Filmmaker Tyler Taormina On Suburbia & Sketch Comedy [Indie Beat Podcast]

Welcome one, welcome all to a new episode of Indie Beat!

Today’s guest is filmmaker and musician Tyler Taormina.

Raised in suburban Long Island, Taormina cultivated his love for sketch comedy by shooting skits with his friends on shoddy digital cameras at a young age. For awhile he was pulled towards music, playing in numerous bands and going to shows around the island. When college came a-callin’ he decided to pursue the screenwriting program at Emerson College, expecting to eventually work in television with an aim to do something along the lines of the old Nickelodeon shows he had grown up with.

The first project the director embarked on was a television show of sorts, a web series titled “Suburban Legends,” which you can find on YouTube. The vibe here is “Pete & Pete” or “Harriet The Spy” meets Wes Anderson and it’s about a bunch of zany folk one girl investigates in her small town. The show is a very early look at a sensibility Taormina would go on to perfect in his future work and is his first with actor Haley Bodell, a constant presence in his oeuvre.

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Next came the more overtly sci-fi tinged short “Wild Flies,” centered on a pair of kid-aliens who invade suburbia to study the residents, mostly skewing away from people their own age. The tone and plot are very similar to the aforementioned web series, but Taormina’s skill and handling of the subject matter sharpened considerably. You can check this short film out on Vimeo. There’s also a through-line starting to emerge here as with the aesthetics the director is foreshadowing the dark paths he would eventually end up taking the material in his next project…

Which brings us to the feature “Ham on Rye.” The movie begins tracking a handful of teenage friend groups, most preparing for a big upcoming dance later that day that, for some reason, is going to be held at the local deli. What follows is sort of a “Dazed and Confused” hang-out vibe as the kids make their way to the deli, letting their childlike sense of freedom and adventure let loose or struggling with common teenage awkwardness and paralyzing social fear. The latter is a feeling that is heightened greatly once the teens make it to the big dance. They all proceed to become wallflowers, awkwardly eying the floor as dreamy pop plays in the background, just begging to be danced to. What follows after this section of deeply felt ennui and odd humor is something on the darker side of weird; a fantastically observed portrait of the other, less rosy-side of suburbia. It’s a striking gut punch turn and adds a very interesting, substantial layer to the piece, showing the director take his love letter to suburbia and then immediately draft a Dear John in the last paragraph. “Ham on Rye” is now touring the festival circuit having already played Maryland Film FestivalSarasota Film Festival, and Oak Cliff Film Festival. Here’s the trailer.

Listen to us gab below about the film! We also spoke about sketch comedy, the love-hate relationship with suburbia, and being a musician vs. being a filmmaker! And hey, don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter!