(re) Search my Trash interview with director Gary Ugarek on his feature length Crime Thriller [All In The Game]
The good folks at (re) Search My Trash recently interviewed Filmmaker and good friend Gary Ugarek in regards to his feature length Urban Drama film [All In The Game]! Check out the interview below and a quote from the interviewer himself; Mike Habelfelner – ” Thug Life: All In The Game is beautifully filmed and wonderfully energetic movie about small fry crooks trying to make it big – in other words, exactly the kind of movie I like…
*To view the interview in its original written form PLEASE visit the site thru the link provided here at: http://www.searchmytrash.com/articles/garyugarek(7-12).shtml *
An Interview with Gary Ugarek, Director of Thug Life: All in the Game
July 2012Films directed by Gary Ugarek on (re)Search my Trash
Mike: Your new film Thug Life: All in the Game – in a few words, what is it about?
Gary: Drugs, Violence, and Sex.
(You said a few words,)
Mike: With Thug Life: All in the Game being a gangster film, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites?
Gary: I am a fan of many genres, zombie horror, action films, modern day gangster films and the gangster flicks of the 30’s and 40’s. I am actually more of a fan of the original 1930’s Scarface than the Pacino remake.
I can’t say it is my all time fave because my tastes and likes in film change based on my mood and many other factors, but it is a genre I do enjoy.
Mike: With the majority of your cast being Afro-American, did the blaxploitation films of the 1970’s at all serve as a template for your movie?
Gary: No, I know about them and enjoy them, but that was not a route I wanted to take.
Mike: (Other) sources of inspiration for Thug Life: All in the Game?
Gary: There are only 3 sources of inspiration for All in the Game, HBO’s The Wire (3 of my cast members were cast members on The Wire), Pulp Fiction (for the violence and torture carried out by Lucky). Reservoir Dogs was the final because of the consistent and quality wide shots, something we did try to emulate on All in the Game.
The inspiration that came from Pulp Fiction in regards to the character of Lucky was this simple question: What would Marsellus Wallace do?
Mike: You’ve shot your movie entirely in black and white – would you like to elaborate on this and other stylistic decisions?
Gary: I wanted to do and urban gangster film and a black and white film as part of my film career, and since money is very hard to come by, even for us indie guys, and trying to pull off a full movie on $1,700 (budget for All in the Game), I said I might as well make it in B&W, so I kill two birds with one stone.
I filtered some test footage before I made the final decision, and of course all the B&W is done in post with filtering, but the main reason was to get another check-off on my film career. I am not sure how many films I will be able to make in the future, and with each movie my next one is further and further out, so I try to wrap what I want to do all in one project if I can. But I will admit after doing the test footage in B&W I fell in love with it, so you could say it was an artistic choice if you want.
Mike: How would you describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
Gary: I have grown quite a bit as a filmmaker, so when directing my actors I try to find real world scenarios to describe what I am looking for, or use a movie they may have seen for reference. However, these are folks who act for a living, so I tell them some information when I give them the script and expect them to carry it out the best they can. On set I will tweak their performance within a take or two.
Mike: I think one of the aspects that make Thug Life: All in the Game so very much alive is its choice of wonderfully run-down locations. So what can you tell us about your locations?
Gary: The warehouse is the Street Light warehouse and was in use many years ago. It is Baltimore City property. That location makes numerous appearances onThe Wire as well. The bar the gang hangs out in is an actual bar owned by one of the castmembers. It is a very popular East Baltimore hang-out, and one of the first places in Maryland to assist African Americans with voting when they were allowed to vote. So the building has a lot of history behind it.
Mike: What can you tell us about your principal cast, and how did you find them?
Gary: Lucky and Vince are Micaiah Jones and Chris Clanton. They played Little Man and Savino Bratton on The Wire. I met Micaiah through Nelson Irizarry who plays the leader – Ontario Banks. I met Nelson and Kelvin (who plays Littles) on the set of a 100% improv zombie film called Zombie Doomsday, in which I have a small cameo. After working with them I said one day I would sit down and write something they could appear in… All in the Game was that film. Nelson introduced me to a lot of the actors, and since I knew them from watchingThe Wire, it was a no-brainer to cast them in the film.
The great thing about indie filmmaking, there is always someone who knows someone who worked on a popular TV show, had a decent role people remember, and they just love to act. Plus we all had a blast making the film.
Mike: You also play a small role in Thug Life: All in the Game. A few words about Gary Ugarek, the actor?
Gary: No comment… I just wanted to set someone on fire.
Mike: A few words about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere?
Gary: The film took 12 days to shoot. We re-shot day one footage on Day 12. The actors hadn’t quite gel’d yet so I said I will see how days 2-11 go, and if they get better we will reshoot all of day 1. We did and it works much better. On the self-DVD/Blu-Ray-release I actually include a lot of the Day One-footage that was scrapped, and you also get to see it in color. Once you see the film and re-watch the Day One-scenes you can see the differences.
The on-set atmosphere was a lot of dick jokes. We took the work seriously, but it was just day-in day-out of smart-assery, and someone always claiming they had a bigger dick than the next guy. Even race jokes flew around the set. We all became great friends and everyone knew where we stood as individuals, but it never stopped anyone from being called OUT ON THEIR HERITAGE. I didn’t care if I was called a Cracker, DP #1 Habib Awan probably got the worst of it. Habib, who was born in the USA, sounds every bit American as the rest of us, just was constantly being bombarded with jokes about him not possibly liking the film and plotting to blow us up at the premiere. (To note: this was in 2011, so way before The Dark Knight Rises-shooting.) To us saying and talking about race and origin takes the stigma off of it.
Mike: What can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your film so far?
Gary: Critical has been good, I haven’t read any horrible reviews yet. Audience – it is definitely a crowd type film. I know at the Baltimore Screening when Nicky Caprisci makes his big announcement, a lot of folks got pretty emotional about it and cheered at his come-uppance. The film toes a fine line of PC and P-UC. This was not done for shock-and-awe factor, this is just how the real world is, even in 2011/2012, and when you shoot a film on this subject matter, you better expect anything and everything to come flying out.
Mike: Should need arise, will there ever be a Thug Life II?
Gary: There is a script for a spin-off film based on the character of Lucky, titledLucky, but it is still in early development. I also have a screenplay for All in the Game II that picks up right after the end of All in the Game 1. While they think they won the battle and won Caprisci’s territory, little did they know his only daughter has more balls than her bother and is 5 times more ruthless than her father. So the story picks up with the daughter getting wind and exacting revenge. When you’re in the drug trade. there is no end to the game. As it has been said, the game is rigged to get you to fail.
Also, the film is just titled ALL in the GAME, that is how I wrote it and directed it. The distributor changed the title and added Thug Life… I wasn’t crazy about it, but I said whatever, as long as All in the Game stays as a subtitle – so you will never here myself or a cast member call it Thug Life: All in the Game, we just call it All in the Game.
Gary: Go buy them… They are aweomse.
I was, but pushed it back until 2013. The film just needs a lot of money to be made, more than the normal budgets I work with. I actually discuss it in a YouTube video. It starts by me discussing the ending of Deadlands 2: Trapped, which is also on You Tube for free to watch, and a debate started up among viewers about the ending. I thought the ending was pretty obvious, but to some it was not so I ended up explaining it, then I touch upon Deadlands 3.
Mike: Why zombie movies, and your genre favourites?
Gary: Zombies are the only horror monster that scares the living shit out of me. Even at 41, I could have a terrifying-as-hell nightmare about zombies and still wake up in a sweat breathing heavy. I have some very vivid dreams. Deadlands 2: Trapped was based on a dream I had the combined Demons and The Return of the Living Dead, so that is how Deadlands 2: Trapped was born.
Plus I also look at it like, every zombie filmmaker is making their own survivalist training video based on the zombie apocalypse through their eyes. Mine is just another training film.
Mike: Any other films of yours you’d like to talk about, any other future projects?
Gary: Not really but thanks for asking. I just ask your readers check out my films and they can even leave comments on the IMDb page for the film or email me directly (through the official websites) to let me know their thoughts and opinions. I like reading feedback, especially those who have true feedback that can help me improve. What they like and didn’t like. I strive to make each film better, but how you do that is through feedback.
Mike: Directors who inspire you?
Gary: So many to list, but I do respect Tony Scott, he knows action. Richard Donner, Shane Black, George Romero for his contributions to zombie cinema. Sam Raimi, Dan O’ Bannon. And Luc Besson.
Mike: Your favourite movies?
Gary: Die Hard, Dawn of the Dead, The Return of the Living Dead, True Romance, Leon (aka The Professional),Pulp Fiction, Saturday Night Fever, Boogie Nights, Shooter, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood,Goodfellas, and many others.
Mike: … and of course, films you really deplored?
Gary: I have never really walked out of any movies except one. Collateral Damage with Arnold Schwarzenegger, that was bad, I just looked at my wife at the time and said I don’t know about you but I think this sucks and I am ready to head out. So we got up and left. I won’t say I deplored it, but I don’t care for The Dark Knight. When Heath Ledger was on screen the movie was dark sinister fun and entertaining, when he wasn’t it just seemed to meander looking for a purpose. I do deplore Avatar, not because it is a bad film, but because everyone thinks it is great film. It is really just a live action version of Ferngully, and while it looks great, it is only eye candy. Cameron has made better (Terminator 2, True Lies) and should be making even better films than those, not so-so flicks likeAvatar.
Mike: Your/your movie’s website, Facebook, whatever else?
Gary: Deadlands trilogy – www.playingwithdeadthings.com
All in the Game – www.allinthegamemovie.net
Myself – IMDb, Twitter @GaryUgarek, FBwww.facebook.com/DjfunkmasterG
Mike: Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Gary: I like Wonton soup.
Mike: Thanks for the interview!
Gary: Thanks for having me on, and glad you enjoyed the film.
Gary Ugarek’s Independent Feature Length Crime Thriller [All In The Game] has been aquired for Distribution
Below is a review for Gary Ugarek’s Independent feature length crime thriller [All In The Game]starring Nelson Irizarry, Chris Clanton, Micaiah Jones, and Kelvin Page. Along with Mike McMullin, Daniel Ross, Joseph Durbin, myself, and Vonn Harris as well. A great review and its just a blessing to have had the opportunity to work alongside such a taleneted cast and crew! As always #StayTuned and enjoy!
All in the Game
By: Will Santana, Posted: April 09, 2012
The Movie itself:
Independent director Gary Ugarek has pleased zombie fans not once, but twice since his directorial debut. Now Gary attempts to please fans in his second favored genre, urban gangster films. Not ever viewing Gary’s previous two films due to my lack of interest in zombies, I actually was ecstatic win he made an official announcement with his third movie All in the Game. I’m a sucker for the urban genre. Whether it’s a high budget production, an independent one or even a rapper attempting to make a motion picture. Now, I’m sure Gary doesn’t have any attentions of being compared to a rapper wanting to have an impact in Hollywood (cough! Master P), and intends to hit viewers hard and correct. Now that’s gangsta.
The streets of B-More (Baltimore) trafficking groups are under the radar battling for territory. Ontario Banks (Nelson Irizarry) leads his gang but wants more than the average thug life. He preaches to his crew to have more expectations than just money, clothes and hoes. His crew is supported by the tactical, Vince (Chris Clanton), the enforcer, Lucky (Micaiah Jones) and trigger happy, Littles (Kelvin Page). Ontario wants nothing but his crew to be low profile, but on the other hand wants to move in on B-More rival, Michael Caprisi’s territory. With his crew and some help from the streets, Ontario must be smart, tactical, and daring in order to make his new move. Now that the plan is in effect, the streets of B-More are now at war and no one is safe.
For Gary’s debut into the gangster genre, I was really impressed how well the storyline was developed, and for a small independent film, the acting was superb. The movie had a bit of a slow start and was similar to many films I’ve seen in the past, but if you just hang in there, the suspense tends to build up with the violence and strategic moves. I did like that it didn’t take long for the characters to develop, and it was pretty easy to identify which kind of role each actor would have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad at all that they developed so fast as the movie’s actual plot was somewhat unpredictable. Outside the main actors, the acting was quite poor, too stereotypical or a few scenes seemed to be exaggerated.
I was really impressed how speeches of growth were entertaining, even though these scenes slowed the pace of the movie, it didn’t impact the flow at all. I also like the split screen shots instead of the usual cross cutting that Alfred Hitchcock perfected. I did think at times the split screen method was unnecessary when the two cameras were in the same exact location and were probably 2 feet away from each other. Nelson, Chris and Micaiah had great chemistry and it worked with them being on the same crew. Kelvin Page’s character was the least convincing to me even though I understood his role. I felt a little should have been added to Kelvin’s character progression.
As the story unfolds in All in the Game, the movie comes pretty hard. The torture scenes may lack the special effects of a major Hollywood blockbuster but still can make you cringe. Gary truly got his money worth from Micaiah Jones as the enforcer, he was 100% convincing in his role as Lucky. Micaiah brings fear, power, humor, and a grimey presence to the screen. Chris Clanton had a smooth swag I wish Gary would have captured more. He played my favorite personality but was very limited to screen time. Chris’ portrayal of Vince is the one you can see making something more of his life than trafficking and living the violent life.
All in the Game wasn’t a letdown one bit. The gangster torture film has a slow start, but if you give it a chance and hang around long enough, you will witness an independent movie that can entertain just as much as any major blockbuster. The special effects are lacking due to the budget but the storyline and acting are so up to par. I have yet to see Ugarek’s zombie films, but I hope to see more from the urban genre. A fun hip-hop soundtrack and a tour of B-More added some more spice to a movie that’s already fun to enjoy. I wish I could loan my copy out to friends but I know they will bootleg this movie in a heartbeat and I can’t take any part of that as I support the independent film movies.
Movie Rating: 7/10
All in the Game is presented in full 1080p via Mpeg-2 encode and framed at 2.35:1. The black and white film from Ugarek’s looks really damn good on Blu-ray. Although the film was shot in color, the post conversion to black and white was done extremely well. For a small budget, damn, the contrast and black levels were top notch in high-def. Man, if you ever wonder how to set your contrast up, this is the movie to tweak it around with. White levels tend to bleed a bit on daylight shots while in the neighborhood. Facial detail is fairly impressive as moles, scars and other blemishes are easy to detect. The movie has a bit of depth to it adding an extended dimension. Grain seems to come and go, on a few night shots grain was a tad heavier and bothered a little. The transition to new scenes went pretty smooth for the most part.
I love, love, love the opening shots of Baltimore. With most movie’s settings taking place in New York, Atlanta or California, it was quite a treat to get a quick tour around a different environment. I also enjoyed the shots in Ontario’s crew base with the window. The camera focuses on dialogue from Kelvin and Chris but they’re in the background of the glass and you can still catch a glimpse of Nelson. My favorite shot was of Micaiah coming out of a hallway hitting a light bulb and all the shadows flashing, which also illustrates the greatness of the black levels.
Even with a killer score and soundtrack, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track was the most disappointing section of the disc. The first minute of the movie audio has a glitch that really doesn’t affect the rest of the movie. Dialogue for the most part is clean and crisp but suffers with echoing at times, wind blowing and random street cars driving by. Inside of buildings the dynamic range really impressed and the musical soundtrack provided a fun lifting moment. I personally will need to contact Gary with a few of the hip-hop tracks that were in the movie. Rear speakers are used quite often and with a few background noises but were also disturbing on occasions. The hip-hop track uplifts the bass usage for sub-woofer fans. I’m sure the budget could have had an impact with the audio track, so it was still good enough for me overall.
Video Rating: 7/10, Audio Rating: 5/10
All in the Game has a lot to offer in the way of extras. You won’t be disappointed with these High-def features.
- Audio Commentary
- Saint Anger’s-You Heard Me: Music Video (HD 4 min)
- Teaser Trailer (HD 1 min)
- Original Day 1 Footage (with Deleted Scene) (HD 1 min)
- More Day 1 Footage (Deleted/Reshoots) (HD 4 min)
- Original Cut-The Three Amigos Torture Scene (HD 4 min)
- Fund Raising Promo (HD 2 min)
- In the Hot Seat (Cast Interviews) (HD 12 min)
- Bloopers- By the Balls (HD 2 min)
Extras Rating: 8/10
For his first film in the gangster genre, director Gary Ugarek has an extra base hit if you ask me. For the price I paid for my disc and the budget of the film, I feel I came out dead even. All in the Game will find a nice spot in my Blu-ray collection with my urban movie cases. Will Gary go back to his true passion of zombies or stay here? I hope he stays here as I will purchase his next film without any hesitation. A solid video transfer and blasting hip-hop soundtrack makes this a bonus from what I was expecting. Chris Clanton and Micaiah Jones were absolutely entertaining to watch and hope the two can team up some more on screen.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Gary Ugarek’s Independent Feature Length Crime Thriller [All In The Game] has been selected to screen at the Fright Night Film Fest + Fandom Fest June 29-July 1,2012 Louisville,Ky
Gary Ugarek’s Independent Feature Length Crime Thriller [All In The Game] starring Nelson Irizarry, Chris Clanton, Micaiah Jones, and Kelvin Drama. Along with Mike McMullin, Daniel Ross, Dominique Spencer, and Vonn Harris has been selected to screen at the Fright Night Film Fest + Fandom Fest June 29-July 1,2012 Louisville,Ky! This is excellent news for the cast/crew that worked their asses off to make moments like this happen! As always #StayTuned for more news on this production!
I present to you below Gary Ugarek’s Independent Feature length Crime-Thriller [All In The Game] starring: Nelson Irizarry, Chris Clanton, Micaiah Jones, Kelvin Drama(Kelvin Page), Mike McMullin, and Daniel Ross. With Joseph Durbin, Dominique Spencer, and Vonn Harris. The film screened in Washington, D.C at the ARC Theater as well as Baltimore, MD at the Landmark Theater. I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment!
[ALL IN THE GAME]
Below is a review from the great folks at Rogue Cinema on Gary Ugarek’s Feature Length Independet Crime/Drama [All In The Game] starring Nelson Irizarry, Chris Clanton, Micaiah Jones, Kelvin Drama and Daniel Ross. Along with Mike McMullin, Vonn Harris, and yours truly! #StayTuned and #Enjoy
Although you probably wouldn’t think that Rogue Cinema would receive a fair share of hip hop inspired crime films, I have received my own fair share of titles that thrive within this genre. These are not movies that focus entirely on hip hop as a music form, but instead these are films that act as depictions of the pure bravado that some forms of hip hop promote. Despite being a big fan of hip hop, I tend to veer away from the “gangsta” rap element. However, I still consider myself a fairly massive fan of crime cinema in general. A part of me loves the idea of gangster-movie loyalists doing their part in continuing the legacy of great crime films, but these movies do often fall into many of the same pitfalls. As we have seen in the horror genre within recent years, genre fans can contribute both the best and the very worst when it comes to their respective genres. All in the Game is a gangster title that looks to take its inspiration from several organized-crime movies from the past, but offers a slightly more modern twist. In a multitude of ways, the movie does turn out to be successful, but unfortunately it also suffers from several key issues that tend to drag it down.All in the Game tells the story of Ontario Damon Banks (Nelson Irizarry), a East Baltimore based criminal kingpin who has intentions of taking over the city. Standing in his way are the local mafia bosses, who control the city with a iron fist. Ontario, however, has devised a plan to start a quiet war with the Italians that will see his crew taking on these old style gangsters without riling up a war in the streets. To do this, he intends to aim directly for the head of his enemies. What follows is a series of kidnappings and brutal murders that may very well see Ontario rise to the top of the Baltimore criminal world. However, not everyone within Ontario’s empire will stick along for the ride. I have seen many low budget crime films in my time as a reviewer here at Rogue Cinema. It appears that despite “gangsta” rap taking a dive in popularity, the independent film world has taken a liking to this Scarface-inspired world of crass and violent businessmen. Although All in the Game starts off featuring a few amateurish performances, it quickly shows promise and technical wizardry that sets it above many films in this genre. The first clue for the audience that these filmmakers actually intend to do something slightly different, comes in the form of its black and white cinematography. This is something that comes fairly unexpected, due to black and white photography often being relegated to art films or neo-noir titles in this modern age. This immediately creates a atmosphere of creativity that the movie does not deviate from. In combination with this retro fashion, the film also uses a great deal of handheld camerawork in an attempt to create something slightly meta. This combination of new and old aesthetics somehow works well together, and manages to bring a gritty sort of realism to the film. The problem with a lot of these movies, however, are the lack of true characters. Although we all love strong gangsters leading our crime films, there needs to be multiple dimensions to make any character stand out as realistic. Although Al Pacino is famous for saying that his character Tony Montanna was gloriously two-dimensional, Tony was actually very well written. Considering that Tony Montanna is the blueprint for almost every over-the-top crime movie made in its wake, I believe that he is the perfect example for what works and what does not in a hardened crime-movie. Tony Montanna may have been a tough guy onscreen, but his drug problem made him a wild gun who couldn’t control himself in the slightest bit. He also had a incestuous love affair going on with his sister, which added another strange layer to a well built and multi-faceted character. In direct opposition to this, a character who is built primarily on posturing seems to work best when he is played in a slightly more low key fashion. All in the Game, however, is anything but low key. Verbose speeches are thrown around like characters are delivering Shakespearean monologs. Our lead, the character Ontario, is performed well by Nelson Irizarry. He is a strong and intimidating force when he is onscreen, however, the character only seems to have one face for the audience: “Badass.” Unfortunately, this becomes rather hard to swallow, and audiences may not react well to his lengthy speeches throughout the duration of the film. All in the Game is low on plot, but high on violence and general tough guy demeanor. This is a hit or miss situation, because it will probably limit the audience for such a title. While some are bound to enjoy the testosterone-fueled machismo that accompanies the film, others will be slightly more realistic when focusing on the actual logistics of the movie. In all actuality, this is a title that is based around several torture sequences where our leading man espouses long pages worth of expositional dialogue. After a while, the long speeches and the brutal torture sessions can grow somewhat stale. Some viewers might appreciate the purely gangster approach that the movie takes, but I personally found myself rather conflicted while watching. A solid little crime film, All in the Game obviously won’t make it on every viewers “best of” list at the end of the year. I do think that the movie shows that director Gary Ugarek has a tremendous amount of talent, and he should do well in establishing himself. A visually compelling feature, All in the Game certainly manages to differentiate itself from the pack. I know that I personally look forward to seeing how the director stretches out and handles a slightly larger scope in the near future. For more information, check out the film’s official Facebook page
Hey everyone, Just wanted to let you know, If you didn’t already know the film All In The Game, directed by Gary Ugarek starring Nelson Irizarry, Micaiah Jones, Chris Clanton, Kelvin Page a.k.a Kelvin Drama, Daniel Ross, Mike McMullin, Vonn Harris, myself and many more has been selected to screen at the RIFE [REEL INDEPENDENT FILM EXTRAVAGANZA] October 22 at The Arc Theater in Washington, D.C! To say Im excited would be an understatement! This will be my very first film festival in which I performed in a speaking role. Big Thanks to Micaiah Jones and Gary Ugarek for making this all possible.
Here is more info on the project and how you can go about purchasing tickets to the event
Gary Ugarek’s walk in the world of Urban Gangster Drama depicts an East Baltimore drug crew vying to take over all of Baltimore City Drug trade, and they do it by dropping one body at a time.Keeping with the brutal nature of Ugarek’s Zombie films, All In The Game brings the violence, and the Charm to Charm city.
All In The Game is pack with great talent, such as stars Micaiah Jones and Chris Clanton from HBO’s The Wire as well as Daniel Ross from Ninjas VS. Zombies and Transformers: The Game (Star Scream Voice) Starring: Nelson Irizarry, Micaiah Jones, Chris Clanton, Kelvin Page, Daniel Ross, Mike McMullin, Vonn Harris, and Many more. All In The Game is a WETNWILDRADIO Films production
Written and Directed by Gary Ugarek
Edited by Habib Awan
Cinematography by Seann Ikon and Habib Awan
Produced by: Jim Hefferman, Gary Ugarek, Nelson Irizarry and Daniel Ross. The Show Starts at 7:00PM
Movie Runtime: 80 minutes
Contains Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence, Strong Language, and Sexual Situations SEATING CAPACITY IS LIMITED TO 365 PEOPLE. After the Show you can Grab your own DVD for $10.00 or the Blu-Ray for $15.00 Tickets can be purchased in advances through the RIFE Website at: http://www.reelindependentfilm.com/home.cfm Or at the Door the night of the event. Seating is Limited and only one show will play.
- As always stay tuned for details on this project as they arise