Being placed in a stressful situation that forces you to quickly make a decision that will not only affect your life, but also the existences of the people around you, can be a harrowing and tense experience. But much like the two lead male characters in the new comedy, ‘Bad Roomies,’ as well as the actors who portrayed them and the director who helmed the project, being proactive in trying to find a solution in any difficult circumstance truly defines who people are overall.

The lead actors of ‘Bad Roomies,’ Patrick Renna and Tommy Savas, enthralling embraced the story’s message, and their characters’ understanding, of needing to accept responsibility for your actions, even during dire situations. The two performers also worked as first-time producers on the movie, and were involved in every step of the creation process, from the conception of the film, to running a successful Kickstarter campaign and securing a distribution deal with The Orchard. Making ‘Bad Roomies,’ which opened on digital platforms, including iTunes, and VOD today, independently posed limitations on how Renna and Savas could approach showing their protagonists’ struggles as actors and producers. Jason Schnell, who made his feature film directorial debut on, and also edited, the comedy, also contended with disadvantages of how long he could collaborate with his cast and crew, as a result of shooting the movie independently. But the actors-producers and director-editor embraced those restraints as they showed how the characters’ dire circumstances led them to take drastic measures.

‘Bad Roomies’ follows two friends who live together, Bobby (Renna) and Raymond (Savas), who, after losing their roommate, go through a series of disastrous interviews with men to find a new one. But the two instantly see hope and potential in the process with the first woman who stops in to see the room, Chloe (Annie Monroe). Despite having to contend with the initial reluctance of Bobby’s girlfriend, Jennifer (Jackie Tohn), who doesn’t understand why they decided to have a woman move in with them, Bobby pushes for Chloe to become their latest roommate.

Even though the two friends try to reassure Jennifer that nothing’s happening between Bobby and their new tenant, the two men still develop a rivalry over who’s worthier for Chloe’s attention. But after one drunken night that causes all three roommates to make a horrible mistake that starts them on a downward spiral, the two men realize Jennifer was right, and having Chloe move in with them wasn’t their best idea.

Renna, Savas and Schnell took the time recently to talk about starring in, producing, directing and editing ‘Bad Roomies’ during an exclusive phone interview together. Among other things, the actors-producers and helmer discussed how making their feature film producing and directorial debuts was an insightful learning experience for hem all, as it allowed them to truly appreciate the work that goes behind the camera; how as the actors, producers and director, they all found that having Mooney on set with them while they were filming was an invaluable asset to them, as they could easily talk to the writer if they were forced to contend with any creative or logistical problems; and how they feel that securing the digital distribution with The Orchard is helpful in allowing the comedy to be seen by as many viewers as possible.

ShockYa (SY): Jason, you made your feature film directorial debut with the new dark comedy, ‘Bad Ropmies.’ What interested you in helming the film, and what was your experience of being a first time director on the project?

Jason Schnell (JS): Well, directing my first feature film was a dream come true. It’s something I feel like I’ve been working towards my whole life. As far as the experience, there’s so much I feel like I learned, and I’ll forever be changed as a result. It was a magical experience that I’m grateful to have had.

SY: Tommy and Patrick, you both served as first-time producers on the comedy, and have been involved in every step of its creation process, beginning with its conception. Why did you both decide to make your producing debuts together on the movie?

Tommy Savas (TS): Well, Pat and I have been actors for awhile, so taking on our roles on the other side of the camera was definitely a challenge. It was also a learning experience for both of us. But it was a lot of fun, and luckily, we had a great team, and were working with a bunch of friends. Pat, Jason and I, as well as the film’s writer, Justin Mooney, are all really good friends.

This film definitely was a learning experience. Normally, as an actor, you don’t get to see everything that goes into making a movie behind the camera. You just show up on the set to work on your scenes, and then you eventually see the final product. So while producing a movie, you gain a whole new appreciation for the filmmaking process.

Patrick Renna (PR): I think Tommy’s right; you gain a new appreciation for the pre- and post-production processes, as well as the entire shoot, when you start producing. I think as an actor, you don’t necessarily see everything that filmmakers have to go through to make a movie. Like Tommy said, our appreciation for the entire process now is a lot higher.

SY: Besides serving as first-time producers on the comedy, you also played Bobby and Raymond. Why did you both decide to play the lead characters in the movie? Did your acting and producing duties influence each other while you were filming?

PR: I would say that unfortunately, sometimes it does get in the way. But I think as we were filming, we tried to step aside from (our producing duties), and not let anything get in the way (of our performances). That way we could just be actors.

Producing could get in the way in both good and bad respects, in the sense that you don’t always have the time or money to do what you want to do creatively. It can also negatively get in the way of changing your performance, as you’re not just thinking as an actor. You can also be thinking about what the writer and director had in mind, so it can get to be a little confusing.

But I feel like we did a pretty good job with balancing the two jobs throughout the filming process. I think we were able to separate the two most of the time. There were times that we weren’t able to, but luckily, we had Jason and Justin there to help us.

SY: How involved were you all in crafting the story for ‘Bad Roomies?’ Did you all collaborate with Justin, the film’s writer, who you just mentioned earlier, on the plot’s development?

JS: I think for me, working with Justin, and having him on the set, was invaluable. Whenever you’re working behind the camera, particularly directing, you’re constantly problem solving, as everything doesn’t always line up as perfectly as the script intended. You have location and time issues, and all different things that can occur.

So to have the writer there, and allowing him to help you sort through those problems, was something I found to be extremely invaluable. Having a partner on set, who truly understands the story, was so beneficial. It was a benefit, because the director is usually left to his own devices to figure those issues out.

SY: Once you began filming, did the cast improv at all and add their own thoughts on the story and characters, or did you all mainly stick to the script, since you worked so closely with Justin?

TS: There were definitely moments of improvisation. But one of the benefits of having the writer on the set was that we were able to work together as a team to figure out the scenes, and make them as funny as possible. But for the most part, what was on the page was what we filmed.

SY: What was the casting process like for Annie Monroe, who plays Chloe, the lead female character in ‘Bad Roomies?’

JS: I would say that we exhausted the process. I think we spent more time casting the movie than we spent shooting it. (laughs) That role was so important.

It was funny-when I was going into the process, I thought, I’ve got my two lead actors right away. So everything’s going to be good, and all we have to do is find the girl.

But finding the right actress became a long and exhausting process, and we saw a lot of people. At the end of the day, Annie just brought something uniquely different to the role than anybody else we saw, which really excited all of us. So in the end, we were ultimately extremely happy with our decision to cast her-she’s wonderful in the movie.

SY: Once Annie was cast in the film, were you all able to have rehearsal time together to build the relationships between Bobby, Raymond and Chloe? Or did you all feel it was more beneficial if the relationships between your characters, Patrick and Tommy, and Annie’s character unfolded on screen?

PR: Well, we had a day of rehearsals, which wasn’t as long as wanted to have. We all would have loved to rehearse for a week or two. But the process did bring things to the table that were good to know.

We all met before, and Tommy and I have worked together in the past. So bringing in that third person in with us changed the entirety of the film. I think the great thing about Annie is that she made the whole thing a little more dangerous. I don’t think any of us, especially when we were starting our work on the concept, expected an actress to bring what Annie did to the role. Like Jason said, what she did ultimately bring to the role really excited us. I think it was really valuable to bring her acting style into the film.

SY: Patrick and Tommy, what was the process of creating Bobby and Raymond’s physicality while you were filming?

PR: I worked out for six months to prepare for this film, and get my one pack, as I call it. (laughs) How much physicality did we end up having, Tommy?

TS: Well, the fight scene was awesome. We were lucky enough to get Michael Bay’s stunt coordinator to come in and discuss that scene. So it was super fun-I went through a table twice, which was awesome. Pat had a vase broken over his head. I couldn’t have been happier with how the scene turned out.

JS: It was a five-minute sequence in the movie, but we were pretty much able to shoot it in an entire day. It was literally just one day out of our limited schedule.

SY: Jason, besides directing ‘Bad Rommies,’ you also edited the film. How did serving as the helmer influence the way you approached how you wanted to edit the comedy?

JS: Well, I actually started my career as an editor. I think it has been an invaluable ability to have as a director, as it really allows you to hone in on exactly what you’re looking for. When you had to piece things together in the past, you learn what you need and what you don’t need in the final cut. That really aided my confidence in moving forward as a director, without having to shoot millions of takes. That allowed us to stay on schedule, which was great.

SY: As ‘Bad Rommies’ lead actors and producers, Patrick and Tommy, and the director, Jason, what were your experiences of making the comedy independently? Did the experience pose any creative challenges as both filmmakers and actors?

PR: I think when you film something independently, the bus stops with you. There’s an aspect to it that’s very exciting and liberating. But there’s also a bit more pressure that’s place on you. If the movie was good, it was because of us four, and if it was terrible, it would have also been because of us four. I think so many people would rather have it that way, which is why I think so many independent films are made-you have the power to put what you want on the screen.

SY: You secured a distribution deal with The Orchard for the comedy, which (was) released (today) worldwide on digital platforms. How did you secure the deal with the distribution company? Why do you all think that the digital platform release is beneficial for indie films like this one?

TS: I think the process of making and releasing films independently is a challenging one. We’re happy we made a deal with The Orchard. We’re all huge fans of the films in their catalog, so to be a part of that is a huge honor for us.

Releasing movies on VOD is really the wave of the future, and is what most movies are doing now. It’s actually unique these days to be released solely in a theater, unless you’re a massive blockbuster like ‘The Avengers.’ The new model for distribution is different, but it allows you to reach more people than you would previously (when independent films were only released in a few theaters nationwide, before later being released on DVD). So we’re all very excited about it, and hopes are high with the distributor.

SY: After ‘Bad Roomies’ is released next week, are you all interested in working together on another film? Do you have any other projects lined up together that you can discuss?

PR: I think we definitely do. We’re all focused on this movie right now, and if wonderful things happen with it, which we’re hopeful that it does, I’m sure we’ll all do another movie together. Making this film was a great experience.

Check out still sand the poster from, and also watch the trailer for, ‘Bad Roomies’ below.

Bad Roomies Patrick Renna
Patrick Renna stars in, and produces, The Orchard’s dark comedy, ‘Bad Roomies.’
Bad Roomies Tommy Savas
Tommy Savas stars in, and produces, The Orchard’s dark comedy, ‘Bad Roomies.’
Bad Roomies Patrick Renna and Tommy Savas
(L-R) Tommy Savas and Patrick Renna star in, and produce, The Orchard’s dark comedy, ‘Bad Roomies.’
Bad Roomies Patrick Renna, Annie Monroe and Tommy Savas
(L-R) Tommy Savas, Annie Monroe and Patrick Renna star in The Orchard’s dark comedy, ‘Bad Roomies.’

Bad Roomies Official Poster

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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