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An Interview with Adam Masnyk, Writer and Star of Summer Issues

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2022

Adam Masnyk on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Summer Issues - in a few words, what is it about?


Summer Issues is about a group of young adults basically trying to figure out what they want to do in life, and attempting to break through that awkward stage of not knowing what to do with your life, and which direction to head in.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Summer Issues, and is it in any way based on your personal experiences?


A lot of the characters in Summer Issues are based off of people I knew. I think that was one of the ways it was exciting to write, because I knew these characters so well going into it, that they kind of just did their own thing and wrote themselves at times. It's unfortunate we had to cut several scenes out, because they were fantastic and developed the characters more, but it’s just one of the things you encounter when making an indie film.


To turn the last question on its head, to what extent can you identify with Sean ... or any of the other characters for that matter?


I think I would be lying if I didn’t say I do to some degree identify with Sean. Sean is living miles away from home, lost, and the only really true grounded factor he has for him are his friends. Are they positive influences, or are they negative? I guess that is subjective, but at the time when I was living in Los Angeles, and feeling like I was wasting away by simply just waiting for the phone to ring, one of the things that helped me make decisions was coming home and being surrounded by those people who could help shape and craft decisions that were running through my mind at the time.


Now how did the project come into being to begin with?


The idea to make a feature film really came about from me and my really close friend Matthew Berke just getting tired of the whole “rat race” thing in Los Angeles. Matt is a close pal, and we were kind of running around the whole Los Angeles scene together, and while it could’ve been a lot worse, we just wanted to “act”. And so, we came up with the idea that I would head back to the East Coast, and if I left I would make a feature film and not essentially just “throw in the towel” to the whole film scene, which is exactly what we did.


You have written the story for Summer Issues together with Rory Cardin - so what can you tell us about him, and what was your collaboration like?


Rory was fantastic. I met Rory years prior, and he was really one of the first “film” people I met once I entered the real working world at 16. We worked at the same place, and we would just talk movies and film all day. I reached out to Rory, knowing he loved movies as much as I did, and asked if he was interested in this crazy journey that was about to take place.


What were the challenges of bringing Summer Issues to the screen from a producer's point of view?


I think the most challenging thing, and you could say this for any movie really, was making it interesting enough that other people would give their attention to it. I think it goes the same with any movie these days, is that you have your story, but making sure it's engaging for others, and a key thing going into it, is I wanted it to be relatable to anyone and everyone, and that was one of the things I/we really tried for.


Adam in Summer Issues

You also appear in front of the camera in Summer Issues - so do talk about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written Eddie with yourself in mind from the get-go?


I always wanted to be an actor first and foremost, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to put this together, and any of the films I’ve done for that matter. I am not a 1000% confident here, because some time has passed, but I believe Eddie was originally just written based on me, and when we were auditioning people, no one really got close to what we were looking for. Playing Eddie seemed like a perfect balance because there was too much to do behind the scenes, and it didn’t take away from any of that, while still allowing me to play a character. It just happened to be the character I was most similar to.


What can you tell us about the rest of Summer Issues' cast, and why exactly these people?


A lot of times when you make an indie film, you have to cut corners in terms of quality regarding anything. I just lucked out that the people we found for the movie were absolutely perfect. That is not a bullshit response either. They were really fantastic, and I go back to watch that movie often and I always say I am beyond happy we got everyone we did. Vasilios Asimakos (Sean) was such a solid actor and carried an entire feature, Matthew Berke (Patrick) steals the show. There are moments of the movie I truly have never heard, because I laugh the same amount as I first did for his scenes, and I always miss the next couple of seconds of dialogue whenever he finishes talking.


The two girls (Ana Marie Calise and Alyssa Di Rubbo) were absolutely perfect, and likewise with the two sports guys (Mike Brais and David R. Reid). For both sets of characters, I had many more scenes written that would’ve expanded upon their characters and what they were going through. That is one of the reasons I knew in the back of my mind that I always wanted to turn this into a series. You have all these great characters who are in a similar position, but they deal with things their own way. Look at David R. Reid's character Frank for example. He is the oldest employee in the store, and going through a divorce, and he is lost/angry/confused, and he feels like his life is reverting back to where it was 20 something years ago.


Mr. Jenkins, played by Tom O’ Donnell, was originally written for Richard Jenkins, who we had a connection with at the time. I was a massive Richard Jenkins fan and couldn’t imagine anyone but him doing it. We sent him the script and he got back to us and basically said “Listen, if I do this movie, it’s going to turn into my movie, and I don’t want to take away from you guys with that.”  Which I completely understood from his point of view, but it was a shame, because he would’ve been great. But back to Tom: Tom never had an audition booked. He literally walked in off the street, and was one of the best actors of the day, and we instantly knew he was Jenkins. And for Eric Kelly, who played The New Kid. I always had him in my mind for that. I thought Eric was the perfect character. He just amused me and made me laugh by not doing anything, and I told him when I met with him to offer the director's chair, I think I said “I would love for you to direct this thing, but if you do, you have to act as well.”  I think he was taken back a little by that, but I wouldn’t change that role for the world. He is perfect in the movie.


It’s just one of those things where it worked out perfectly, and everyone brought their A-game.


Do talk about Summer Issues' director Eric Kelly, and what was your collaboration like?


Eric was a pal of a pal who I had met previously, and I just enjoyed his perspective and outlook. To me, he was one of those people that didn’t know how talented they are. So I wanted to give him the opportunity to do something that he might not otherwise get at the time, and hopefully it would open some doors for him, like it would hopefully for everyone involved.


Eric was great though. He showed up, acted and directed, and just did a bang up job. My only regret working with Eric was cutting some of his scenes, because he was FANTASTIC as The New Kid, and it's just another character that whenever he takes the screen, he has me laughing instantly.


You of course also have to talk about your main location, the comicbook store, and what was it like filming there?


A dream come true. I never in a million years thought I would be able to make a movie at the store. I occupied that store so much as a kid, and spent a lot of time in there. So it was fantastic. I think we did 2 straight weeks of overnights, from like 8pm-8am, if I recall properly? So by the end of it, I was ready to get out. But that as a location was perfect.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The on-set atmosphere was the reason why I wanted to come home and make my own stuff, because it was just a fun time. I know that seems cliché and predictable as a response, but it’s the truth. I was surrounded by incredibly talented and like-minded individuals, and every day was a great time. You have to remember, on these sort of productions you're not just rolling up and starting. There is a ton of work that goes in before the day begins and ends, and most of us were doing a million tasks at once, but no one complained or had any issues. I think the second week of shooting we were getting like 2 or 3 hours sleep at most because it was so much, and the days were long. You’d always find someone sleeping in their car when they could. But it was great. No one complained. Everyone showed up and had a blast, and I think that one of the things that makes Summer Issues watchable is you can tell everyone was having a good time making it.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Summer Issues?


It’s just like anything these days. You have people who enjoy it and support it, and then you have others who want to try to tear it apart. It’s so easy to hide behind keyboards these days and write whatever, so I have always tried to reflect on how the stuff I have done affects people in the real world. I once showed the film at Boston Comic Con, and we had a last minute screening and I thought no one was going to show up - and the room was packed. The movie finishes, and this guy comes up to me in near tears and explains that he was with his son who is deaf, and he brings his son to these cons to try and bond with him and get him to open up. He said it was his son's suggestion to go and see the movie, and he said he hadn’t seen his son laughing and interacting with him like he was in years, and that the movie literally brought them closer together. That moment meant a lot to me and has stuck with me over the years. I tell that story often because it was so impactful. At the time I was just trying to get any eyes in front of the movie, so to hear that it positively affected someone to that degree has been something I have never forgotten.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Well, we're about to jump back into the feature film world. We made Summer Issues in 2014, and since then I’ve produced dozens of short films, industrials, some commercials, but we’ve never gone back to features because it really is just so much work on the scale and level that we are on. I am not sure if I am happy or scared to announce that we will be starting our next feature that I spent 2 years writing, so be on the lookout for that starting real soon.


What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


The truth of this is I just loved movies, and it was around senior year in high school that Joe Carnahan's Smokin’ Aces came out, and I saw that movie and it changed my life. I was always big into movies and them being an escape for a lot of people, and I wanted to contribute to that aspect. Smokin' Aces had so many things going for it, and all these incredible and talented people involved, and it just looked like everyone had fun making it, and that’s the movie that really inspired me if I am being honest. A lot of times people are surprised when I don’t mention some arthouse film or some Criterion collection movie, but Smokin' Aces did it for me, man.  


I’ll never forget it either. It was a couple months before Summer Issues would kick into high gear, and we were in the middle of a blizzard, so I decided to take a break from pre-production stuff and throw on another one of Joe Carnahan's films called Narc, and the phone rings while I am watching this movie and it was the man himself. I had written him a couple of letters previously and never heard back, and then he reached out. He spoke to me on the phone for a good amount of time, and you could just tell this guy was different. He had this unique outlook, and was just a really smart individual. You could tell he loved movies, and his enthusiasm was infectious. At one point I mentioned I was making my own film that I was inspired to do by his work (cliché, I know), but he was very receptive and had a lot of support. It was honestly from that moment on I never looked back. I kept telling myself that I would continue to push forward and not give up, and I would set my own stage.


In recent years, you've also increasingly branched out into writing and producing - so what prompted that move? And which side of the camera do you actually prefer?


It’s just one of those things that I kind of fell into really. I produced Summer Issues to be able to act in something, but when people see the film and see what we did and pulled off for under $2000.00, their jaws hit the floor. I got good at producing and writing, and I enjoy it for the most part, so it just kind of evolved. People were coming to me/us with ideas for commercials and videos and stuff, with really small budgets, and there was no one around the area that could turn out a high functioning product like we were doing.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Summer Issues, in whatever position?


Well, during my time in Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time doing extra work. I know there’s this negative aura about doing it, and it's sort of looked down upon. But I loved it. I didn’t mind it. I showed up knowing exactly what I was supposed to do, did it, and left, and was just happy to be on a filmset. I never tried talking to people or crossing any lines, so I enjoyed it a lot and was fortunate to work the amount I did.


I had some small bit parts in Grey's Anatomy and The Amazing Spiderman, but I wanted to be doing more. I was never the type of person to just sit and wait by the phone. I was hungry, and wanted to be involved in movies and the filmmaking process in any capacity I could.


How would you describe yourself as an actor, and how as a writer?


Meticulous. I think that’s the best word to describe it. No matter how big or small of a project I was doing, I always gave it my all. I think that’s why at the end of the day I was always happy with a lot of the decisions I’ve made.


Actors, writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?


The most well-known filmmakers who inspired me are the people like Joe Carnahan, John Carpenter, S. Craig Zahler, and George Miller. These guys that made fantastic movies on simple stories that just elevated the storytelling because they were naturally talented people.


I’ve always enjoyed the talents of actors like Mads Mikkelsen, Vince Vaughn, Sean William Scott and Crispin Glover. That might be the most mixed bag of actors I’ve ever seen together, but its truthful.

Another person who inspired me was a relatively well known producer named Chris Mangano. He was doing his thing for years, and then decided to start his own venture, and he’s been doing his thing, and doing it well. When I met Chris I instantly knew he was into movies and just loved them as much as I did. At one point, he watched Summer Issues and was very positive about it and just beyond supporting with it. He was really into the idea and the concept, and it was pure joy to see someone as enthusiastic about the film as I was. He offered a lot of insight, help, and knowledge, and I am lucky enough to call him a friend these days.  


Your favourite movies?


That is quite a long list these days, but I really enjoy Smokin’ Aces, The Road Warrior, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Polar (Netflix), and I really was blown away at S. Craig Zahlers last two films Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete. I still to this day wonder why those movies weren’t bigger, because they are fantastic and amazing stories with some wonderful performances.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


There aren’t too many movies I am excited for these days. I think the shift in movies is a little concerning, but what can you do. I am not into Marvel and that whole scene, but I still completely respect it. I don’t want to badmouth those movies, because what they’ve done is beyond impressive, and if I was into them, and had all those different TV shows and spin-offs and movies, I would be in heaven. Unfortunately, they don’t really do much for me, but I still highly respect them and everyone involved with them. They’ve elevated a lot of new talent, broke through some old traditions, and given a lot of people opportunities, so I think that is pretty cool.


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The film company I am part of is Another Theory Productions. We are on all the “social medias”. My own personal social media would be @amasnyk on Instagram. I have to be honest—I’m not too into the whole social media things these days. I use it occasionally but it's mostly for my film stuff or something positive. Haha.


Anything else you're dying to mention and I've merely forgotten to ask?


Thanks for all the support and everyone who's been on this journey with us, and more importantly thank YOU Michael for checking us out and allowing us this moment. We are excited to announce and get into the next film really soon!!!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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directed by
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written by
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