Created by award winning filmmaker Steven A. Soria, Beautiful Fools is a cinematic web series that follows the path of Peter, played by Dominic Best — he is a protagonist consumed by grief and loss, on a mission to drink his way into self-destruction. He is often detestably ignorant to the generosity and care of his friends, but somehow remains charming as he drinks his way through the city of Los Angeles causing havoc wherever he goes.
Close friends care for Peter in his inebriated state, but also perpetually join him on his drunken binges. For Peter and his friends there are no black and white truths, only shades of gray as they navigate their way through the often humorous yet painful experiences that come from being young and foolish.
The series has a strong art house feel harking back to the 1990’s “Indie Film” movement — it is an aesthetic that creator Steven A. Soria knows well. AMMO sat down with Soria to discuss how he became a film maker, meeting Kevin Smith, and the inspiration behind Beautiful Fools.
AMMO: When did you know you wanted to get into the business of film?
Steven Soria: My brother was always trying to get me into film. I remember my birthday in first grade, instead of having a party all my friends took part in a Ninja Turtles movie that I made, and my brother was heralding that whole thing. Then after High School I went to film school and everyone told me that I should just make movies, like that is what I was meant to do.
AMMO: So is your brother is older than you?
SS: My brother is ten years older than me, so he was a teenager who was really into movies — he works in film now doing post graphics. Back then it was the 1990s so we were watching Quintin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith. He really wanted to do what they were doing but he didn’t want to do it alone so he got me to do it too. I don’t think I really got excited about it until he convinced my mom to buy me a camera when I was in High School. Once I had made my first movie with that camera I was really into the film stuff.
AMMO: When did you get into photography?
SS: Film and photography kind of come hand in hand. Growing up with film I was used to the format, with 35mm cameras I would think about how 24 shots is one frame in a movie. From there is was just figuring out how to expose stuff, how I would expose film as a still is how I would make a movie and vice versa. It’s always related, there isn’t a lot of separation between the two.
AMMO: Who are your artistic inspirations?
SS: The film maker that made me understand film in a new way is Kevin Smith. When I was in sixth grade I saw Chasing Amy for the first time — it made me understand what an indie movie could be like. Everything I wrote in junior high after that was totally Kevin Smith wanna be shit. That led me to comics, specifically the Clerks comic book by Jim Mahfood. I used to carry that book around in my binder, and then I met him at a comic convention and we became friends. I ended up shooting a documentary for Jim. In the documentary we met Kevin Smith, it was crazy. I got to meet the two guys that made me want to do comics and movies. Now I would have to say I’m inspired by people like Steven Soderbergh who shoots his own stuff and directs his own stuff, I’m a huge fan of that. Really though Kevin Smith was my gateway drug, then it was Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino, people like that.
AMMO: Where did you get the inspiration for Beautiful Fools?
SS: I inherited a feature from a friend of mine who passed away, and I just wasn’t the right director for it. It wasn’t a story that was personal to me, but I had this weight of the legacy behind that movie and I was really nervous about it. There were investors that wanted it to be a certain way and they weren’t happy, really the feature just imploded on itself — it was soul crushing. I felt horrible for letting people down and stayed away from film for awhile. I focused on photography for a full year. Then I was asked to develop a romantic comedy TV show for a network program, it pulled me out of self exile. The producers wanted it to be a vehicle to promote a specific actress, they had a very specific idea in mind. I thought it sounded like a modern take on The Great Gatsby, which I am a huge fan of, I told them we should call it Beautiful Fools. The network hated it, they told me it was too cynical, too dark and bleak, it wasn’t the light and airy project they wanted. I abandoned the project and took the title with me. What I had focused on with it was how The Great Gatsby is about obsession and booze, those themes carried over to the script for Beautiful Fools the web-series.
AMMO: The narrative of Beautiful Fools is about Peter but told mostly through the eyes of his friends, why did you choose to tell the story from their perspective rather than his?
SS: Well, the whole story is like an indictment. We couldn’t really be judgmental of him or take him that low if he was doing it all on his own. You have to see it through everybody else because the winces, the reactions to the messy-ness, are more interesting than the actual messy-ness. It felt better to see it from someone else because you feel bad for them, we can empathize with the person who wants to save someone that can’t be saved. When Peter is self-destructing he can’t see the span of his chaos, he isn’t introspective at that point.
AMMO: What message do you want viewers to take away from Beautiful Fools?
SS: We want to be able to laugh at the bullshit that comes from being young and stupid. It’s not just about that though, like The Great Gatsby it’s an indictment of a lifestyle. Me and Anna [Salinas], who wrote it with me, sat down and examined what it is we and our friends do in our drunken state. It’s not a cautionary or preachy tale, but it was cathartic to get everything out and analyze it in the open. It’s embarrassing, but it also felt good.
AMMO: There are so many creative people involved in this project — Anna’s art finds it’s way into episodes, you have Kickstarter art done by Dave Crosland, music by Kaela Sinclair not to mention the whole cast and crew. This isn’t a question, I’m just pointing out how many talented friends you have associated with this project.
SS: Yeah, in the finale Anna’s drawings are animated too. We had an amazing animation producer, he produced the reboot of Thunder Cats, I asked him about animating our project and he admitted that with our budget we would never be able to afford an animator. So he just did it. My music supervisor is my buddy Curt Barlage, he did most of the tracks in the show — he’s the front man for a band called Bixby Knolls. He did the theme song for the show too. So many people volunteered so much time and I’m so grateful. Heather [HigginBotham] and Benita [Robledo], who are producers as well as actors, are run ragged at this point. They’re so amazing.
AMMO: What’s your AMMO?
SS: Fear will tell you to surrender and submit. It’ll tell you to go through the motions of being a drunk, or to see a quack, or to change your chemicals, and you’ll hope that those things will fix all your problems. They won’t. But at some point, those parts you thought you lost to the dark and deep will find you again, and you’ll realize that while creativity alone won’t make you invincible, it’ll at least give you some ammo. The kind of ammo that makes for fun battles…even if they’re the kind you won’t survive.