By Steve Sears
Former Caldwell University student and current Wayne resident, Ryan Lesica, was recently presented with an “Award of Recognition” by the Best Shorts Film Competition for his 6:54 film titled Takeoff, which he entered in the LGBTQ film category.
Lesica, 27, and his Executive Producer, Michael Brueno, who resides in Chatham and is 29, have joined forces with and are now part of two-year-old United Front Media.
“I went to school at Caldwell University, studying Communications, Film, and Media,” says Lesica, who is quick to credit his professors John Yurko and Robert Mann. “They taught me all about film and media journalism, and I took several digital filmmaking courses, kind of integrated with both my passion of film and visual storytelling.” Since then, Lesica has been working on a variety of different projects, trying to get his hands on experience via many different avenues. “I did a few promotional shorts, I worked on a documentary, I helped film a feature that I helped write, and then got hired on board to Donovan Russo’s United Front media. That’s kind of how I met Donovan and Mike, and his brother, Sebastian.” From there, the group started collaborating on a few short films, all funded by United Front Media. “And then, with the budget, the dedication, and the reception, Takeoff is really our starting point, our launching pad. And we’re both surprised and pleased with the reception it’s gotten. We definitely want to see where I guess – no pun intended – this takes off, see where this goes.”
Courtesy of Lesica’s YouTube channel, the description of the award winning short is as follows: A pilot and his foreign partner struggle with the limitations of their relationship as distance separates them in more ways than one. A passionate independent short brought to you by United Front Media.
“We worked together and Takeoff was really Ryan’s pet project,” Brueno says. “He wrote it from the heart, wrote it from experience. I was happy to be on board with the project.” Brueno coordinated actor’s contracts, days of shooting schedules, and more, but the creative mind behind the short was Lesica’s. “Ryan is the brains behind the project and behind the creativity, and he did a fantastic job putting it all together. How it comes across on screen was how his vision intended it.”
The film, minus dialogue, focuses on emotion, and Lesica sought a Director of Photography who could tell his story through visuals. He found that photographer in Sam Schmitz, and actors Dante Quevedo and Zach Booth delivered on-camera roles exhibiting great feeling. Noah Russo, Donovan Russo’s brother, contributed a sound and superb musical score that flows with the film and emotion.
Takeoff has also been entered in other competitions, and Lesica and team are hoping gold can be struck again. “This kind of goes back to our concept and our vision for United Front Media,” Brueno says. “When we initially got together, we wanted to make projects for everybody: the struggles that everybody is going through, the problems that everybody is going through. We wanted to really focus on a united front, everybody coming together, collaborating from different backgrounds, whatever it may be.” Gratified would best describe the feeling regarding the end result. “To actually put it together and accomplish it,” Brueno says, “and to know how much work you put into it, it’s a very satisfying feeling personally.”
For Lesica, he sees his Takeoff win as a true starting point. What was just a hobby but certainly a passion has turned into a career. “I’m sure everyone who ever started down this field did probably small segments or shorts for their friends and their family on their smartphones, their primitive cameras, but certain projects come and go, and certain ideas come and go,” he says. “But to have it really finished, and to have that feeling of accomplishment – the fact that we did this, and the fact that it does get recognized – you feel that we do have something to offer, there is something that we can do, that we do have a knack for this. We want to see moving forward what else we can accomplish, what else we can bring to the industry.”
For more information about the Best Shorts Film Competition, visit www.bestshorts.net.