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 A Five Star Interview - Danny Buday 
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It's hard to imagine where Danny Buday is going to go after the success of his debut feature film, "Five Star Day," an involving film about a man (Cam Gigandet) who sets out to disprove the theory of astrology and ends up learning life-changing lessons about love, fate and destiny. Buday, a graduate of the American Film Institute with an MFA in Directing, was hired after graduating from AFI to write the teen action/thriller "Kennedy High" for Barry Josephson's Josephson Entertainment and wrote an early draft of the acclaimed "Veronika Decides to Die." Buday was subsequently hired to write for Academy Award nominated producer Michael O'Hoven ("Capote"). "Five Star Day," also starring Jena Malone, won the Jury Award for Best Feature at Stony Brook Film Festival and was the Opening Night Gala Film at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The Independent Critic had the chance to chat with Buday about "Five Star Day," which was just released on DVD by Breaking Glass Pictures.


THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Let's start off with the basics. Tell me about "5 Star Day." How did it all come about? It's an intriguing idea for a film. 

DANNY BUDAY

I have some friends that are really into Astrology and a close friend in particular had gotten their natal chart done as a gift.  Initially the concept for the film grew from that into the idea if there's more than one person born the same exact time and place, then therefore they must share the same, exact horoscope.  By the same rational, if each person somehow wound up in totally different places in their lives years later, then how legitimate could Astrology be?  The rest of the story unspooled from there.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

How does someone go from AFI graduate to increasingly accomplished screenwriter to writing/directing/producing your first film? 

DANNY BUDAY

To be honest, I have no idea.  The only answer I can offer is hard work and a lot of luck.  That said, I still feel everyday that I hopefully will just get to make another film and tell another story.  After graduating AFI I was able to find some work as a free-lance screenwriter and that definitely helped me network with the right people to eventually assemble the team that made "5 Star Day."

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

"Five Star Day" has a terrific cast. How did you attract such quality as a new filmmaker? I'm a huge Jena Malone fan and this was a tremendous role for her...it really reminded me of why I've always loved her work. Max Hartman was also tremendous. 

DANNY BUDAY

Shannon Makhaian (casting director) was a huge asset in getting the script for 5 Star Day in the hands of some great actors including Cam and Jena.  I had actually met Max Hartman a few years earlier at a friend's wedding and was amazed at his singing ability, so I knew early on that he was going to play the role of Wes.  Bt the way, all of the crooning he does in 5 Star Day is all him actually singing.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

You received your MFA in directing from AFI, but you've also experienced quite a bit of success in writing. You also received your bachelor's degree in business marketing. It seems like you've really been intentional about guiding your career towards the full spectrum of filmmaking...both the creative and business side of things. Are you just one of these renaissance men of filmmaking? I saw where you've even composed an original score for one of your shorts. 

DANNY BUDAY

I'm intrigued by all aspects of filmmaking, so I guess that's why I like to be involved from the script all the way down through the process to the distribution and marketing.  Just making a great film these days isn't enough.  You have to be able to surround yourself with a great team, but also be knowledgeable yourself on how to get your film released and seen by an audience.  Regarding composing the score for my thesis film at AFI 'Dependency', music has always been a huge love in my life and I hope to contribute more score material on my next feature.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

You may not want to go there, but I'm wondering if this is a direction you always have seen yourself going. When you studied business marketing as an undergrad, did you have your eyes on the film industry? At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to make a go of film? Did your friends and family think you were nuts?

DANNY BUDAY

While I was an undergrad student, though my major was business marketing, I was definitely already interested in filmmaking and actually had shot my first short 'Spark' by the time I was graduating from Cal State Long Beach.  In fact, my executive producer Mike Robertson and his wife Kim were both at that short film screening during my undergrad years, and they ended up not only also being involved with my AFI thesis film 'Dependency', but nearly 10 years later they wound up being the executive producers of "5 Star Day."

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC




What types of projects attract your interest? Looking at your film projects, you seem to go for meaty subjects with a strong emotional core. Looking at "Stateside," "Kennedy High" and "Tears of Bangladesh," it seems like you have a strong interest in films that truly get to the heart of the matter. Really, "Five Star Day" is very much in that pattern. 

DANNY BUDAY

I'm definitely drawn to stories that leave audiences asking questions and spreading messages that will enrich lives, so you're right, all of my current and upcoming projects have themes that deal with overcoming obstacles, which all of my favorite films also have in common.   

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

What were some of your biggest challenges and greatest experiences with this process of writing/directing and producing? Any big lessons learned?

DANNY BUDAY

Working in the indie-feature film world means each project is a multi-year endeavor, so the biggest challenge is always to remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint.  I absolutely love being on set, but the actual days on set filming a project are usually very small in comparison to the amount of time and effort that go into not only the pre-production but the post-production, editorial, and even all the way to the film's actual release and distribution.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Do you have an interest in continuing to wear multiple hats on a film? 

DANNY BUDAY

I definitely see myself continuing to be involved in most aspects of my projects.  I've just found over the years that's how I like to work.  Every director has their own unique way of working and while I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the immense value in the over-all collaborative nature of filmmaking, I also love to be involved in all the various apsects to ensure that the entire vision for the project as a whole is staying focused.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Your film has had a lot of success on the festival circuit. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of the film festival circuit for the indie filmmaker? 

DANNY BUDAY

Film festivals are a much needed gateway to help your film not only start finding it's audience, but help the various distributors and buyers become aware of your project and help raise it's awareness not only within the industry, but now with the uses of Facebook and Twitter and the social media aspect of promoting a film, the film festival circuit provides a necessary avenue for filmmakers to effectively go out on the road with their film similarly to how indie- bands  go on tour to help raise awareness for the release of an album.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

What's up next for you that you can talk about? 

DANNY BUDAY

I'm currently prepping a new feature called 'Stateside' about a U.S. soldier returning home from Afghanistan which starts filming early this summer.  I'm also developing a teen action film called 'Kennedy High' scheduled for later in the year. 

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

So, did you read your horoscope today? :) 

DANNY BUDAY

Actually I didn't have a chance to check out my horoscope today, but the producers of "5 Star Day" and I have been curious if audience members have wanted to also try and locate their Zodiac twins, so we've set up a free daily horoscope site that also offers a way for people who are into Astrology social network with each other.  It's called Zodiac Tracker and you can check it out at http://www.zodiactracker.com

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

One of the things that most impressed me with your film is that you really have not only put together a quality film, but you've also done a great job with PR, social networking, the website, etc. You seem to get the "fullness" of filmmaking. It doesn't stop when the camera's not rolling.

DANNY BUDAY

Thanks so much, and yes, while the process of making a film in and of itself is a major challenge, with the internet, Facebook and the various social media platforms out there, it's an amazing opportunity for independent filmmakers to easily access their audience and help raise awareness for their project so I think more and more filmmakers are going to need to be involved with the various aspects of their film in order to find the right audience and have the most success in reaching them.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

How do you relax? Do you relax? Any hobbies?
DANNY BUDAY

I love music and playing/writing music in my spare time.  I also enjoy spending time and hanging out with my girlfriend Heather and our two dogs.  We both love to travel, and when not working, we try and get out of town and go have as many adventures as possible.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I'm a bit intrigued that you took the film to Chicago, among other cities, given that you grew up there for awhile. 

DANNY BUDAY

I definitely wanted the film to feel authentic that Jake's character actually has to travel a good distance on his journey and I knew that Chicago being such a large metropolitan city would be a great example of a place where four diverse people could all have potentially been born the exact same time and place.  Also, knowing that we were looking to film in the late fall/early winter I knew from growing up for awhile there how beautiful and cinematic downtown Chicago can be during it's snow season.  For me, the traveling aspect of the film and actually taking our crew on location from San Francisco to New York to Atlantic City was such a fun experience that the same momentum is felt in the film.  Once Jake arrives in Chicago and finds Jena's character for me is when the film starts to move, and I think actually traveling to various locations helped to add that element of authenticity.

"Five Star Day" is available through Breaking Glass Pictures or you can pick it up by clicking on the Amazon banner to the right of this interview. For more information on Danny Buday, you can also visit his website.

© Interview by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic



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