Back in August we reported plans by filmmaker and actor Leroy Nguyen to move forward with Silverback, the independent pic that would have otherwise been his feature debut preceding his 2017 film, Black Scar Blues. After Nguyen moved forward on the project in 2010, principal photography began a year later and wrapped in 2012 before its entry into Amazon Studios for more proliferation.
Fast forward to 2018 and after leaving it shelved for so long, he’s since reunited with fellow local filmmaker Joseph Le of Team Red to go full circle after ramping up additional photography in July. Both Nguyen and Le can be seen in a current ten-minute sizzle promo to share with audiences at this year’s sixth Urban Action Showcase and Expo to sample a little bit of the narrative to introduce to moviegoers keen on independent cinema.
“He’s a very macho character; almost a caricature of masculinity.” says Nguyen of his character, Richie “Silverback” Vo, the acting head honcho of his own crew of hoodlums. Vo has a thick skin and a heavy fist to boot, but it’s when it comes to matters dealing with the women he loves that he ultimately resorts to more destructive avenues. “Essentially, we watch Richie lose control of the balance he’s tried to maintain between the ruthless, almost stereo-typical mafia-wannabe type gangster he needs to be, and the broken soul that he is.”
Whilst sitting on the film for six years, Nguyen would go back and forth watching bits and pieces. It wasn’t until Black Scar Blues was released this year that Nguyen got inspired to take Silverback to the next level and make it into something cinematically worthwhile even beyond its hour-and-twenty-seven minute duration.
“The first step was figuring out what new direction I wanted to take the film, the second was seeing who I could have help me with it, and the third was actually going out and shooting the new stuff.” says Nguyen. “After I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do, I contacted my main man and brother-in-arms Joseph Le of Team Red Productions here in Northern Virginia. Without the him or the rest of Team Red, most likely I would’ve just released Silverback as is in its original cut.”
I actually had the chance to meet Le last November as the fifth Urban Action Showcase was underway. I’d been following Le’s work since around 2015 or so, and as seldom as he is when it comes to uploading stuff (which is usually because he’s collaborating behind the lens either at Rooster Teeth nowadays, or on other awesome works such as this or this), all one needs to do is turn to anything he’s filmed and know that when it comes to shooting inspired independent action, he doesn’t disappoint.
“These guys are talented, passionate, and hungry.” Nguyen tells us. “I have NEVER been around a group like this. Made up of martial artists, stuntmen, and filmmakers, this group has the potential to do some major damage… Joseph Le is my brother, and we’re gonna take this team and really fuck up the indie-action scene.”
One other challenge Nguyen faced, he says, was finding a reason to revisit Silverback again after having shot and stored the original footage on now-outdated equipment; He says the content he filmed previously on an Canon HV20 still ought to be compatible with what he’s filming now with an Canon XA10. Apart from these issues, there were definitely some more interpersonal hurdles at the time.
“Honestly, Silverback did for me what I didn’t realize I needed back in 2012, which was to sort of exorcise some demons that I had.” Nguyen says, adding, “I had to really push myself to figure out why I would want to brings this back creatively. I mean, the film did what I needed it to do. I was fucked up from a really bad relationship back then, and Silverback became my artistic representation of all of that heinous shit I was feeling.”
He contimues: “Being almost ten years ago, I’m in a different mindset now. Watching the film now is different from how I saw it back then. It’s kind of crazy since I barely remember the frame of mind I was in while making it. So now I can look back at the film objectively, out of that dark-ass hole I was in, and just appreciate the work that my guys put into it.”
“All of the people who worked on it back then were all so excited and just so damn supportive.” he says. “Even before I started working on the new version of the film, a lot of the same people would ask me about the original and wonder when it was going to be released. I can’t take that kind of thing for granted. Not only did a lot of my own heart and soul go into making the original film, but a TON of hard work and long nights were endured by the small cast and crew that helped me.”
Attendees at this year’s Urban Action Showcase and Expo can catch Nguyen’s 10-minute short promo at 4:30pm on Saturday, November 10th in Theater 15 at the AMC Empire 25 Theater in Times Square, NYC. As for expectations, Nguyen asserts that Silverback won’t be a “non-stop thrill ride” as far as action goes, while impluring the film’s fight scenery will definitely serve a purpose to the culminating drama.
“These types of films interest me, which is why I try to make them myself.” says Nguyen. “Basically, if you’ve seen Black Scar Blues or any other Rising Tiger work, then you have a better idea than most. This is a character-driven drama under the guise of a gangster film. I don’t mean to sell it short, and if reading anything above has made anyone’s boners go soft, then I apologize… But yeah, fuck your feelings. Just kidding. Please watch my stuff!”
Rounding out the current cast of Silverback are award-nominated supporting actors Mo Morsy and Aradam Seyoum, with Joseph Le portraying an albeit undisclosed “villain” role, and Team Red members Samuel Joon Lee, Robin Calvo, Tu-An Truong, and Pat King.