In certain Montreal circles there is a buzz growing over a new film. A film not out of Hollywood or even out of the established Canadian film industry, but from the suburbs of Montreal. An independent film made on a tiny budget by a group of close friends, none of whom are actual filmmakers.
Written, directed and edited by Steve Candussi, The Pugilist stars Rick Ragozzino and Peter Longo as two boxing rivals with very different aspirations. Production on the mockumentary started back in 2010 when Candussi, Ragozzino, Longo and nine close friends, most of whom were turning 30 that year, thought it would be fun to make a film for the sake of making a film.
None of the 12 friends had ever made a film before. Ragozzino, for example, has a background in engineering and works for a telecommunications company. Longo is a chartered real estate broker.
Filming took place whenever schedules and opportunity allowed. Lots of favors were called on and the little money that the project did have all came from its creators.
“Before you know it, we were filming in clubs, in restaurants and other spots. All our friends pitched in. People came on board to help us out,” Longo explains.
“We always seem to get lucky. Things always fell into place,” Ragozzino admits.
“What do you think of our tagline? ‘An epic amateur comedy full-length film.’ It’s exactly what this film is,” Longo adds.
“Rick and I always tease each other. We’re still boys at heart. And so we thought, why don’t we play on that in the film. Tough guy humor,” he continues.
“We had a loose script at all times. We worked with that and came up with ideas as we went along. But a lot of the stuff we filmed never made the cut,” Ragozzino explains.
“We’re all arrogant about what is funny. But Steve made all the final decisions,” Longo adds.
Unlike Longo who has trained in boxing, Ragozzino had never even thrown a punch before filming started. And so as part of the filming process, and at the suggestion of his director, Ragozzino started a 92-day regiment to get ready for the fight scene.
And since his character also starts to train as part of the storyline, the physical changes were recorded on film.
“It was perfect. You really see the progress of Rick’s training in the film,” Longo comments.
The film was completed this past August. A month later The Pugilist premiered to a packed theatre in a Ville St-Laurent.
As a show of gratitude for all the help they received throughout the production, the filmmakers decided to donate all the proceeds from ticket sales to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The screening was a success. So much so that a second screening will take place in downtown Montreal on November 14, with proceeds again going to Make-A-Wish. To date, the team has raised over $9,900.00.
As for what happens after November 14, the gang is working on future screenings and distribution.
“We’re always ‘pugilisting.’ We’re always planning. Always working on the next step. Yes we turned pugilist into a verb,” Longo jokes.
The Pugilist screening will take place on Thursday, November 14, 2013, at 7:40PM at Cinema Banque Scotia in downtown Montreal. To purchase tickets, please visit www.thepugilistfilm.com.