The Austin Film Festival packs panels of industry heavyweights and spectacular films into eight days. Where the films are concerned, some of these films have had prior screenings, and some are being seen for the first time. Austin Fusion was on hand to witness one such film, the world premiere of “Murt Ramirez Wants to Kick My Ass,” and was privileged enough to sit down and chat with those involved.
“Murt Ramirez Wants to Kick My Ass” is a timeless tale of a bully set to fight his helpless nemesis, and what shenanigans the victim puts himself through throughout the day to avoid a painful outcome. It’s a circumstance we have all encountered, one way or another. Dan Lee, writer-director, is painfully familiar with this reality stating, “It was a compilation of the best-worst stories of when I was growing up at a horrible middle school in Chelsea (New York), pre-gentrification. There was a lot of crazy stuff that went on at that school.”
With past agony as fuel for the backbone for the story, it was his love of ’80s teen films, notably “My Bodyguard,” as his stylistic influence. “I love those (’80s) movies and they’re classics, you can go back and watch them today. Really that’s what I was going for, a movie like that where you can go, ‘I grew up with a Murt Ramirez’,” admits Lee.
The film takes a nostalgic look at a childhood milestone, yet focuses on the lighter side of the situation, using laughter as a remedy for the pain. He credits another influence, Paul Feig’s “Freaks and Geeks” declaring that this show has a “perfect tone between true life and comedy.”
Having a film premiere at Austin Film Festival, a festival that allows direct interaction with professional peers is phenomenal for directors and writers, but also beneficial for the actors as well. Dan wasn’t alone at the premiere, having three of the young actors from the film, Jordyn DiNatale, Benjamin Kornick, and the bully in question, Armani Del Rio.
The actors were able to participate in the festivities, mingling with the people they look up to, the people behind the stories they love. Del Rio was impressed that he had the opportunity to meet so many people. “You don’t normally have the opportunity to have so many people in one party or conference and exchange cards and talk about doing what you love with the people that matter,” explained Del Rio.
This also has afforded the chance to learn aspects of the film industry and the filmmaking process they were unaware of. It’s also an experience they will take with them and apply it to their future roles. DiNatale wants to use this for her future career as an actress. In a panel she audited, she learned the difference between plot driven and character driven story. “I think this helps to know what type of script you are reading because you know what you need to focus on; what’s happening in the story the emotions that your character is going through,” DiNatale conveyed.
One must not forget the audience. It is a treat for those who attend these screenings that they are allotted the opportunity to witness the filmmaker’s brain being picked about their work that was just explored. At the Q&A that followed the premiere, the moderator posed the question of the future for these characters. It’s not a question that one would generally think of when a film has finished, but it’s one that adds more depth to the story.
Above all, the movie is what is most important, and in this case it’s one that has a heart that we can take away from. Kornick adds, “I think it’s something that any teen can relate to, it’s sort of a hilarious over the top interpretation of that classic story that everyone goes through.”
In an age where premieres are thought of as an elaborate expression of Hollywood royalty, it’s simply the first time a film has been seen outside the cast and crew. There is something magical in presenting your work in front of an unknown audience. If the laughs that occurred during the premiere of “Murt Ramirez Wants to Kick My Ass” are any indication, Dan Lee and his spectacular cast had a brilliant opening night.