Ryan Nemeth spoke with Justin Barrasso for Yahoo! Sports discussing his new film HEEL, which is currently crowdfunding. The film is described as a “narrative drama about an up-and-coming pro wrestler who is offered his dream job: a contract with the biggest company in the world. All he has to do is behave himself for a few weeks” and has raised $53,650 of its $65,000 goal so far with just under four days left to go.
You can see highlights from the interview below and contribute to the campaign here.
On when he realized his career path was destined to be different than WWE: “Signing with the WWE was all I wanted. My dream came true, but once I left NXT, I needed to recalibrate and rethink my purpose in life. I had a great opportunity to write for WWE Swerved on the WWE Network, and I got plugged in with the creator of Jackass, Jeff Tremaine. I still wrestle, and Ive worked the indies and Tommy Dreamers House of Hardcore, but I fell in love with film and acting. But it dawned on me that my new mission is telling this story. I also sporadically run independent shows in L.A. called Nuclear Heat Wrestling, in which every show has a different cause we benefitwhether its dog or cat rescues, charities for victims of sex trafficking, or other causes. I run them with Anna Lore. Those were a precursor to this film project, using wrestling to help the world instead of just trying to use wrestling to make money. People have asked me, ‘What are you going to do if this isnt funded?’ My answer is always the same: It will get funded. This world is sick of people not paying for the wrong sh-t theyve done in life. I know for a fact that happens in wrestling. I know the film will upset a lot of people, but I want to help tell this story. There is no profit coming from it, but I feel compelled to do it. Now, with hundreds of people around the world helping fund the project, I am responsible for making sure it happens.”
On his experiences seeing the negative aspects of the indies and how much of that influenced the film: “When I left NXT and started working the indie scene, I learned it was the Wild West. There are no rules, theres no overarching body or group. Its basically a group of nomads going from promotion to promotion. Its not as hard as youd think for someone to get away with bad stuff. By the time somebody is whispering about something you did to some girl, youre already 300 miles away at the next show. It makes getting away with being a scumbag pretty easy. And if youre the woman who is the victim of some kind of violence or sexual assault, this is just like any other industry and any other sportthe minute you open your mouth and say something about somebody, you have your industry telling you youre a liar or a sh-t, and there is this new giant army of online fans suddenly doxxing you. Do you want to lose all your bookings and speak out? Or keep quiet and continue to allow this to happen? Its so easy to go undetected as a truly sh–ty, sleazy scumbag in wrestling. So short of saying, ‘Heres what I know about this business,’ which Ill never do because thats a betrayal to people who are victimized and those are not my stories to tell, but my story to tell is a fictional work inspired by that world. I love wrestling and I love most of the people in the business, but a seedy underbelly exists, the same that is being exposed in every other industry except in wrestling, which is avoiding it because it blends fantasy and reality and were never supposed to know which is real.”
On Dolph Ziggler’s role in the film: “Creatively, hes a consultant. But I cannot cast anyone until we have the funding in place, and thats why the next few days are critical. I have roles Id like him to play, and ideas of what Id do, but we need to fund the film first. My first foray into the international film circuit starred my brother, and that film, Daddys Boys, which is a comedy, inspired me to go further in the film industry.”
On the incentives to contributing to the crowdfunding campaign: “Making a pledge literally makes you a part of this movie. There is a whole giant list of cool incentives, leading up to being a producer with IMDB credit on the film. Its SAG, its on the level, and were hoping to take it to festivals around the world. If you want to be a business partner of Dolph Ziggler, this is the way to do it. There are a handful of wrestlers who have been super generous with their pledges, especially Ruby Riott, Shawn Spears, Luke Harper, Pro Wrestling Tees, Trent Beretta, and John Morrison. Referees and production people from WWE, medical staff from AEW, pledges from all over, and I appreciate every single dollar. Even friends from outside of wrestling, like Sam Richardson from VEEP, made a generous donation. And the pro wrestling themed hamburger place in LA, Grill Em All, has been great to us. Pledge something big, pledge something small. That pledge of $10 helps a lot, and for only $20, youll learn about all the behind-the-scenes parts, like what its like to cast people, storyboards, locations. I mean, it costs more to go to an indie show. And as you go up, the incentives get cooler and cooler, and you even get to go to the wrap party. I love wrestling, and I love how wrestling makes people feel, and thats the reason I want to make this film. ”
On what he’s most proud of for the project so far: “HEEL has been crowd-funded from the beginning, including the topics of sexual assault and drug addiction in the film. Sadly, but most poignantly, people emailed me, DMd me, and sent me messages explaining why those topics are so important to them, explaining to me why the topics meant so much to them. Those were some crushing, heartbreaking stories. This film will have a story that is extremely important to people all over the world. The idea was crowd-funded, the finances are crowd-funded, and the crew is going to be made up of a very diverse and inclusive collection of people. I want this movie, from start to finish, to be made by the most passionate, caring people possible. Im extremely thankful to those who pledged, and weve got a few more days if you want to help us reach 100 percent.”