airwaves and to reveal these immediate dangers to the public would be their death.
I think we all know in our heart of hearts that the main source of most all our miseries is corporate greed. It’s what is wrong with everything from our food supply, political agenda, media circus, poverty, homelessness as well as the FDA. These big pharmaceutical companies want us all to be ill and want to sell us the cure. They make drugs that kill and are beyond irresponsible with their selling and promotional tactics. We can not believe some of the things we’ve been reading since researching our drug awareness campaign for Candy & Ronnie.
Here’s one story that will blow your mind. in 1996 Purdue Pharma released OxyContin, selling it to doctors under the guise that it was a safe, time released pain management solution with full knowledge that it was far from their claims. They made 31 billion dollars off of OxyContin, but in 2007 Purdue Pharma paid out one of the largest fines (600 million) ever levied against a pharmaceutical firm for mislabeling OxyContin – with three executives found guilty of criminal charges. With blood on their hands they still continue to operate AND to this day, Purdue Pharma is still being sued. In June 2017 Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, among other multinational corporations.
… they helped kill my little brother Jimmy and maybe someone you love as well.
Film Courage: Do you think it is possible to be young and in the film/television or music industry and not be part of a scene filled with heavy drug or alcohol use?
Skyko: Yes, I do. It does matter with whom you are spending the bulk of your time with though. It’s important to be part of a healthy scene or positive group of people such as a film or music school, an organization such as Film Independent or one of the guilds or unions. Easier said than done though.
Film Courage: How much lonelier is it to be sober in Hollywood?
Skyko: It’s not a lonely place at all if you are able to get yourself to a point where you are “all consumed” with your career, with your art.
Being an entertainer in itself contains its share of loneliness because we are in a sense bucking the system, going against the grain of a normal everyday 9-5 lifestyle. For some people sobriety isn’t a choice, it’s a lifeline. I think that it’s becoming easier to find like minded people these days than it was, say 10-20 years ago.
Years before Jimmy passed Lucy and I had our own realization. We would occasionally dabble with recreational drugs (never opiates or opioids) and one day at breakfast we just looked at each other and said, there’s just no way! There’s no way in the world we can accomplish what we want to and still occupy our time with this foolishness. We lose the weekend and then we lose Monday, Tuesday sometimes even Wednesday trying to recover and before you know it we are already a week behind.
This decision alienated us from a good deal of people, but it also enabled us to focus and search out other actors and filmmakers that had their heads in the right place.
Film Courage: What are your plans for CANDY & RONNIE?
Skyko: On September 1st we received the news that we got accepted into the Awareness Film Festival Oct. 5-15th screening in downtown LA, what a cool birthday present for Lucy! We are currently submitting to other select festivals and are gathering and sharing the information we find about the current opiate/opioid crisis that is ravaging America.
The thought of developing C&R into a feature has not crossed our minds but now that you mention it, it was very hard to write and edit all of the thoughts and shots into a short film. There is SO much complexity to this conundrum that even a feature may not be the appropriate form for a subject of this magnitude.
Film Courage: Parting words to ambitious young people who believe the LA party scene is the pathway to a successful career?
Skyko: Every moment wasted partying is gained by someone, probably your competition, who is dedicated, focused, determined. Every dollar spent carelessly could be invested back into your career with equipment, acting classes, photos, websites or promotion. I know this from my own experience and by watching other filmmakers, actors, and entertainers. I’ve made some great choices in my life, but I’ve also made some bad ones too.
We all need to enjoy life and let our hair down every once in awhile but come on… we live in LA! There are SO many other ways to get high here like hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, surfing and biking at the beaches, skiing and snowboarding in Big Bear and Mammoth, the art museums, even walking around the new downtown City of Los Angeles is pretty cool, there is so much to do here!
If you are running into problems because of drugs or alcohol, therein lies the problem. Stop the drugs, stop the problems.
Film Courage: What’s next for you creatively?
Skyko: Our goal is to keep making films. We have two feature scripts I’ve written but they both require a sizable budget. We are setting our sights on making a character driven prequel to one of them that introduces some of the hilariously bizarre street kids that inhabit Hollywood Blvd. We have already shot some tests and even with a micro-crew of four, the footage looks awesome!
We are also keenly interested in connecting with other Indie Filmmakers here in LA for a number of reasons. Whenever we’re on set we always discover a new trick or learn a new lighting technique for instance. Because our gear is so important to us, we don’t rent it out without being a part of the production but we can offer rates that are ridiculously below any rental house because we are a part of the team. We also enjoy sharing our experiences with newer filmmakers say, on shot listing, auditions, pre-production, rehearsals or paperwork, plus it’s a great way to find other talented, reliable cast & crew to use on our own productions.
In a nutshell, we’re, “Putting one foot in front of the other, taking one bite of the elephant at a time and keeping on keeping on!”
Skyko is a filmmaker, composer, and co-founder of the production company Strad Films that he operates with his wife Lucy Macedo in Woodland Hills, CA. You can find out more about their production company at Stradfilms, sound and music services at Skylabsound.net.
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