Recent University of Miami School of Communication graduate, Brody Gusar, M.F.A. ’09, is off to Florida Supercon to showcase his new film, The Next Big Thing. Directed, co-written, edited, and produced by Gusar, the film was also produced by three other UM alumni, Mustan Dawood, M.F.A. ’09, Krystyna Ahlers, B.S. ’10, and Brendan Merrill, B.S.C. ’08, and co-written with Iain Roush. Ahlers acts in the film as well.
The Next Big Thing is a dark comedy about friendship, revenge, and the lust for fame. The main character, Julian, always wanted to be famous, but never got his big break. Working at a call center, his life is dull and mundane. His off-the-wall friend from school, Chuck, also had aspirations of fame, but like Julian, never made it. Out of the blue, Chuck shows up at Julian’s house with a camera and tells him he’s going to make a movie about him. At first, Julian is hesitant, but all he’s ever wanted is to be famous and he agrees to make the film.
“What [Julian] doesn’t know is that it’s not really a film about his life, it’s a film about ruining his life,” says Gusar.
Everything in Julian’s life starts to go wrong because of the film.
“His relationship has problems, he gets fired from his job, and his friends become alienated from him all because of this movie and he doesn’t really want to do it anymore,” says Gusar.
Unfortunately for Julian, the director has been uploading videos to YouTube, and the more popular the channel gets, the worse it gets for him.
“He has always wanted the fame thing so he’s stuck in this place of not knowing what to do. Then it spirals out of control from there,” says Gusar.
Gusar wrote The Next Big Thing with Iain Roush, a friend that he would jokingly pick on while attending John Hopkins University for undergrad. Years later, they are still friends and they spoke about the affect getting picked on by Gusar had on Roush.
“We talked about how that worked, what that did for him, and what that did for me. We talked about how, even though it was hard for him sometimes, he could see that it was funny for everybody else and he was willing to do it, and that relationship of sort of the bully and the person who is being bullied and how that works, we thought could be good in a movie,” says Gusar.
Although the film isn’t overtly about bullying, Julian’s character allows Chuck to bully him to achieve fame. Gusar lives in LA and knows “a lot of people who are trying to be actors, and can’t make it” and one of the themes this film explores is how far someone will go to become famous.
Making it in Hollywood is the goal of many filmmakers and actors, but it’s especially competitive and few achieve notoriety. Knowing someone in the industry is one way to jumpstart a career in filmmaking.
In 2009, immediately after graduation, Gusar found himself in the same place as most other college grads.
“I took a few months to just kind of have an existential crisis of you know having to be an adult and getting a job and not being in school anymore,” says Gusar.
He moved to LA and searched for work without any luck until a UM alumna, Kseniya Rukavishnokova, M.F.A. ’10, recommended him to work at New Artist Alliance.
“[While at New Artist Alliance] I got to work on a feature film and I was just so happy to be there and they liked me enough that the producers of the film offered me a full-time job at their company as their assistant,” recalled Gusar.
He worked on five films over two years at New Artist Alliance, and once he quit he was hired as an editor on an independent film, Cheap Thrills. That film premiered in 2013 at SXSW and won the Audience Award.
After Cheap Thrills, Gusar was in high demand.
“That film did so well that a lot of people were like ‘hey edit our movie,’ and so I edited another film right after that called Starry Eyes that also went to SXSW and I’ve been editing movies since then,” says Gusar.
Gusar found success as an editor, but always wanted to direct a film. Eighteen months ago, he began writing The Next Big Thing.
Once the script was written, he assembled a crew. First was Dawood.
“He was one of the grad students that I was in class with. We moved out here close to the same time and we’re friends. We work on each other’s projects a lot, so it was pretty easy for me to bring him on,” says Gusar
Ahlers and Gusar knew each other from a short film they worked on together while in Miami. She was an actress and he was the camera man.
“When I was developing the film, and we were close to being ready to make it, I had her in mind for one of the parts and she was like ‘oh, I produce as well, and I would love to produce it,’ and so I brought her on,” says Gusar.
Ahlers recommended the last UM alumnus, Brendan Merrill. They were friends and had previously worked together.
Now that The Next Big Thing is completed, Gusar plans on entering the film in as many film festivals as possible.
For Gusar, just being able to direct a feature film is a great accomplishment.
“Not a lot of people get the opportunity to direct a film and, I know of my friends in LA, at least half of them want to be directors, so to actually get to be a director feels pretty good,” says Gusar.
The Next Big Thing is showing July 2 and 4 at Florida Supercon. Visit http://floridasupercon.com/the-next-big-thing/ for more information.